By Dana Delgado
BERTRAM — If you blinked, you might have missed this year’s prediction on “Donkey Day,” Bertram’s annual spoof on Ground Hog Day.
It all happened so fast that it caught everyone by surprise. Unlike other years, there was no wavering or indecision Feb. 2 by Bertram’s celebrated prognosticator, Pawnee, the 13-year-old champion miniature donkey from nearby Oatmeal.
Before an audience of curious and enthusiastic students and their teachers from Bertram Elementary School, and immediately following opening comments by community leader Marcy Masterson, Pawnee went directly to the bucket of oats, signaling an early spring and bringing smiles to all those in attendance.
If the donkey had chosen the sweet feed instead, six more weeks of winter would have been the forecast. A sip from the water bucket would have been a sign of bounteous rainfall.
Pawnee’s decision drew a round of spontaneous cheers and collective applause from the students.
“It was really cool watching and seeing the donkey eat the oats,” said fourth grade student Jaedyn Hart, who was among the students who witnessed the morning event at Bertram Elementary. “I feel really happy that spring is coming early.”
Third grader Sydney Lough was also quite taken by the event and the donkey’s decision.
“I thought it was really fun seeing a donkey in real life,” said a smiling Sydney. “I was hoping it was going to be spring and it was.”
Emilio Suarez, another third grader, was intrigued by the science of it all.
“I had never seen this before – having animals predict the weather,” he said. “It’s warming up so I think it’s true.”
Ken Odiorne, the official forecast interpreter for the event, confirmed Pawnee’s forecast and said he hoped that the prediction would hold true. The celebrated donkey has developed quite a reputation as a successful prognosticator with over 70 percent accuracy over the past eight years.
“I think it all went well,” said Odiorne. “I think it was a great idea to have the kids be a part of the program. All the kids were having a blast.”
This is the first time “Donkey Day” was held at the elementary school.
Bertram Mayor Dickie Allen, who agreed with Odiorne on the event’s success, read a proclamation declaring Feb. 2 as Donkey Day.
Except for one year, Pawnee has served as the event’s official prognosticator. Pawnee’s owner, Patsy Oertli, said that the prized miniature donkey that stands 36 inches at his shoulders was given to her by a breeder.
Predicting the weather may have been the central purpose of the event, but without question, the miniature donkey that craves cookies and pretzels and has an incomparable presence, stole everyone’s heart.