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Experiencing Groundhog Day: A Great Party & Tradition

Getting to Groundhog Day is something that I have always wanted to do. The only thing holding me back from going was the standard work week, since five of the seven days of the week fall during the work week. This year, February 2nd perfectly fell upon a Saturday, so I naturally had to go check it out. The intrigue for us to visit was always there for us, but a random visit on a spring day convinced us that this was something that we absolutely had to do. On that day, we drove up to Gobbler's Knob, just to see the site of the annual Groundhog Day festivities, and we were greeted by Bob Young. He told us all about the tradition of the Groundhog and its importance to the Punxsutawney region. We had an absolute blast that day, checking out Gobbler's Knob, seeing Phil's burrow, where our groundhog weatherman lives all year with his wife Phyllis, and so much more. There is lots of Groundhog fun to be had throughout Punxsutawney on any day of the year.  

While the concept of huddling around a groundhog in the cold sounds quite strange, which it certainly is, the sheer joy of the event showed me the true meaning of why this venerable event has lasted for 133 years. Especially in times like this where everyone is so pumped up in being divisive when it comes to politics and beliefs, it was refreshing to be in a place with tens of thousands of other people came to party. In my time at the event, I talked to people from all over Pennsylvania, all of the surrounding states, and from as far away as Texas, California, Australia, Japan, and France. This delightfully strange and joyous occasion was devoid of arguments and vitriol and was relaxed and absolutely wonderful. I highly recommend that you get out and experience this for yourself.
Groundhog Day is rooted in old German tradition. Early Christians in Europe celebrated Candlemas Day, when clergy would bless candles and distribute them to the people on February 2. Lyrics to an old English song also bear resemblance to the current traditions of Groundhog Day: “If Candlemas be fair and bright, Come, Winter, have another flight; If Candlemas brings clouds and rain, Go Winter, and come not again.” The Roman legions shared their traditions with Germans, which comprised many of the immigrants in Pennsylvania centuries ago. One particular tradition was held in the belief that if a sunny day came on Candlemas day and a hedgehog cast a shadow, it would predict a “Second Winter,” or roughly six more weeks of winter. It’s believed that German immigrants sought to continue this tradition; however, hedgehogs could not be found in Pennsylvania and it was determined to use a groundhog as a substitute given the abundance of groundhogs in Pennsylvania.
I arrived in downtown Punxsutawney at about 4:30AM and caught a shuttle bus up to Gobbler's Knob. There is an endless loop of shuttles that take you from multiple places in Punxsutawney, including in the center of downtown, in addition to parking lots at the Shop N Save Grocery Store, and a Walmart. I opted to hike back to town after the celebration, which was really relaxing.
Arrival time! Ended up reaching the Gobbler's Knob at about 5:00AM. There were already thousands of spectators gathered and the festivities were well underway. Prior to arrival I wondered what I would do, waiting for 2.5 hours for Punxsutawney Phil's prognostication in the zero degree weather, but that wonder quickly melted away when I saw how much of a party it was.
Folks were already huddled around the stage.
And around campfires!
5:05 AM, zero degrees Fahrenheit, Phil napping in his Gobbler's Knob vacation home, and surrounded by thousands of people. 
The emcees and the Philettes were leading the entertainment through the night/early morning.
And fireworks were shot off throughout the night.
I was not expecting this shot, so I quickly switch lenses, but was only able to get one unfocused shot. An owl landed in one of the trees behind the stage!
Musical entertainment covered most of the event. This is the "house band" The Beagle Brothers. The Philettes Dance Team from Punxsutawney High School also performed, along with some talking by YouTuber Pittsburgh Dad, and more.
Just about an hour until the forecast!
Did I mention that the entertainment was seriously entertaining? They had a number of groundhog themed parodies, including "No Sleep in Punxsy" complete with a gorilla doing the riff from the Beastie Boys "No Sleep Til Brooklyn."
The Clean Shave Quartet, the only Barbershop Quartet of the US Navy. They sang a few songs, in addition to the National Anthem.
It was then followed by the best fireworks display to ever be shot off at 6:30 in the morning in Pennsylvania. 
As I look back at all of these photos while I write this, I am reminded of just how special this event is. Truly a one-of-a-kind event.
Here is Katie Donald, the executive director of the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club. The event is truly wonderful.
Hmmmmm I am getting mixed signals here. Fortunately, the members of hte Inner Circle speak Groundhogese and will be able to interpret Phil's forecast.
They turned off the spotlights so Phil is able to get a predict a well calibrated forecast. The Groundhog Club claims that Phil is always correct with his forecasts. While the science says that this is simply not the case, the percentages also show that Phil has an efficacy that is almost identical to that of human meteorologists. 
They are about to take Phil out of his vacation home up at Gobbler's Knob!
He is out! Now they have to get the forecast from him. Words cannot describe how awesome this moment was. 
Phil is ready to prognosticate!
Now they prepare for the prognostication
Phil is easily the largest groundhog of all time.
And now for a reading of Phil's prognostication
Phil did not see his shadow and we will now have an early spring! We went from having the Polar Vortex in full effect during the morning of Groundhog Day, to having weather in the 50s the next day. Phil definitely came through.
Remember though, the fun does not stop after Phil makes his forecast. Phil's home is right in the town square of Punxsutawney, where he lives with his wife Phyllis. For more information on year-round fun in town, check out this article
All in all, you need to make the trip to Punxsutawney for Groundhog Day at least once in your life. We also recommend checking it out on any road trip. Any time that we drive within 30 minutes of town, we usually end up going to Phil's Burrow. For more information on the holiday and things to do in the area, check out www.groundhog.org 

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