SUNSET — For hipster-types who pride themselves on nonconformity, there is a less mainstream harbinger of seasons in town.
His name is Sunset Sam, and members of the Sunset community gathered on Groundhog Day to see whether he would predict an early end to winter during a festival and chilli cook-off Friday.
To quote Bill Murray's character from the 1993 film “Groundhog Day”: "This is one time where television really fails to capture the true excitement of a large squirrel predicting the weather."
Substitute large for small, and the same could be said for Sunset's Groundhog Day celebration.
First, shy and humble in the spotlight, the guinea pig scooted around his cage. His owner, City Councilwoman Nancy Smalling, caught him and bundled him up.
Sunset Sam then looked at the stunning coral sunset — briefly.
According to those in charge of the event, this means "six more weeks of winter."
However, Brent Andrews, the event's original organizer, would prefer "six more days."
Andrews started the event after his 3-year-old son, Jeremy, was hit by a truck while riding his bike and killed in 1994. Andrews thought of the tradition the next year as a way to cheer up his family.
Sunset Sam, the small clairvoyant, made his first prediction in 1995 and it became a tradition within the community.
"We've done this so many years, and then I turned it over to the city finally," Andrews said.
The city kept the event going for many years. After taking a break, they are now picking it back up, said City Councilman Ricky Carlson.
Sam has been both male and female over the years. This year, he is a male. His everyday name? "Batman, normally," his owner said.
"This is our first adventure," Smalling added. "We'll see if he wants to make another appearance next year."
Sam's prediction this year is in line with his cousin Phil's.Comment on this story
Early Friday morning, Punxsutawney Phil — surrounded by a crowd of Pennsylvania adorers in top hats — saw his shadow, predicting six more weeks of winter. However, USA Today reported that his lesser-known weatherman relatives were split in their opinions.
But whether there will be six more weeks of winter, six more days of winter or if spring will arrive early didn't seem to matter much to the Sunset community as they enjoyed the party.
"We keep this legacy alive because this is a tradition for our city, and we will keep it going," said former Mayor Beverly MacFarlane.