Concord Charlie predicts an early spring - WVVA TV Bluefield Beckley WV News, Weather and Sports

Concord Charlie predicts an early spring

Pete Ballard Pete Ballard

ATHENS, W.Va. - Concord Charlie did not see his shadow, forecasting an early spring for the Two Virginias.

Concord University's 34th Annual Groundhog Day Breakfast was held at 8 a.m. in the Jerry L. Beasley Student Center Ballroom.

The yearly gathering of food, fellowship and folklore features a weather prediction by Concord Charlie and the opportunity to honor the 2012 recipient of the title Grand Groundhog Watcher.

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, Hill started the Groundhog Day Breakfast as a means to celebrate a bit of Appalachian heritage and highlight the program.

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.

 The famed groundhog weather prophet has a standing appointment with Concord University's President each year to offer his predictions and insights on the duration of winter. The President relays Charlie's forecast to the breakfast guests.

The Grand Groundhog Watcher honor is bestowed on an individual who has positively impacted life and culture in West Virginia. This year's recipient is artist, educator and 1953 Concord graduate Pete Ballard.

Ballard was born in Welch, W.Va. and received a degree in education from Concord. 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.

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.

Ballard currently resides in Peterstown, W.Va. where his art continues to flourish with the addition of new dolls and paintings.

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