A groundhoggin' we goIt seemed a bit obligatory to visit Punxatawney Phil, the groundhog of Groundhog Day fame, at least once while living so close to his home. So last weekend an intrepid band of us drove the two hours to visit the prognosticating mammal. We cheerily ate monochromatic food at a diner while the snow fell, spent the night at the Punxy community center, watched the eponymous movie at midnight, donned six layers of clothing, and traversed the surprisingly icy sidewalks at 5am to get up to the hill where Phil does his sunrise groundhog thing.
What surprised me most was the extended ritual and eventual mediation of the groundhog's message. This isn't a surprised animal peeking from a hole in the ground and seeing his shadow. Instead, it's a sedated animal secreted into a faux burrow/podium while the crowd is distracted with fireworks and the YMCA dance. A circle of top-hatted men surround the podium, one extracts the groundhog, and the animal converses in groundhogese, indicating one of two scrolls for the man guy to read. Our scroll proclaimed six more weeks of winter, which given that it was cloudy, I consider suspicious.
Regardless of the weather report, the event itself was a blast. Punxatawney does a remarkable job of managing the 30,000 tourists who visit for one freezing night. More pictures over at Flickr.