Groundhog’s Day: Shadows, Chills And Thrills

Punxsutawney Phil Startled By The Shadow Cast By The Crowd


I finally experienced the pomp and pageantry of Groundhog’s Day on February 2, 2023. The 137th annual Groundhog’s Day radiated a unique and peculiar seasonal American atmosphere that attracts people from all over the country and foreign visitors as well. Everybody comes to see how an oversized brown furry rodent is going to react when exposed to sunlight removed from his little hatch.

We did not have tickets to attend the Miss Groundhog’s Day Banquet held the night before the primary affair. Unfortunately, we walked out of Punxsy Pizza as it was an unsavory episode. I conducted a reconnaissance maneuver of the Gobbler’s Knob compound in Punxsutawney to familiarize myself with the grounds. Because Groundhog’s Day fell on a Thursday, there was less of a turnout than if it had transpired on a weekend date.

My friend was unsatisfied with where we were staying in DuBois and decided to pack up and vacate the premises. This caused us to arrive late and had me worried that we would miss the big moment. That morning, the windchill picked up and temperatures were registering at 12 degrees Fahrenheit. Somehow, we secured a parking spot, caught the shuttle and arrived at 7:05am - but the Groundhog’s Day 2023 ceremony was behind schedule, thankfully.

Gates opened at 5:00am, but we were still able to position ourselves in a good location to view the annual merriments. Revelers are no longer permitted to party and imbibe in the compound. However, we did miss the confetti cannon, fireworks, and the Gobbler’s black top hat and overcoats procession of distinguished gents who paraded through the crowd to the elevated dais. Pyro bursts erupted onstage.

The officiants in top hats and trench coats read a few proclamation scrolls, conducted a groundhog holler back and forth with the crowd, and welcomed those who were brave enough to endure the weather. A Groundhog’s Day dignitary began to knock on Punxsutawney Phil’s tree stump at 7:22am. When Phil was held up before the throng assembled, it was determined poor Phil had indeed recognized his shadow.

Discernable boos began emerging from disappointed members of the audience at the realization that the winter weather would continue for another six weeks. It was announced at the closing of the ceremony that Phil would be returned to Punxsutawney Zoo until February 2. A bon fire was burning up at the crest of the hill for those seeking some warmth.

Many Groundhog’s Day visitants are happy to celebrate their February 2 birthdays with an enormous crowd of complete strangers in frigid weather. The Punxsutawney Chamber of Commerce throws an annual Groundhog’s Day birthday party for those in attendance who were born on February 2. The late Farrah Fawcett was born February 2, 1947.

Estimates place the turnout at 15,000 celebrants. After the Groundhog’s Day ceremony ended, we stopped and shopped inside the Gobbler’s Knob gift shop, which features the groundhog image branded on almost any kind of souvenir you can imagine. I bought postcards, coins, a poker chip and, of course, a plush groundhog. When in Punxsutawney.

The popular 1993 motion picture classic “Groundhog’s Day” starring Bill Murray is a holiday masterpiece, but it wasn’t filmed in Punxsutawney proper. The iconic movie that fictionally highlights the Groundhog’s Day ceremony was actually shot on location in Woodstock, Illinois. Murray scouted out Punxsutawney, but ultimately had to find an alternative setting.

The next GHD attraction was held at Barclay Square, showcasing vendors populated by tourists and locals. Eric had his ice sculptures of Phil & Phyllis Groundhog on display. If you wanted to imbibe or sample libations, you could choose from designer spirits, homegrown wines and microbrews; too many choices in fact. Jose Del Pino from Santiago interviewed me about GHD for Chilean TV 13.

We drove out to tour the Jimmy Stewart Museum at Indiana, PA. Stewart was truly a fascinating individual and a genuine American WWII aviation hero. I’m glad we made the journey to visit the town library, which hosts the museum. Upon our return, we stopped in at the Groundhog Winery. The proprietor had Junior, their deceased pet groundhog, stuffed and utilizes his image to brand and promote the winery.

By coincidence, we passed by the Cadillac Museum at Greenburg, and had to pull over and peek through the glass windows. The coolest automotive example in the rural small-town showroom was an historic 1903 Cadillac Model A Tonneau. You can actually order a miniature replica as your very own desk trophy of this classic Cadillac online.


No comments on this item Please log in to comment by clicking here