Nearly 300 people gathered at Reese Park in Malverne on Groundhog Day to await their meteorological fate: Would Malverne Mel predict an early spring?
"OK," said Mayor Patti Ann McDonald, grabbing hold of the horn she uses to communicate with Mel (and keep a safe distance). "What do we all want?" she asked the crowd.
"Spring!" they replied.
After listening intently to Mel as his handler held him against the opposite end of the horn, McDonald announced we would have an early spring, to the cheers of onlookers.
Mel's prognostication was contrary to what Holtsville Hal and Punxsutawney Phil had to say about a longer winter.
Residents and children alike came for the village's 22nd annual Groundhog Day celebration featuring the village's celebrity marmot. Donned in a top hat for the occasion, resident Joseph Biondi came to see Mel his two adult children. "I have come to this for 22 years," said Biondi, indicating he has never missed Mel's annual weather forecast.
Abigail, 8, a Malvernite and first-grader at the Maurice W. Downing School, took advantage of photo opportunities with a costumed Mel (otherwise known as village resident Pete Robideau), as her dad proudly took photos.
McDonald announced the winning entries of the Malverne Mel poster contest, which are now hung in the Malverne post office.
Doughnuts and hot chocolate were given out to Mel fans on a morning that seemed warm, though the temperature was 34 degrees, with a real feel of 27.