Punxsutawney Phil calls early spring, Cleveland’s pierogi cat disagrees

John Niedzialek, who started the tradition 15 years ago with his former cat, holds up Concord Casimir.
John Niedzialek, who started the tradition 15 years ago with his former cat, holds up Concord Casimir.
Courtesy of John Niedzialek/Saint Casimir Church

On the morning of Feb. 2—Groundhog Day—Punxsutawney Phil woke up and did not see his shadow. Punxsutawney Phil expects spring to come early even though January is the third cloudiest month in Ohio’s history.

Punxsutawney Phil is not the only season-predicting animal in the country, let alone in Northeast Ohio. Cleveland has Concord Casimir, an orange pierogi-eating cat. Concord Casimir predicted that Cleveland will experience “mild weather for a while but don’t be fooled.”

According to Saint Casimir Church, where Concord Casimir was first found as he continued to eat the pierogi while it got colder, it was a clear sign that the weather will remain the same. FreshWater Cleveland, a local newspaper, noted that it all depends on how Casimir eats the pierogi. When he eats them slowly, Cleveland’s spring is predicted to be a long and sloppy winter. A normal eating of the pierogi means a normal winter, but if Casimir swallows one whole, then spring will come early.

John Niedzialek, a part-time professor at Lake County Community College and a resource protection specialist at Lake County Soil & Water Conservation, said his previous cat was the founder of this tradition.

“My previous cat Concord Abby actually started it all about 15 years ago when it became obvious that the rodent in Pennsylvania was doing so poorly in his predictions. I knew my cat had a sense for the weather so that is where it all began,” Niedzialek said. He credits Marian McMahon from the Lake County Tribune, who started reporting about Abby for the tradition of Concord Casimir.

Casimir took over Abby’s weather-predicting duty in 2014.

Niedzialek said he found Casimir while volunteering as a lawn mower at St. Casimir Church. He said, “I stopped the mower [and what I saw] was a little critter sitting at the same spot we prayed for two and a half years outside the gate of the front of the church.”

Upon taking him to the vet, he learned that Casimir’s birthday was on July 15, exactly one year after the church reopened. In 2009, St. Casimir Church and 54 other churches were closed by the Vatican, and only some were given the green light to reopen in March 2012.

Last year Casimir’s prediction was correct, and the church says that Casimir is undefeated in his predictions.

So far, Casimir is the only weather-predicting animal in Ohio who can rival Punxsutawney Phil. However, Ohio’s official weather-predicting animal is groundhog Buckeye Chuck, according to a 1979 bill.

Prior to 2023, WMRN-AM radio station was accused by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) of allegedly using an unlicensed company to exhibit the groundhogs during its annual festivities on Feb. 2. In 2023, the radio station used a stuffed animal instead of a real groundhog.

This year, Murray, a groundhog who currently resides in the Cleveland Museum of Natural History, was given the title of Buckeye Chuck.

Cleveland is now home to two different weather-predicting animals that can rival the likes of Punxsutawney Phil.

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