MILLTOWN – A welcome crowd on Super Bowl Sunday came out bright and early to see what Milltown Mel – the toothy teller of the weather – had to predict.
Whether rooting for the San Francisco 49ers or the Kansas City Chiefs, the crowd was rooting for Mel to predict an early spring. And that he did to an elated crowd during Milltown’s annual Groundhog Day celebration on Feb. 2. Mel’s prediction brought many horn toots and jumps for joy.
The popular prediction was announced before the crowd that assembled in the parking lot of the Joyce Kilmer American Legion Post No. 25 on JFK Drive. The Rutgers University Pep Band joined in on the fun playing for the crowd.
Mayor Trina Jensen Mehr welcomed the crowd to the annual Milltown Mel prediction, who she called the “furry forecaster pawsome prognosticator.” It was her first time at the helm after being sworn in as mayor in January.
“I know that it hasn’t been a bad winter so hopefully Mel will be kind to us today,” she said, adding everyone may be suffering from sciaphobia – fear of shadows.
Mehr stated that Wrangler John McNamara is her neighbor, therefore, Mel is her neighbor.
“So I called up Mel the other day just to be neighborly and asked him if he wanted to come over and watch the movie ‘Groundhog Day,’ but he declined because that movie repeats itself again,” she said. Her comments brought laughter from the crowd.
The Milltown Wranglers, dressed in long black coats and black top hats, led the procession during the borough’s 12th annual celebration.
One of the Wranglers tapped his cane on Milltown Mel’s domain and with the children’s help yelled, “Wake Up Mel.” McNamara, who takes care of Mel, had to literally wrangle the furry creature out of his warm bed of hay. Finally after a few minutes, McNamara held up Mel, who looked out at the crowd.
“Citizens of Milltown,” bellowed Wrangler Jack Bicsko, on behalf of Mel. “Some wish for gold, other diamonds, cash galore. I know you folks only will have one wish this much, Mel is sure. The shadows have fled brighter days ahead and early spring it will be finer. Who’s going to win? The 49ers.”
The Kansas City Chiefs went on to win Super Bowl LIV, 31-20, against the San Francisco 49ers.
With temperatures in the mid-30s, Milltown Mel’s prediction brought out a record crowd including neighboring East Brunswick Mayor Brad Cohen. He said it was his first time at the event and he was there to support the borough, which East Brunswick surrounds on three sides.
It was also a first for Chris Demydenko and his seven-year-old twins, Cole and Carina, of East Brunswick. The family said they were happy with Mel’s early spring prediction.
The children who came out held signs, waved American flags, and blew party blowers. Groundhog souvenirs including “Milltown Mel” stress reliever squishes, footballs, cups and yellow t-shirts – “Groundhog Day 2020, it’s a Milltown thing” on the front and “Sunday Funday” on the back – sponsored by the Bronson and Guthlein Funeral Home – were given out at the beginning of the celebration by the Wranglers.
One sign displayed what Milltown Mel’s photo would be on various social media sites – Linkedin, Facebook, Instagram and Tinder – with Milltown Mel saying “Get you a groundhog who can do it all.”
The Milltown Groundhog Day celebration is an evolution of the Guthlein family’s own observance of the holiday. Jerry Guthlein, the former owner of the Bronson and Guthlein Funeral Home in the borough and a former councilman, has since passed the torch onto McNamara and the rest of the Wranglers.
This was the fifth prediction for this particular Mel, who predicted six more weeks of winter last year and early springs previous three years; in his first prediction. The former Mel passed away in August 2015 after making a handful of favorable predictions over the years.
This year, Milltown Mel agrees with his neighbor over the bridge, Staten Island Chuck, and Punxsutawney Phil in Pennsylvania of an early spring.
Contact Kathy Chang at email@example.com.