Pennsylvania has Punxsutawney Phil, arguably the world's most famous groundhog, but Wake County has something no one can claim: not one, but two rodents who make forecasts on Groundhog Day.
Sir Walter Wally has been challenging meteorologists and thrilling crowds at the N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences in downtown Raleigh since 1998.
Now in his second year, Mortimer the groundhog does the same thing at White Deer Park Nature Center in Garner.
Both are scheduled to emerge at noon Wednesday and look for a shadow. Legend has it that if a groundhog sees his shadow, he will return to his burrow and we'll face six more weeks of winter. If he doesn't, an early spring is forecast.
Mortimer's first appearance in Garner was so well-received that park supervisor Stephanie Shaffer decided to bring him back.
Mortimer is expected to whisper his prediction to Garner Mayor Ronnie Williams. The rodent will share the spotlight with other critters from the animal rescue group CLAWS outside Chapel Hill, where Mortimer lives.
Shaffer said she thinks Wake County is big enough for two weather-predicting groundhogs.
"Garner alone has over 26,000 residents," she said. "Sir Walter Wally is a great friend of downtown, and we're just the Southern relative, I suppose."
As for Wally, he was not aware that there was another groundhog in town, and his friends at the natural sciences museum will likely keep it that way, said Kari Wouk, who coordinates educational events.
"We don't want that extra stress on him," Wouk said.
Wally is expected to whisper to Dee Freeman, the Secretary of the state Department of Environment and Natural Resources.
Mid-18th century German immigrants in Pennsylvania are thought to have brought with them the tradition of watching the groundhog for signs of spring. They chose Feb. 2, the Christian holiday of Candlemas.
Garner and Raleigh Groundhog Day celebrations surround the big moment with activities meant to teach about animals, hibernation and the weather.
"There's lots of natural history tie-ins to an event like this," Wouk said. "And it's fun."