Punxsutawney Phil and Groundhog’s Day, what’s not to love? A cute little hedgehog who lives forever. And a weather prediction. The makings of a media darling. And a hit movie too. Ha!
We visited our friend Carol in Buffalo, New York after seeing Niagara Falls. What a great time we had with her. Carol and Paul are friends of ours from Retrouvaille, the marriage ministry we volunteer in. Unfortunately, Paul passed away last year. He was a kind man, who was loved by many. In fact, his is the only funeral we’ve attended via FaceBook Live. What a cool experience to get to join in the celebration from several states away.
Anyway, after Steve kicked both mine and Carol’s asses in Monopoly, it was time to hit the road again. We really had no plan other than to head south before the weather turned super cold. Our first night out took us to Alleghany State Park where we boondocked in the Red House Area near a lake. Overnight, it snowed, which is exactly what we hoped to avoid! So we looked at a map to see what areas lay due South. Guess what? We saw Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania.
We just had to go! So Steve hopped onto Cupcake’s roof, swept the snow off the slide out and away we drove.
Punxsutawney Phil and Groundhog’s Day
We arrived late morning and started our tour of the Weather Capital of the World at the Punxsutawney Chamber of Commerce gift shop. I bought my requisite post card, we picked up our map and made a plan for seeing the town. Did I mention that I buy a post card where ever we go? I do. However, I didn’t start it for a few months into our truck camper travels, so I missed some stops. But it’s an easy and fun way to keep track of where we’ve been. I’d like to get two key ring clasp thingies, then I’ll punch two holes in each card and put them on the rings. Kind of like my own flip through album.
Anyway, back to the weather forecaster! From the gift shop, we walked a few blocks to Barclay Square and to Phil’s Burrow. Punxsutawney Phil and his wife Phyllis live here in a climate controlled environment. The burrow is part of the community library, so visitors can see them from outside through the window. Children can also see them through a window in the children’s section of the library. It’s neat. The two groundhogs were curled up together sleeping, so not much activity to report, but the large groundhog statue outside their burrow definitely saw its shadow!
There’s only ever been one Punxsutawney Phil, as he gets his longevity from drinking groundhog punch. It’s a secret recipe created by members of the Groundhog Club. One sip, which Phil drinks in the summer at the Groundhog Picnic, gives him seven more years of life!
Weather Discovery Center
The Punxsutawney Weather Discovery Center is a place where the science and folklore of weather prediction come together. It’s located in a historic 1914 building right downtown and offers hands on and interactive exhibits. While we didn’t stop in, it did look like a great place to visit. A little bit of learning added to a little bit of playing is always a good thing.
Around town are 32 larger-than life Punxsutawney Phils. A map available from the Chamber of Commerce lists where they’re all at, but we simply enjoyed coming upon them as we walked. Guess I should have taken a few more pictures but these fat statues are just good fun.
Where Predictions are made
This is the site where Punxsutawney Phil and Groundhog’s Day come together. It’s one of the most famous landmarks in the city and even in Western Pennsylvania. Steve and I both enjoyed walking around this site which we’ve seen on TV every February 2nd. Thousands of visitors come to Gobbler’s Knob on Groundhog’s Day to hear Phil give his weather prediction.
The tradition started in 1887 and now starts at 3am with a huge bonfire. Shuttlebuses bring visitors from all over to witness the Seer of Seers. While waiting for his prediction, party-goers enjoy a pre-dawn fireworks show. Steve thought he’d enjoy a flask of body-warming whiskey while warming his hands near the bonfire!
At 7am on Punxsutawney Phil and Groundhog’s Day share their magic, when the President of the Inner Circle of the Groundhog Club knocks on the door to ask for the Weather Prophet’s prediction. Phil’s handler then lifts him onto the stump, where he determines whether or not he sees his shadow. After making his decision, Phil then whispers to the president in “Groundhogese”, a language understood only by the presidents while serving their terms of office. Each year, the groundhog’s prediction is recorded in the National Archives in Washington, DC.
Traditions and Tourists
I loved our stop at Gobbler’s Knob. Unlike Steve, who thinks the Groundhog’s Day events sound fun, I think it sounds cold and crowded. And also really freaking early in the morning! So I’m happy being the tourist who comes to visit when no one else is around. We stood on the stage and made our own predictions. Then we knocked on the groundhog’s little door. Surprisingly, no groundhog poked out its head, but we did see some mushrooms growing inside there.
I’m also super impressed that someone so many years ago thought of a fun way to bring Germany’s tradition of a weather forecasting hedgehog to America. February 2nd is the midway point between the Winter solstice and Spring equinox, so making a guess to weather used to be beneficial in helping farmers. The men of Punxsutawney thought America could have a similar tradition with a groundhog doing the predictions. Thus Punxsutawney Phil and Groundhog’s Day were born!