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Happy Groundhog Day

January 31, 2014
woodcut of a groundhog rising from the top of Sage Art Center

Drive By Press created this woodcut of the Sage Art Center groundhog when they were visiting artists at the University.

A Brief History

Groundhog Day is celebrated annually on February 2 in the United States and Canada. According to folklore, the groundhog is able to predict the arrival of spring. If he sees his shadow when he emerges from his den, then we will experience six more weeks of winter; if not, then spring will come early.

The tradition has its roots in German weather lore and Candlemas Day, the pre-Christian and Christian festival of lights. Today, the largest Groundhog Day celebration takes place in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania (home of the eponymous Phil). But if you can’t make it there, you can still enjoy these woodland creatures at the University of Rochester.

Groundhogs at UR

Groundhogs (scientific name: Marmota monax) have made a home of River Campus—and are, for the most part, beloved.

“We do struggle with our furry friends who think that the flower gardens we plant are an all-you-can-eat salad bar,” says Dan Schied, the University’s horticulture and grounds manager. “That limits the choices for our plantings.”

But groundhogs also contribute positively to campus culture. In addition to being a favorite Photo Friday subject, the groundhog is the unofficial mascot of the Sage Art Center.

“The groundhogs that live around the art center have been a source of inspiration,” says Stephanie Ashenfelder, studio arts program manager.

“One year,” she explains, “our students constructed a small suburb—complete with white picket fence—outside Sage as an alternative residence for the little critters. A year later, the groundhog appeared in a woodcut, rising out of the top of the building. Since then, the groundhog has been our unofficial mascot.”

So this Groundhog Day, keep an eye out—especially around Sage—for our local marmots and let us know if they happen to spot their own shadows!

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