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Groundhog Day - Wiarton Willie
Canada's Famous Weather Prognosticating Groundhog
 More of this Feature
Groundhog Day Photos!
 
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"What do you think Phil is going predict this year?"
--Kimberly
 
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For as the sun shines on Candlemas Day,
So far will the snow swirl until May.
For as the snow blows on Candlemas Day,
So far will the sun shine before May.

A German tradition holds that if the sun comes out on Candlemas, the hedgehog (or badger) will see its shadow and six more weeks of winter will follow. When German settlers came to Pennsylvania they continued this tradition, using groundhogs instead of hedgehogs to predict the weather. 

The first official Groundhog Day was celebrated on February 2, 1886 in Punxsutawney, PA with a proclamation in The Punxsutawney Spirit by the newspaper's editor, Clymer Freas: "Today is groundhog day and up to the time of going to press the beast has not seen its shadow." The legendary first trip to Gobbler's Knob was made the following year by a group of spirited groundhog hunters who dubbed themselves "The Punxsutawney Groundhog Club." Clymer, a member of the club, used his editorial clout to proclaim that Phil, the Punxsutawney Groundhog, was the one and only official weather prognosticating groundhog.

Phil's fame began to spread and newspapers from around the world began to report his predictions. Growing legions of fans started making the trek to Punxsutawney every February 2, and with the release of the 1993 movie Groundhog Day, starring Bill Murray, the crowds began to number in the tens of thousands. Phil's yearly predictions are actually even entered into the Congressional Record!
 

Questions and Answers About Groundhog Day in Punxsutawney:

Where does the name Punxsutawney come from?
Punxsutawney was first settled by the Delaware Indians in 1723 and its name comes from the Indian name for the location "ponksad-uteney" which means the "town of the sandflies." The name woodchuck also has Indian origins, coming from the legend of "Wojak, the groundhog."

Where exactly is Punxsutawney?
Punxsutawney is in Western Pennsylvania, about 80 miles northeast of Pittsburgh. Click here for driving directions and airport information.

How did Phil get his name?
The groundhog's full name is actually "Punxsutawney Phil, Seer of Seers, Sage of Sages, Prognosticator of Prognosticators and Weather Prophet Extraordinary." It was so proclaimed by the "Punxsutawney Groundhog Club" in 1887, the same year they declared Punxsutawney to be the weather capital of the world.

How do you know it is really Phil at Gobbler's Knob?
For most of the year, Phil lives in a climate-controlled home at the Punxsutawney Library. He is taken to Gobbler's Knob and placed in a heated burrow underneath a simulated tree stump on stage before being pulled out at 7:25 am on February 2 to make his prediction.

How old is Phil anyway?
Phil is reputed by townspeople to be more than 100 years old, surviving beyond a marmot's normal life span thanks to the strong constitution of his wife, Phyllis, and a steady diet of Groundhog Punch.

Was the 1993 film Groundhog Day really filmed in Punxsutawney?
Unfortunately, the answer is no. Columbia Pictures decided to film the movie in a location more accessible to a major metropolitan center. Punxsutawney is located in a very rural area with few highways, so Woodstock, Illinois was chosen as the site for the movie.  As a result adjustments had to be made for the production.  The actual Gobbler's Knob is a wooded hill with a beautiful view; the Gobbler's Knob in the movie is moved to the town square though it is recreated to scale based on detailed notes and videos the crew made on its visit to Punxsutawney.  

Has anything ever gone wrong with the Groundhog Day festivities?
Alan Freed, a Punxsutawney native now living in Pittsburgh remembers "Well, one year (1996, I believe) Phil had burrowed deep into his hole, and he wasn't even visible when his handlers opened the door to retrieve him for his forecast.  This particular year saw a record crowd of 30,000+ at Gobbler's Knob, and they couldn't find Phil!  After a couple tense moments, his handlers were able to extract him from his burrow."

I can't make it to Gobbler's Knob this year? Is the ceremony going to be on TV?
You are in luck! Phil will be making his second appearance on the big screen in Times Square this February 2nd about 7 am. And if you can't make it to Times Square then you can watch the live webcast right here! Most major television stations across the country also cover the official ceremony.

Is there anything new planned for this year's celebration?
Considering this year's extra special date (02/02/02) and the fact that Groundhog Day falls on a Saturday, this is expected to be the largest Groundhog Day celebration ever in Punxutawney. Amber Brkich of Survivor II fame will join the crowd at Gobbler's Knob, plus four action-packed days of events including a chili cook-off, ice carving exhibitions, trivia contests, a Prognosticators Ball, groundhog day weddings, sleigh rides, music, food, fun and games.

What about all of those other weather predicting groundhogs out there?
Alan Freed, Webmaster for www.punxsutawneyphil.com and www.groundhog.org, says "We'll take 'em seriously just as soon as a major motion picture is created in their honor!"


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Photos of Phil and Groundhog Day Festivities

 

Photo courtesy of www.punxsutawneyphil.com
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