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Monday, February 1, 2016

Wiarton Willie's prediction coming; furry babies at the Toronto Zoo

   One-Tank Trip for Jan. 30/16

   (c) By Jim Fox

UPDATE: Wiarton Willie saw his shadow and is predicting six more weeks of winter weather!

   Ontarians are about to learn if they must endure another six weeks of this wacky so-called winter weather – or anticipate an early spring.
   That’s according to the folklore of Groundhog Day and the province’s feisty weather prognosticator Wiarton Willie.
   When the furry rodent is roused from his hibernation next Tuesday morning, the tale will be told.
   According to legend, if it is cloudy when Willie emerges from his burrow, then spring will come early.

   Mac McKenzie, founder of the Wiarton Willie
Festival, with the famous groundhog.

   If it turns out to be sunny and Willie sees his shadow, then winter weather can be expected to continue for six more weeks.
   Many parts of Ontario have had little or no snow this winter and daytime temperatures have been bouncing above and below freezing.
   All is ready for Willie to make his grand prediction as a festival in his honour is already under way.
   The Wiarton Willie Festival is marking the 60th year that followers have gathered for his great prognostication, said Paul Deacon, president of the Wiarton and District Chamber of Commerce.
   “Our community has celebrated our beloved groundhog with festivals, parades and pageants – and this year we’re pulling out all the stops,” he added.

   Chilly Willie
   The current Willie is marking this 10th year in his Wiarton home that was specially designed by the Toronto Zoo.

   Prediction morning begins with fireworks to light up the sky at 7 a.m. at Bluewater Park.
   A free breakfast will be served from 7:10 a.m. at the arena, followed by entertainment on the outdoor stage in the parking lot at 7:30 a.m.
   Then, with great pomp and ceremony, Willie makes his grand arrival at precisely 8:07 a.m. accompanied by his “shadow cabinet,” the Queen of the Festival and her court, the McLaren Pipe & Drum Band and the town crier.
   Activities this weekend through Tuesday include horse-drawn sleigh/wagon rides, skating on the outdoor rink and playing on the snow hill.
   Wiarton Willie waits for his day in the sun -- or shade.
    Kids can build a catapult, experience butter and maple syrup taffy making and watch carving demonstrations.
   Details: wiartonwilliefestival.com; (519) 534-4545

   Cute and cuddly
   While on the topic of cute furry critters, the Toronto Zoo has been “blessed” with the birth of four rare white lion cubs, a polar bear cub and twin giant panda cubs.
   The four-month-old lion cubs have slowly been introduced to dad, Fintan, said publicist Amanda Chambers.
   “They are very active, playful and rambunctious, and keepers are working on integrating the pride,” she added.
 The white lion cubs and their parents at the Toronto Zoo.
    Visitors can see mother, Makali, and the cubs every Saturday and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., weather permitting in the African Savanna.
   The polar bear cub, born 11 weeks ago, is growing and gaining strength (a sibling died soon after birth).
   At this time, the cub cannot be viewed by the public but videos and photos are available on the zoo’s website.
   To mark International Polar Bear Day on Feb. 27, the zoo is holding a “very cool” festival from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. (free with zoo admission).
   Visitors can take part in activities to raise awareness and support for this threatened Canadian species.
   There will be polar bear themed children’s activities and crafts indoors, and a silent auction with a chance to win a behind-the-scenes tour for four.
   Toronto Zoo’s polar bear cub recently started eating from a bowl. (Photo by Ken Ardill, Toronto Zoo)
   Also planned is an educational presentation called Conserving the Polar Bear. Pre-registration required for the event from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. with a fee of $8, plus zoo admission.
   Two polar bear keepers will share stories of the zoo’s family, the importance of enrichment, their experiences in Churchill and how the zoo is helping to support polar bear conservation in the wild.
   The zoo is hoping to introduce its twin panda cubs to the public in mid-March as they have now passed the critical 100 days of life as a measure in ancient Chinese tradition.
The twin panda cubs will be able to have visitors in mid-March.
   Mom Er Shun gave birth to the twins on Oct. 13 and the babies “have grown from tiny, pink, hairless cubs to strong, fuzzy pandas with distinctive black and white markings.”
   The zoo is at 361A Old Finch Ave. torontozoo.com; (416) 392-5929


Jim Fox can be reached at onetanktrips@hotmail.com
For more One-Tank Trips: http://1tanktrips.blogspot.ca

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