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Fish Hawk Acres Sous Chef Jonathan Hicks and French Creek Freddie -- the mascot -- decked out for the opening of the Groundhog Festival.

FHA sous chef: ‘Don’t be scared of the critter stew’ at Groundhog Festival

ROCK CAVE – The fifth annual Groundhog Festival opened with a visit from French Creek Freddie – the mascot – and critter stew.

The opening ceremony to the Groundhog Festival kicked off Friday at the Banks District Volunteer Fire Department where a potluck starring the famous critter stew took place. Sous Chef from Fish Hawk Acres Jonathan Hicks said this year’s stew contained groundhog, chicken, rabbit, bear, elk and beef.

“Basically, don’t be scared,” Hicks said. “It’s like a beef vegetable soup, but it just has some interesting parts in there beyond what you’d normally have in your stew.”

Executive director of the Upshur County Convention and Visitors Bureau Laura Meadows said she was happy to see more people attending the festival every year.

“I think every year we come out here, there’s more and more people that come out to kick off this event, and that’s always great to see because these types of things are really important to our communities,” Meadows said.

She also expressed her gratitude to everyone who organized all the festival activities.

“Judy (Channell, West Virginia Wildlife secretary) and her team and everybody who works on this throughout the year, they’re just wonderful,” Meadows said. “Kudos to you all for doing a great job.”

Meadows also said their office has been fielding questions about the festival.

“Somebody texted me from the office the other day, and they said a lady had called and she wanted to come see French Creek Freddie, and she asked if she could pet him and if she could feed him and I said, ‘I really hope that you told her no,’” Meadows said, laughing. “If somebody comes up and asks to pet French Creek Freddie, we sent her.”

Rhett Dusenbury, representative for Rep. Alex Mooney, R-2, read a letter from the congressman.

“I’m sorry I’m unable to attend fifth annual Groundhog Festival, but I’ll be thinking of you when I see snowflakes in hopes that French Creek Freddie predicts a short time to spring,” Dusenbury read. “I will, however, be comfortable either way his vision predicts because I know how much the Groundhog Festival means to this community and the state of West Virginia. I would like to thank all those who have volunteered so much time and who have worked so hard to make the Groundhog Festival a success.”

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