Good Morning
Good Morning
Long Island

Holtsville Hal, Malverne Mel agree on an early spring

Holtsville Hal, with handler Greg Drossel, predicted an

Holtsville Hal, with handler Greg Drossel, predicted an early spring on Groundhog Day, Feb. 2, 2016, at the Brookhaven Town Wildlife and Ecology Center Animal Preserve in Holtsville. Credit: James Carbone

Long Island’s fur-covered weather seers with the prominent incisors and their more famous Pennsylvania cousin, Punxsutawney Phil, shared a common bond on Groundhog Day 2016 — none saw their shadow.

So stock up on the sunscreen and get those winter coats ready for the mothballs, Long Island: It’s going to be an early spring.

At least that’s if the time-honored meteorological predictions of Holtsville Hal, Malverne Mel and, of course, Phil are to be believed.

The three weren’t the only groundhogs bringing the good news. From the outer boroughs, Staten Island Chuck made it clear he, too, felt the first hints of a premature thaw.

In Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, where Groundhog Day got its start in 1887, revelers by the thousands turned out to greet Phil. The most famous of groundhogs emerged from his burrow with the help of his tuxedo-and top-hat clad handlers. Even Miss Pennsylvania showed up. Live bands, a lip-sync contest and fireworks entertained the crowd.

At the Brookhaven Town Wildlife and Ecology Center Animal Preserve in Holtsville, a smaller but equally festive, if not underwhelmed group, assembled by about 7 a.m. Tuesday morning in anticipation of Hal’s prediction.

“Yeah-ish,” said Megan Scovanni, 9, who attended her first Groundhog Day event, along with her mother, Denise Scovanni, 47, a financial adviser from Medford.

Megan said she welcomed Hal’s good news but seemed disappointed it could cut into her time sledding down the hill in their yard.

Denise Scovanni said she always wanted to attend Hal’s Groundhog Day appearance but, as Megan said, “we’re not really the greatest people with getting up early.”

It also was a first for Meghan Lenahan, 32, and her mother, JoAnn Lenahan, 58, both of Centereach. “I’ve been wanting to go for years, but I never got up early enough,” the younger Lenahan said.

Wayne Carrington, 65, Holtsville Hal’s press agent — yes, Hal indeed has a press agent — noted that the celebrity groundhog has generated a huge following.

And with the closing of the Internal Revenue Service office on Waverly Avenue, “Holtsville is now the home of Groundhog Day . . . It’s no longer the home of the IRS,” Carrington said.

Forecasting from a gazebo on Church Street in the village from which he takes his name,, Malverne Mel also found no sign of his shadow before an enthusiastic crowd at the 7 a.m. event.

Pat Ferrillo, of Syosset, brought her twins, Alexis and Matt, 6, to watch as Mel’s gloved handlers hoisted him aloft on an unseasonably warm early February morning. Ferrillo said she and her children made the trip to Malverne partly for the festivities but also to see her hometown.

“We had a great time,” Ferrillo said. “And what better way to show them where I came from.”

The festive sounds of the Dixieland group, the Banjo Rascals, accompanied Mel’s silent but definitive pronouncement.

Party Pets, an organization providing petting zoos for various events, brought ducks, rabbits and chickens for children to enjoy. T-shirts commemorating the event were for sale. Some lucky attendees even posed for a photo with a human version of Malverne Mel hidden deep inside a groundhog get-up.

For Staten Island Chuck, it marked the second straight year he couldn’t locate his shadow. Last year, he alone among the four called for an early spring.

Latest Long Island News