SUN PRAIRIE, Wisconsin — With a temperature of minus 2 degrees and a fresh coating of 8 inches of snow on the ground, you might think Jimmy the Groundhog would have predicted six more weeks of winter. But alas, the world-famous weather prognosticator did not see his shadow, meaning an early spring. He did, however, take a vicious bite at Sun Prairie mayor Jon Freund, who served as the official translator for the esteemed Jimmy.
A modest crowd of hearty Groundhog Day fans gathered on Cannery Square to witness the 67th annual weather prognostication from Jimmy. Just after 7 a.m. Central time, Jimmy whispered to Freund that spring was coming. But before he did that, Jimmy bit the ear of the mayor, who recoiled in pain but quickly recovered his composure. After a quick apology from Jimmy, the ceremony continued.
Despite the clear skies, Freund said Jimmy did not see his shadow. A few minutes after the ceremony, the sun rose and cast February shadows on both man and beast. A Madison television station quoted Hahn as saying Jimmy did see his shadow. The city of Sun Prairie later issued a statement saying the mayor made the right call. The controversy led to speculation from some corners that video replay officials would be in attendance at next year’s Groundhog Day ceremony.
Folklore says that if a groundhog (also called a woodchuck or marmot) emerges from its burrow and sees its shadow, it will return to slumber in expectation of six more weeks of winter. If the day is cloudy and no shadow appears, spring will come early. According to a roundup on Wikipedia, predictions are pretty well split across North America for Groundhog Day 2015. Sun Prairie’s result is listed as “disputed.”
Jimmy arrived in a stretch limousine with a Sun Prairie Volunteer Fire Department escort. Like a Hollywood star, Jimmy emerged from his limo to camera flashes and blaring lights from two television stations. He was accompanied by his handler, Jerry Hahn, who is retiring from the groundhog business after today. Hahn shed tears as Freund and others paid him tribute for serving as Jimmy’s caretaker since 2003. Jimmy will now be cared for by Jeff Gauger, owner of the Beans ’n Cream coffee house on Cannery Square. Gauger has a hobby farm.
Jimmy has been predicting weather in the Groundhog Capital of the World since 1948. The current Jimmy is the 11th burrowing rodent to serve as Sun Prairie’s weather forecaster. And while a certain East Coast groundhog gets most of the national media attention, Jimmy has a better than 80 percent accuracy rating. According to legend, he’s always accurate. It’s just the mayor does not always translate correctly from “groundhogese” to English.
Even with the bitter cold, I had to see for myself what all the fuss was about. When my late father, David D. Hanneman, was mayor from 2003-2005, he presided over two such ceremonies (see video above). In February 2005, Dad wore a tuxedo to go along with the mayor’s official groundhog top hat. The year before, Dad interviewed Jimmy before a large crowd. “What? You don’t like to be kissed? Well OK, I won’t kiss you then,” Dad said to laughter from the crowd.
View a complete photo gallery from today’s event below:
When David D. Hanneman was elected mayor of the city of Sun Prairie, Wisconsin in April 2003, it continued a Hanneman family tradition that stretches back more than 400 years to the county Regenwalde in the Baltic Duchy of Pomerania. Hanneman’s election as mayor on April 1, 2003 capped his nearly 40-year public service career — and put him in good family company.
The Hanneman family from Kellner, Wisconsin — from which David Hanneman descends — traces its roots to Pomerania, a picturesque land of Germanic peoples that dates to the 1300s. His earliest known ancestor, Matthias Hannemann, was from the village of Zeitlitz in the kreis, or county, of Regenwalde. Regenwalde means “woods of the Rega River,” referring to the picturesque waterway that ambles 100 miles through the county and empties into the Baltic Sea. This area has long been known for agriculture, fishing and forests, and it bears strong geomorphic similarities to the state of Wisconsin. The village of Zeitlitz covered about 2,200 acres and had approximately 100 households.
Records trace the Hannemann (the original spelling had two ‘n’s at the end) family back at least to 1582 in Zeitlitz. The Hannemanns made up one of the predominant families in Zeitlitz, based on the number of entries found in the Lutheran church register. Many church records were destroyed in a fire in Stramehl in 1720, but the register from 1582 survived. At that time, there were a number of Hannemann families in Zeitlitz, and they owned some of the larger farms in the village. One of these men, likely the eldest brother, held the title of schulze, or mayor of Zeitlitz. Being the schulze was unlike the elected political position of mayor found in modern-day American communities. It was an inherited job, and the duties centered on making sure work was performed equitably in the village, and that the taxes of grain, goods or money were collected for the estate owner. The term schulze can have various related meanings, including “village headman,” mayor or even constable.
As farmers, the Hannemanns were also involved in providing financial support for the local minister and the church. Each tenant farmer paid his taxes in measurements of grain. The unnamed mayor Hannemann and Peter Hannemann were each responsible for taxes on two Hufen in Zeitlitz in the year 1582. A Hufe was the amount of land needed to sustain a family. There could have been more Hannemann families living on those four Hufen, but the church records only listed the major land tenants who paid taxes.
In the nearby village of Groß Raddow (about 6 miles from Zeitlitz), the Hannemann family had a similar history. A tax list from 1666 includes the names of Tews Hannemann (the schulze, or village mayor), Heinrich Hannemann, Chim Hannemann and Peter Hannemann. For at least several generations, it appears the Hannemann family inherited and passed on the office of mayor in Groß Raddow. In 1717, Hans Hannemann was the mayor, so we believe Hans is a descendant of Tews Hannemann.
The Matthias Hannemann family began emigrating to Wisconsin in 1861. Matthias left his home in 1866 and came to Wisconsin through Quebec. The family settled in and around Kellner, a tiny hamlet that straddles the Wood-Portage county line southeast of Wisconsin Rapids. At one time, the Hannemanns owned and farmed more than 1,000 acres in Wood and Portage counties. David’s great-grandfather, Christian Hanneman (Matthias’ son) was the last of this clan to come to America in November 1882.
Dave Hanneman (1933-2007) was first elected to public office on April 2, 1968 when he became Fourth Ward alderman in Sun Prairie. He served only one term as alderman, but stayed active in city politics, pushing the city to upgrade its sewer system to prevent backups into residential homes. He again ran successfully for alderman in 1988 and stayed on the Sun Prairie City Council until 1996, when he was elected to the Dane County Board of Supervisors. He held that post until being elected Sun Prairie mayor in 2003.
“Dave was involved in the growth of Sun Prairie and believed in progress for the community. He worked and helped champion the Highway 151/County Highway C project, which included working with the state Department of Transportation,” said Bill Clausius, who served on the city council and county board with Hanneman. “Dave was involved with the West Side Plan, which brought the Sun Prairie Community together to envision the future of the West Side. Dave supported and worked to begin the West Side Community Service Building. This facility includes a west side location for police, fire and EMS. His vision was to provide essential services to Sun Prairie residents and to shorten response times in case of an emergency.”
Clausius continued: “In 2003, Sun Prairie won the ‘Champions of Industry’ Award of Excellence as one of the best managed small cities in America. Dave personally raised $32,000 in donations from area businesses to fund production of a video featuring Sun Prairie, and highlighting Sun Prairie’s achievements.”