CONCORD CHARLIE CALLS FOR SPRING TO ARRIVE SOON
Pete Ballard honored as Grand Groundhog Watcher
ATHENS, W.Va. – The balmy weather area residents have been enjoying will soon be the real thing – spring – according to famed groundhog weather forecaster Concord Charlie.
Charlie shared his prediction with guests at Concord University’s 34th Annual Groundhog Day Breakfast on Thursday, Feb. 2 via his spokesperson Dr. Gregory F. Aloia, the University’s president.
“I did not see my shadow…spring’s coming soon,” Aloia quoted Charlie as saying earlier in the morning.
The breakfast, held at 8 a.m. in the Jerry L. Beasley Student Center Ballroom, drew a packed house to hear the annual prognostication.
According to Groundhog Day tradition, if Concord Charlie sees his shadow the morning of Feb. 2, six more weeks of winter can be expected. An early spring will be on the way if he doesn’t see his shadow.
Charlie has a standing appointment with Concord University’s president each year to offer his predictions and insights on the duration of winter. The Concord Charlie tradition was originated in 1978 by the late Professor R.T. “Tom” Hill. As chairman of both the geography department and the Appalachian Studies program at Concord, he started the Groundhog Day Breakfast as a means to celebrate a bit of Appalachian heritage and highlight the program.
The yearly gathering of food, fellowship and folklore – which features a hearty ham and eggs breakfast – is also time to recognize the Grand Groundhog Watcher. This honor is bestowed each year on an individual who has positively impacted life and culture in West Virginia.
Artist, educator and Concord alumnus Pete Ballard is the honoree for 2012.
“Pete Ballard epitomizes a Concord education,” Dr. William O’Brien, director of Concord’s Beckley Center, said in his introduction. “It didn’t define him, it launched him. He took off when he left us at Concord.”
Ballard, who currently resides in Peterstown, W.Va., was born in Welch, W.Va. and received a degree in education from Concord in 1953. He taught for many years at the North Carolina School of the Arts in Winston-Salem, N.C. His career as an educator also took him to Saudi Arabia, Vietnam and China. He is a nationally known costume designer, museum costume historian and conservator. His exquisitely designed and crafted fashion dolls and hat dolls have also brought him acclaim as an artist. These delightful creations are part of numerous museum collections, all donated by Ballard.
“I am primarily a classroom English teacher,” Ballard said in his remarks. “I never let the arts intrude.”
But at 80-plus years of age and retired from teaching, Ballard’s art is flourishing. He paints and continues to make dolls. Each of his dolls, he said, is different and each has an appraised value of between $6,000 and $14,000.
“This is serious doll making,” Ballard said.
The recipient of many awards and honors, Ballard was named Concord University’s Golden Alumnus in 2007. He is among the Outstanding Educators in America and has received the Order of the Arts and Historical Letters from the West Virginia Division of Culture and History. He is recipient of the Distinguished West Virginian award – the most prestigious honor presented by the governor – and the State’s Order of the 35th Star.
Concord University President Gregory F. Aloia relays Concord Charlie’s weather prediction to the Groundhog Day Breakfast crowd: Spring’s coming soon!
Pete Ballard is honored as the 2012 Grand Groundhog Watcher.
Concord University Photos by Lance McDaniel