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Harleysville Hank Sees His Shadow; Predicts Longer Winter
Written by Sergei Blair, Correspondent

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          He might not be famous as Gus or the Punxsutawney Phil, but Harleysville Hank doesn't want to be counted out from the ranks of Pennsylvania notable


            And he's already making a name for himself.

            An estimated crowd of 300 people gathered outside the Nyce Barn, last Friday, January 2, during the third annual Harleysville Hank Groundhog Day Extravaganza at the Mennonite Heritage Center. They were eager to hear what Hank had to say about the remaining days of the winter weather.

            "Hank tends to be a little bit of a rebel and he just decides regardless of whether he sees his shadow or not," said Steve Hunsberger, Harleysville Order of the Grundsow (HOG) geldhaver (treasurer). "I think Hank is anxious to be done with the winter this year. It's been a hard season and Hank is tired of the cold weather."

            As the sun was slowly breaking through the clouds and a light snow fell on the crowd, Hank muttered his prognostication in German into habtmon (chairman) Steve Diehl's ear: "My shadow I see, more cold I fear." Hank's "prediction" was on par with Punxsutawney Phil's who, through his handlers, told the crowd of thousands that he too saw his shadow. Hank previously predicted longer winter days since the tradition for his appearing had started three years ago.

            Much to the crowd's delight, the gentleman then traded their regal tops hats for hard hats bearing the Philadelphia Eagles logo and promptly swung the team's banner over the barn window.

            "Call my travel agent and book my flight to Minneapolis," Hank continued, predicting a 23-17 Philadelphia Eagles win in the Super Bowl over New England Patriots. Several days later, the Eagles went on to beat Patriots in a historic win by a score of 41 to 33, the first in the franchise's history.

            The Barnyard Singers led the ceremony with singing of traditional groundhog-themed carols such as "Groundhog Wonderland," "I'm Dreaming of the Great Groundhog," and "Wintertime." Inside the barn, visitors were offered free hot chocolate, coffee, shoo fly pies, and fresh scrapple that was prepared on site in a giant kettle. 

            For Kellie Martinjuk and her 6-years-old son Liam, of Lansdale, getting up early to come to the event for their first time to see Hank was all worth it. "Lots of carols, all the people, and lots of energy," said Martinjuk, "it really is very exciting."

            When asked if he is he was happy with Hank's prediction for six more weeks of winter, little Liam shook his head and jubilantly proclaimed "summer is almost here!"

            According to the heritage center officials, the Groundhog Day event was organized to promote the historical barn and teach young visitors about the Pennsylvania Dutch and Mennonite heritage. The Nyce Barn was raised in 1850 in Hilltown Township, and, in order to preserve its history, was moved to its current location on the 12-acre property beam by beam. Today, only the wooden beams and the outside stonework remain original.

            "This is just to have fun and bring people together from around the community and have our own groundhog," Deihl said.

            Instead of hiding in his burrow, Diehl said that Hank keeps busy throughout the year by visiting various businesses around the area and promoting them on his Facebook page to all his over 300 friends. So far, Hank has opened accounts at a local bank, helped with a legal case at a law firm, landed a helping paw at ringing up groceries at a local supermarket, and visiting children in area schools.

            According to Hunsberger, Hank's popularity is steadily growing as more people want to get a glimpse of the fuzzy creature. However, in order to catch Hank deliver his next prediction, it's imperative to get up before the sun does - on at least one day of the year. 

            I'm not an early riser, Hunsberger sad, "but Harleysville Hank gets me out of the bed every single year on the Groundhog Day.  





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