Groundhog Day 126

Now that winter is here, how long will it last?

Every February 2nd since 1887 the world has turned its attention to Punxsutawney, PA and to a tiny, furry weatherman named Phil. The “Seer of Seers” makes his prediction about how soon spring will arrive on what we now call Groundhog’s Day.

The tradition comes from Europe and a custom where clergymen blessed candles and handled them out to the people to mark a point in winter called Candlemas Day. The weather that day was observed as a way to tell how long winter would last. As the story continues today, if Phil sees his shadow (a sunny day), we’re in for six more weeks of winter. If Phil does not see his shadow (a cloudy day); we’ll have an early spring.

Visitors make their way to Gobbler’s Knob (a local sportsman park) via one of the many buses that run endlessly that day. The busses pick you up from several points in the area and then drop you off just outside of town at Gobbler’s Knob, the famous site where all the action is that one big day of the year. Many have been up all night, but Gobbler’s Knob officially opens at 3:00 a.m. The crowd begins to grow by 5:00 a.m. and by 6:00 a.m. it is very loud. Phil fans wait together, shoulder to shoulder, braving whatever weather winter may bring. Phil’s Prognostication starts about 7:20 a.m. (so don’t be late).If you’ve seen the movie Groundhog Day with Bill Murray, then you have a pretty good idea of what goes on. It really is crazy and it really is a blast. Go to witness the world’s oldest groundhog exit his heated stump burrow at sunrise to whisper into the ears of members of the Inner Circle. This elite group, who oversee the care Phil receives year-round, is the best dressed that morning wearing tuxedos and top hats.

Phil’s report is, of course, in Groundhogese and must be translated for the rest of the common folk. Most years the sun comes out and Phil sees his shadow giving us six more weeks of winter. Less than 10% of the time does Phil not see his shadow.

To wake everyone up and get the crowd going at such an early event, fireworks are shot off and thundering music is played. They also sell coffee, hot chocolate and snacks all morning. But after Phil does his thing, the chilly, glowing crowds fill the buses to shuttle back to town.Events and activities go on for days before and all day on February 2nd. Visitors may certainly make a long weekend of it and everyone should experience Groundhog’s Day in person at least once in their lifetime. But be careful, you might become one of the many party-goers that come every year. Besides, how often do you get to witness the world’s most famous weatherman, who (by legend) is accurate 100% of the time!

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Michael Dwyer is a freelance writer and travel columnist. Michael writes about happenings in the Rochester area, travels across Michigan and destinations around the world. Contact him at

Photos were provided by The Punxsutawney Groundhog Club

About Michael Dwyer

Michael Dwyer is a freelance content provider. Michael writes about happenings in the Rochester area, travels across Michigan and destinations around the world. Contact him at

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