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If it ain't broke...

October 12, 2007|By JOSHUA BOWMAN

When you've done things the same way for more than 200 years, change can be tough.

The publishers of J. Gruber's Hagers-Town Town and Country Almanack learned that lesson the hard way last year when they removed local weather forecasts from the almanac in favor of a national weather section.

"It did not go over well," said Jerry Spessard, business manager for the almanac, which is in its 212th year.

The change was made to coincide with a national distribution deal, which landed the Hagerstown almanac in thousands of hardware and home-improvement stores across the country.

Spessard said the deal boosted sales, but the change in format brought complaints from local readers.

So this year the almanac's publishers are compromising.

Mid-Atlantic forecasts appear at the top of each month's page in the 2008 version, with national weather below.

"We're already getting tremendous praise for bringing the local region weather back," Spessard said.


Also included in this year's almanac after a one-year hiatus is the woolly bear contest, which for 18 years judged local caterpillars on the basis of their size and "cuteness," Spessard said.

The contest suffered from declining participation for many years, but, like local weather forecasts, was an expected feature of the almanac.

"We didn't do it last year, and a lot of people called to say they were upset. So we're going to give it our best effort this year," Spessard said.

As for this year's forecasts, weather prognosticator Bill O'Toole, a former math and computer science professor at Mount St. Mary's University in Emmitsburg, Md., predicts a harsh winter with "frequent bone-numbing outbreaks."

"Expect more snow than has been seen in recent years," O'Toole wrote. "Expect the snow to start early, also."

O'Toole says the first snow storm will hit Western Maryland between Dec. 9 and 12. He also is predicting a white Christmas and snow on New Year's Eve.

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