[the_ad_placement id=”banner-right-placement”]

[the_ad_placement id=”banner-left-placement”]

The seventh annual Groundhog Fever Festival, hosted by the Quincy Chamber of Commerce, kicked off Feb. 2 at the park around the Plumas County Courthouse. Celebrity marmot Chuck Wood predicted six more weeks of winter with help from emcee-comics James Wilson, left, and Johnny Mansell. Photo by Roni Java

Chili and cheer warm winter crowds at Chamber’s Groundhog Fever Fest

Quincy’s Honorary Mayor Dave Reynolds passed the key to the town to 2019 honoree ‘Mayor’ Michelle Fulton whose first campaign promise was “Free hugs for everyone!” Photo by Roni Java

Down by the courthouse, it was a dark and stormy day and then, luck of lucks, blue skies began to peek out in between the rain Feb. 2.

Right on schedule, the “Fish Tacos” musical ensemble struck up the band and the Quincy Chamber of Commerce opened its seventh annual Groundhog Fever Festival to a welcoming audience.

Booths popped up, wine and beer taps went to work and the smell of 10 different, enticing chili recipes wafted through the air.

It turned out to be a very good day to be a celebrity groundhog, as Plumas County’s Chuck Wood eventually discovered — being a famed cousin to Punxsutawney Phil.

Honorary Mayor of Quincy Dave Reynolds was in high spirits as he passed the town key for the office to his 2019 successor, Michelle Fulton.

Reynolds advised Her Honor, “I have it on very good authority from Phil Bresciani that this key doesn’t open any of the banks or bars! But I’m pretty sure you can find your desk at Plumies,” and the crowd roared with laughter.

Making her first official campaign promise from the courthouse steps, Mayor Michelle said cheerily, “Free hugs for all, anytime you need it!”

The pie-eating contest was a great, gooey success and the mustache competition brought out entrants from all eras, including students Mason Thorman of Sloat and Quincy kids Thea Nicoles and Emily Choate. There was also a late-entry from Quincy’s Johnny Stafford who had creatively shaved his beard, mustache and sideburns into a unique display of face art. The look went well with his wildly striped blazer jacket.

Several best-behaved pups participated in the Groundhog Day Doggie Dress-up Parade. Winning the applause meter hands down was a tiny Butte County Camp Fire refugee Chihuahua named Precious Darling who attended with her folks Marc Darling and Wendy Cobb. The couple has relocated to Greenville from Paradise and said they have fallen in love with the community.

Approximately 100 fans attended the Groundhog celebration Feb. 2 in Quincy where Wayne Cartwright, left, and Susan Allen dished up the Judge’s Choice winner with their terrific When in Doubt, Stout Chili by Quintopia Brewing Company. Photo by Roni Java

Fellow emcee-comics James Wilson and Johnny Mansell kept the umbrella-covered crowd in stitches with their deadpan jokes about Groundhog Chuck Wood’s big day and tiny house.

“Brett Marty built Chuck’s house for us six years ago and look at it now. You might want to consider that,” the emcees quipped by turns. “And Town and Country Realty sold it to us, so you might want to consider that, too!”

For help to coax the wood-chucking, weather-wizard marmot out of his 2-foot-tall pitch-roofed stump house, 4-year-old Marjorie Wilson and 2-year-old Danny Mae Mansell joined their daddies at the makeshift stage on the courthouse steps.

With much fanfare, Chuck made his debut and … drum roll please … saw his shadow.

“Oh boy,” James Wilson told the crowd. “Looks like six more weeks of winter and only three more weeks of government!”

Bursts of laughter rippled through the soggy audience. And then it was time for the rocking and reeling bachelor’s auction conducted by Lisa Kelly in her best P.T. Barnum style.

Six jovial and good-looking local contestants — including one young lady and five gents — braved the rain to be auctioned off for the good cause of Quincy Chamber programs. As winning bidders waltzed off with their prizes to collect gift certificates from area businesses, local volunteer Herbie Beck of Angels Among Us stood ready at the curb to take the bidders and bid-upons for a post-auction victory ride around downtown in his stretch limo.

In between the day’s events, hearty festivalgoers meandered through the arts and information booths hosted by various organizations.

The Quincy Fire Department was — and is — actively recruiting for additional volunteer personnel.

Plumas County’s Gay and Straight Alliance gave out rainbow flags all afternoon.

Feather River College’s welcome booth handed out a delicious haul of cookies freshly baked by the Culinary Arts students.

The Magic Beanstalk Players brought winsome costumes and make-believe accoutrements galore while local artists displayed beautiful handmade jewelry and wares.

Volunteers with the Plumas County chapter of the Rural2Rural.co.za nonprofit sold giant caramel apples to raise funds for Ugandan school renovation projects.

As always, a terrific highlight of the Groundhog Fever Festival was the chili cook-off with eager taste testers making the rounds from booth to booth.

All the best cooks gladly ladled out samples of their unique recipes at the pop-up tents stationed along Court Street. Even when the rain came and went, folks stuck it out to enjoy the hot, flavorful entries that warmed hands and hearts and fortified themselves with brews and wines.

This year’s chili entrants were a diverse group of cooks and chefs.

Winning the People’s Choice award for their amazing Hillbilly Chili were Allison Miller, center, and her family of local Neighbor’s Barbecue fame. Still puttin’ Cromberg on the map, the team included Stephanie Sprague, left, and Kyle Miller, far right. Son Dylan Miller (not shown) was busy stirring up the pot. Photo submitted

FRC’s Irish Knockout Chili was a team effort served by culinary student Melissa Miller. Quincy Fire Department’s Hazmat Honey Chili showed the group to great advantage and the Plumas County Sheriff’s Employee’s Association was a hit with their Notorious PIG Chili.

The “sanctioned” all-meat, no-beans Hans Solo Chili was entered by a seasoned competitor, new resident Robert Skinner of Los Gatos, who now lives off La Porte Road and says, “I LOVE it here!”

Quincy Chilinators Jeff Soucek and Marie and Isaiah Garcia cooked up their Chuck’s Contagion Chili.

Plumas Rural Services offered a White Shadow Chili ladled out by Angelina Vaughan and Aymie Finch, both from Quincy.

The Gay Straight Alliance members hosted a cook-off competition tent where V. Singh and Alyia Pilgrim dished up their GSA Pride Chili.

Mom-and-daughter owners Kim Brandon and Taylor Curran of Grandma Jane’s Place offered Jane’s Hearty Chili and Quintopia Brewing Co. entered their When in Doubt, Stout Chili served by Wayne Cartwright and Susan Allen.

Popular local restaurateurs of the former Neighbor’s Barbecue from Cromberg also wowed the crowd with their Hillbilly Chili served up by Allison and Kyle Miller with able help from their son Dylan and Allison’s mom Stephanie Sprague.

Each entry was distinct and delicious.

Chili tester Joe Childers of Quincy paused between booths and steaming cups to say, “Wow, they’re all really good! It’s hard to call one of them the best.”

By late afternoon, with musicians Barney Harchis, Lance Barker, Leslie Mink, Kenny Davis and Ken Cawley rounding out the day in cheerful tunes with a danceable rating of at least 10, the judges announced 2019’s winners:

– Judge’s Choice: Quintopia’s When In Doubt, Stout Chili.

– People’s Choice: Neighbor’s Barbecue with its Hillbilly Chili.

– Best Decorated Booth: Plumas County Gay Straight Alliance.

Congratulations everyone and keep warm until spring arrives!

[the_ad_placement id=”banner-left-placement”]