Editor’s Note: This article was written by My Buckhannon contributor Kim F. Howard
Winter has finally settled in, and French Creek Freddie is still in deep slumber, but despite the chilly temperatures, Southern Upshur County is ramping up for the Fifth Annual Groundhog Festival, which got underway Friday, Jan. 31.
French Creek’s famous prognosticator is scheduled to emerge from his den at 10 a.m. on Sunday, Feb. 2, to predict if we will have an early spring or six more weeks of winter, but the event has become so popular that an entire festival has developed to celebrate the furry French Creek critter’s weather forecast.
The Lion’s Club Annual Groundhog Breakfast, consisting of pancakes and biscuits and gravy with “Ground Hog” sausage, will run until 1 p.m. at the Banks District Volunteer Fire Department on Saturday, Feb. 1, followed by a “Ground Hog” sausage cook-off with cash prizes from 2-4 p.m.
And, no Groundhog Day would be complete without the annual IGA “Ground Hog” Sausage Sale. This year marks the 26th year for the event which began as a play on words between groundhog (the animal) and ground hog (ground pork) more than two decades ago.
Although the IGA, a Rock Cave fixture for decades, is undergoing a management change from longtime owners, Glen and Jo Anne Hawkins, to their sons, Wes and Dale Hawkins, the now-famous Ground Hog Sausage Sale continues, running through Feb. 11, or until they’re sold out.
“We’re doing things a little different this year,” said Wes Hawkins. “We did a little advertising on social media, and we’re selling most of the sausage from the refrigerated truck outside this year. There’s just too much to sell inside,” he said, explaining that they ordered 16 tons of pork this year. “That’s a lot of pork,” said Hawkins.
“We’ve already more than doubled our sales from the first day last year,” said Hawkins. He and IGA Meat Department Manager, Wes Heater, said their first customer this year was a man who had driven from Virginia overnight and was waiting in the parking lot for the store to open on the first day of the sale.
“He filled a whole buggy full. It was almost overflowing,” said Hawkins. “Then he loaded it up in his vehicle and drove back to Virginia.”
The sale offers a variety of ground pork, including breakfast sausage, extra sage breakfast sausage, hot breakfast sausage, Chorizo, Andouille, Bratwurst, hot, mild and sweet Italian sausage and a limited supply of ramp sausage. Prices begin at $1.98 per pound.
Other festival events include live music at the BVFD Sunday, Feb. 2 at 1 p.m., featuring Big Ed Crawford and the Strumalongs; a meet-and-greet with Southern Upshur County firefighters and support personnel and a freewill soup-and-sandwich meal with live music on Friday, Feb. 7 from 4 to 6 p.m. at the BDVFD, and a Relay for Life Social with food, bake sale and cake walk featuring live music from 2-5 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 8 from 2-5 pm at the BDVFD.
For a full listing of events, see the Groundhog Festival of Rock Cave, WV’s Facebook page.