The Times West Virginian

February 2, 2014

Pleasant Valley Pete helps students celebrate Groundhog Day and learn: VIDEO

By Kristen Talerico
Times West Virginian

PLEASANT VALLEY — Pleasant Valley Elementary School students enjoyed a quick visit from the local groundhog during recess on Friday.

Gary DeMary, health teacher at the elementary school, brings his puppet, Pleasant Valley Pete, to school every year to help kids celebrate Groundhog Day in an educational way.

“We try to integrate all areas of learning into the fun-filled celebration, “ DeMary said.

“Using vocabulary words, mathematics, reading and writing are all different areas of learning the groundhog celebration helps students learn in a fun, new way,” DeMary added.

He mentioned normally there is more of an anticipated build-up to the event, but due to the weather and missed school days he made the groundhog appearance during recess time in order to ensure class instruction was not taken away from the students.

This was the fifth year Pleasant Valley Pete braved the cold and snow to determine whether Fairmont would see an early spring or six more weeks of winter.

All the students’ chanted “PETE, PETE, PETE,” as they waited from him to exit his cage.

It didn’t take long for Pete not to see his shadow, and predict an early spring.

One kindergarten student, Octavia Heston, said, “I was very excited to see the groundhog, and knew he was not going to see his shadow.”

Pete has grown in popularity tremendously since he made his first appearance five years, ago DeMary said.

He added the students’ reaction to Pete is outstanding, and they get so excited to just be a kid and go nuts over the groundhog.

DeMary said the kindergarten and first-grade children tend to enjoy Pete more than the older grades.

He dressed up in a top hat, coat, scarf and sunglasses for the students to see the true character of the groundhog man, and helped students understand the importance of learning in a fun environment.

“Pete was caught in Pleasant Valley and is happy to have a safe home,” DeMary said.

He added Pete finally found his forever home after being homeless for several years.

Email Kristen Talerico at or follow her on Twitter @KTalericoTWV.