The Block Island Times

Out of hibernation

Population of winter-bound islanders: 931
By Joshua Maldonado | Feb 07, 2014
Photo by: Mollie and Kevin Anderson Painted Rock on Groundhog Day.

Like Punxsutawney Phil, winter residents of New Shoreham get jostled awake every Feb. 2 to show their faces and get counted for posterity’s sake.

Year-rounders can relate to the groundhog. We work all summer to prepare for the cold months ahead. We hibernate during the quiet season, retirees starting as early as October, ending as late as April. Some of those among us have winter burrows in more temperate climates, like Boca Raton.

Like the shadowy gamble of Groundhog’s Day — who saw his shadow adding another six weeks of winter— we can expect a margin of error during the head count, as we tally up only those on the island that moment, vacationers included. That doesn’t take away from the festivities, of course: daily and yearly residents alike formed the jovial crowd at the Old Island Pub (OIP), location of this long-standing tradition for the second year in a row.

Don Thimble, the gray-haired captain of events, sauntered around the pub, casually dignified, jotting down mental and physical notes in his trusty manila folder while his lovely wife Maggie dutifully hammered out the details on her laptop. Lew Gaffett, our peaceful village elder, watched the event unfold from the far end of the bar, sitting beneath a framed article denoting the event’s past history.

Meanwhile, the counted and uncounted patrons of OIP had a reunion of sorts, having some fun. It was a casual affair; the patrons goofed off, talked about their pets, their relationships, and their relationships with their pets.

This kind of semi-serious banter persisted as the manila folder glided along with Cap’n Don, new arrivals being notched and acquainted with.

The island’s population has flip-flopped from (around) 1,000 to (around) 950 for the past four years. This year’s count totaled 931. The event saw a slight decline in attendance due to the Super Bowl.

Adding more island insult to injury, the head count’s cash prize recipient — with a perfect prediction of 931 people on-island — was a wonderful woman named Carol Turner from Southboro, Mass.

Carol, an energetic overnighter who stayed at the Avonlea B&B, won an even larger cash prize for her Super Bowl predictions later that night.

That could’ve been you, stay-at-home locals.

Overall, it was a quiet but no less vital gathering of the groundhogs among us.

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