By TOM BONE
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
Don’t bring out the spring garden tools just yet.
Six more weeks of winter are on the way, according to an announcement on Friday morning at the 35th annual Groundhog Day Breakfast at Concord University — held a day in advance of the day traditionally given to weather predictions.
Approximately 75 diners braved wind chills near zero to gather in the student center ballroom, and heard the report of legendary groundhog Concord Charlie passed along by Concord’s interim vice president of advancement Alicia Besenyei.
“I hope you enjoy the snow and cold weather,” she said, “because you’re going to get six more weeks of it.”
Besenyei filled in for Concord President Gregory Aloia, who was to attend a meeting of the higher education governing board in Charleston on Friday.
However, realizing his unofficial duty to check in with Concord Charlie and relay his prediction, Aloia sent a text message to Besenyei that began, “I am currently in Concord Charlie’s burrow.”
When Besenyei read the line, “Charlie has reported he saw his shadow,” a handful of people in the audience moaned.
According to tradition, if the groundhog sees his shadow on the morning of Feb. 2, six more weeks of winter can be expected. An early spring is predicted if he doesn’t see his shadow.
To begin the breakfast, Besenyei told the audience, “We are absolutely delighted that you took on Mother Nature to make it out here today.”
The star of the event was the honoree as Grand Groundhog Watcher, Bramwell mayor Louise “Lou” Stoker. She drew on her background as a playwright, amateur historian, and native West Virginian to talk about “magic moments” in people’s lives, and the importance of documenting them and enjoying them.
“Today is a magic moment for me,” she said.
She concluded by advising, “Do not be afraid of your shadow, because the groundhog, who is afraid of his shadow and goes back into his burrow, cozy as it may be — maybe he has a cuddly teddy bear with him — he does not experience six weeks of magic moments. Think of what you’d miss.”
She said after the breakfast, “It was a marvelous day.” It was her first time attending the breakfast, but she noted the fellowship in the room. “Fellowship is a good word, because that’s what it’s all about,” she said.
She added, “I really would like to have six more weeks of warm weather, but we have to take what comes.”
Also at the breakfast, Concord business professor John Fazio and two students used a PowerPoint presentation to show their research that supports a “Groundhog Effect” on the Standard & Poor’s 500 stock index.
Looking at the market data from 1970 to 2010 and comparing it to annual forecasts of groundhog Punxsutawney Phil, they reported that if Phil doesn’t see his shadow on Feb. 2, the stock index goes up an average of 4.22 percent over the following six weeks. On years when he does see his shadow, the index drops 4.03 percent on average.
“Quite significant,” said Concord student researcher Hanh Tran.
— Contact Tom Bone at