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Going hog wild: General Beauregard Lee predicts early spring

Photo by Jason Braverman

Photo by Jason Braverman

LILBURN -- Emily Klinect spent a cold, drizzling Tuesday morning helping coax a groundhog out of his home with chants of "Go Beau, go Beau."

Members of the Klinect family have spent the early morning of Feb. 2 for the past 16 years at the Yellow River Game Ranch, the home of General Beauregard Lee, Georgia's official weather prognosticator.

"We've been doing it since I was a baby and now I'm 10," Emily said.

For the Dacula family, Groundhog Day spent at the Lilburn animal preserve has become a long-standing tradition. Emily and four of her 11 siblings watched Tuesday as a somewhat reluctant General Beau emerged from his mansion Weathering Heights with no shadow in sight. If his prediction holds true, Gwinnett will see an early spring.

Older brother Aaron Klinect, 24, a firefighter at Station No. 7 in Duluth, was looking forward to the prospect of warmer temperatures.

"I don't like the cold," he said. "Snow is nice, but cold without snow is just like, why? Might as well stay 70 degrees year-round. So I'm excited for warm weather to come back."

Despite not seeing his shadow, General Beau may have been hoping for six more weeks of winter weather. The game ranch staff had decorated the groundhog's cage on one side with fake flowers signifying spring and the other with ice and a Styrofoam snowman to represent winter. Upon emerging from the doorway of his home, Beau ran toward the wintry side.

"I don't know if that's a contradiction or not," game ranch owner Art Rilling told the crowd that gathered Tuesday morning.

One thing is almost for certain: Come Groundhog Day next year, rain or shine, the Klinects will be on hand to see what Beau predicts.

"We're the only family I know who celebrates Groundhog Day consistently," said mom Nanette Klinect. "Our tradition is we come here, we walk the game ranch, we go to Chick-fil-A for breakfast, go home and then we do (home)school."

After school work is done, which this year included activity sheets on the annual holiday and a surprise game, the family watches the movie "Groundhog Day" together and snacks on groundhog cupcakes -- cupcakes with mini candy bars with white dots of frosting for eyes stuck in the middle.

The roots of the Klinects' Groundhog Day tradition lie in frugality.

"Honestly, the first year I came it was because it was free," Nanette Klinect said. "But it's just a goofy holiday, anything to make a family tradition, some memories. For all of my kids, it's woven into the fabric of their lives."

The celebration of Groundhog Day will continue for the next generation of Klinects.

"It's a tradition that I will pass on to my kids once I start having them," Aaron Klinect said.