Poco the ground "dog" predicts long winter at Westminster in Bradenton

ejohnson@bradenton.comFebruary 3, 2013 

BRADENTON -- Manatee County residents will have to wait and see who was right about spring's arrival: Pennsylvania's groundhog Punxsutawney Phil or Westminster Towers and Shores ground "dog" Poco.

In his 126th year as prognosticator, Phil did not see his shadow, which calls for an early spring. But Poco the Pomeranian whispered in the ear of Dr. Ruth Curry, master of ceremonies, that another six weeks of chilly weather should be expected.

The second annual Westminster Groundhog Day celebration was held 7:30 a.m. Saturday on the grounds' putt-putt golf course.

"It started as part of our wellness program," said Barbara Barlow, director of volunteer services, who serves on the Westminster Wellbeings social community subcommittee that organized the event.

Inner-circle members turned up in

official Punxsutawney attire with top hats, blazers, bow ties and red sashes. Even little Poco wore a red scarf.

"He's excited," said Leveda Loughrey, Westminster resident and Poco's owner, as she cuddled the special guest. "He's a good dog. He sits under the podium. Then walks just like Phil does and whispers in Ruth's ear if he saw his shadow or not."

Residents in coats, gloves and scarves gathered to watch Poco's prediction.

"It's just a fun thing," said Curry, who led the ceremony which included history of Groundhog Day, a poem and, of course, the prognostication.

"Oh. OK. All right," Curry said as Poco whispered his predictions. "Sorry folks, another six weeks of winter."

The program concluded with a pancake breakfast featuring a live Polka band.

Elizabeth Johnson, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7041.

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