Unadilla: The Groundhog Capital and home of Nebraska’s groundhog

Unadilla is most known for their icon, Unadilla Bill, but this Groundhog Day there’s a new face to continue the tradition.
Published: Feb. 2, 2022 at 8:15 AM CST|Updated: Feb. 2, 2022 at 9:26 AM CST
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LINCOLN, Neb. (KOLN) - When it comes to traditions, Groundhog Day can sometimes be overlooked, but for a village southeast of Lincoln, that certainly isn’t the case.

Unadilla, a village of roughly 350 people, is the official Groundhog Capital of Nebraska. They’re most known for their icon, Unadilla Bill, but this Groundhog Day there’s a new face to continue the tradition.

“It was just time to send Bill into retirement,” Groundhog Day parade organizer, Bob Brandt said, “He’s on display and you can get pictures with him, but now it’s for Unadilla Billie to take over.”

Unadilla Bill did spend 33-years as the groundhog of Nebraska, and even though he’s retired, his legacy lives on at the Nitty Gritty Gas and Thrift.

So, how did Nebraska find Unadilla Bill?

“Back in 1988 I saw a groundhog that was laying right by one of my cabbage plants and evidently he’d eaten too much cabbage, had indigestion and died on the spot. That was Unadilla Bill. I had a friend that was a taxidermist and he made Unadilla Bill into a living legend,” Brandt said.

That’s what Bill is described as by many, a legend that’s helped create an identity for a small, but tight knit community.

“You talk about small communities throughout Nebraska and sometimes you really don’t identify with where they are because of the smaller populations, but Unadilla Bill and the groundhog there’s a lot of people that recognize that it just brings everybody together,” owner of Nitty Gritty Gas and Thrift, Dan Anderson said.

Even though Unadilla Bill has given his last prediction, the pride in the groundhog tradition lives on in the small community.

“I look at it as kind of a reunion,” Brandt said, “Maybe a reunion of friends, family or strangers. We’ve even had people get married on Groundhog Day here so you never know what’s going to happen.”

Punxsutawney Phil predicted six more weeks of winter in 2022, but Unadilla Billie disagreed, predicting an early spring. Unadilla will once again host its annual Groundhog Day parade Saturday, February 5 starting at 2 p.m.

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