SUNSET -- Sunset Sam, the city's famous guinea pig who sets his small black eyes out to the west every year on Groundhog Day to view the sunset, could not see it this year, predicting an early spring and sending a cheer through the assembled onlookers.
It seems that the small guinea pig was in agreement with Punxsutawney Phil in Pennsylvania, who, not having seen his shadow, also predicted an early spring.
The community members attending Sunset city's annual winterfest to witness Sunset Sam's prediction were surprised at the lack of a sunset view, having basked in the sun's rays for an hour while eating chili and visiting with other residents.
"Unless a big cloud comes along and blocks the sun, I suspect Sunset Sam will see the sunset," Mayor Chad Bangerter said just minutes before the big moment. However, to Bengerter's surprise, a big cloud did just that and blocked Sunset Sam's view.
The guinea pig, owned by 7-year-old Seth Neville, has been participating in the annual event for the last five years. Previously, the city used to get a guinea pig on loan from a local pet store, but according to some rumors, a couple of them died from the shock of being out in the cold, so Bangerter said they shifted to a more permanent guinea pig option.
Neville likes the fact that his 5-year-old guinea pig is so famous.
"It's pretty cool that everyone likes to look at Sam," said Neville, who reassured the crowd that his pet has a nice fur coat to keep warm.
For one Sunset resident, Groundhog Day is his favorite holiday. Decked out in a black top hat, William Swank was hoping for an early spring. "This is my holiday because it's just different than any other holiday."
Even more so, he said it's nice to hang out with community members in the winter. For his wife, the holiday is more about not having any added stresses.
"It is a good holiday because I don't have to buy any presents and all my family likes seeing the little critter," Karen Swank said.
City Councilman Ricky Carlson was judging the chili cook-off. The judging sheet scored the chili on aroma, spice, consistency, taste and aftertaste. While getting scoring results from the crowd, he enjoyed the opportunity to visit with many of the residents.
"I don't get to visit with them very often, so this has been fun to get to know them and hear their thoughts and concerns," Carlson said. He did discover while visiting with some of the taste testers that some of the chili entries were too runny, others too thick and one that was too much like a pork barbecue.
Resident John Watts, who won first place for his chili entry, said the key to his success is sea salt because it adds flavor.