Buckeye Chuck, whose real name is Murray (photo courtesy of Cleveland Museum of Natural History)
Ohio Life

Buckeye Chuck, Ohio’s Own Weather-Predicting Groundhog

Punxsutawney who? When it comes to figuring out whether an early spring is on the way, the state of Ohio turns to our own resident expert. 

It all started in the 1970s, with Marion radio host Charlie Evers gazing out the window and seeing a groundhog staring back at him. Because Feb. 2 was just a few days away, Evers mentioned the sighting to listeners and an Ohio legend was born.

“As a joke on the air, Charlie says, ‘What are we going to name our groundhog for Groundhog Day?’ ” Scott Shawver, former Mansfield and Marion senior vice president for programming at iHeartMedia, told us in 2018. “We had a contest.”

Buckeye Chuck was the winning suggestion, and the weather-forecasting groundhog has become a seasonal staple for Marion’s WMRN. In 1979, the Ohio General Assembly even named Chuck the state’s official weather-predicting groundhog. Then, in 1990, the radio station’s hosts decided to honor him with a more vivacious celebration.

“It was [originally] just something we did in the studio,” Shawver said. “We thought it’d be fun if we actually go outside so people could see Buckeye Chuck.”

The Tradition: Much like Pennsylvania’s Punxsutawney Phil, who has been making predictions for well over a century, Buckeye Chuck is inspired by the ancient Candlemas Day. For early European Christians this was a midway point between winter solstice and spring equinox. Just like Phil, tradition holds that if Chuck sees his shadow, we’re due for another six weeks of winter. If he does not, an early spring is on its way.

The Celebration: Buckeye Chuck visits the  AM 1490 WMRN radio studios for the Groundhog Day celebration. He will greet fans on Feb. 2, 2024, from 7 to 8 a.m. during an event aired live on 1490 AM, the iHeart app and Buckeye Chuck’s Facebook page. Around 7:40 a.m. Buckeye Chuck will deliver his official forecast for what awaits us the remainder of winter. Spam has long been part of the annual celebration (ground hog, get it?) and longtime Marion, Ohio, first lady Sandra Kellogg used to stop by with her griddle to make spam sandwiches for those gathered. That tradition continues today in the form of a spam recipe contest sponsored by the radio station for the chance to win $50. 

The Groundhog: Kind of like Santa Claus, the legend of Buckeye Chuck never ages. But because an average groundhog’s lifespan is six to eight years, there have been various incarnations over the years. Although Buckeye Chuck used to reside in Marion, he now lives at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History’s Ralph Perkins II Wildlife Center & Woods Garden. The groundhog (whose name is Murray, by the way) arrived there after being injured on an Ohio road and it was determined he couldn’t return to the wild. In keeping with the longstanding tradition, he will make the trip to Marion to participate in iHeartMedia’s Groundhog Day live event in on Feb. 2. 

Visit facebook.com/thebuckeyechuck for more information about iHeartMedia’s Groundhog Day live event on Feb. 2. The event supports the St. Vincent DePaul Food Pantry by asking attendees to bring a cash donation or non-perishable food item valued at more than $5 to the celebration. 

*An earlier version of this article ran in our February 2018 issue.*