[Clockwise from top left: Groundhog Club Inner Circle members parading to stage, Entry to Gobbler’s Knob, News interview with Groundhog Club President]
I woke up at 4 a.m. after three paltry hours of sleep on the concrete floor of a community center’s movie theater. Frankly, I don’t even know how I’m writing coherent sentences right now. But I am, let’s rejoice. Hurrah! Anyhow, I woke up at 4 a.m., trekked 1.5 miles in 5°F weather to the top of a hill in the middle of nowhere, and spent three hours battling the bite of the toothy cold – all for a groundhog.
Not just any groundhog, mind you. I’m talking about none other than the celebrated Punxsutawney Phil!
Even if you couldn’t make it to Punxsutawney’s famed Groundhog’s Day this year, don’t worry. This review will, beyond a ‘shadow’ of a doubt, give you an idea of what you missed.
If you want to learn about the secret language of Groundhogese, the festivities surrounding the event, and, quite importantly, Phil’s prediction, then read on below!
Unless you’ve scoured the Wikipedia entry on Groundhog’s Day, you probably don’t know as much about this affair as you think you do. Let’s have a brief and bemusing rundown.
First off, Phil – did you know he’s virtually immortal? So the legend says, at least! According to the 2010 Groundhog’s Day guide, “There has been only one Punxsutawney Phil. Punxsutawney Phil gets his longevity from drinking a ‘groundhog punch’ (a secret recipe). One sip… gives him seven years more longevity.”
“Wow,” you must be thinking. “That’s one old guy! How can poor Phil’s eyesight still be good enough to see his shadow?” Well, we’re not sure, but somehow, year after year, Phil weathers all obstacles to declare his weather-related decision to the Groundhog Club President in the special dialect of ‘Groundhogese’. The aforementioned guide states, “After Phil emerges from his burrow on February 2, he speaks to the Groundhog Club President in Groundhogese. His proclamation is then translated for the world.” This year, Phil predicted six more weeks of winter to a somewhat disgruntled crowd.
[Clockwise from top left: ModWriter Hannah with groundhog carving, ModWriter Julie (R) at Gobbler’s Knob, ModWriter Hannah with 2009 Groundhog Club President, ModStylist Nicole dressed as a groundhog]
Although this prediction was less than pleasing, it didn’t put a damper on the festivities. From the time the gates of Gobbler’s Knob opened at 3 a.m., a crowd hungry to observe this monumental annual occasion was more-or-less amused by an endearing group of locals. Working the crowd with anything from the hokey to the jokey, these brightly clad Punxsuwtaney denizens ran through tireless dance performances, a silly Groundhog’s-Day-themed version of the Newlywed Game, and more.
Despite their cheerful disposition, however, it was nearly impossible to distract the crowd from the ‘I can’t feel my toes!’ temperature. Only when the 6:30 a.m. fireworks display launched into action, could the masses manage to momentarily forget their freezing fingers. By the end of the good-but-not-astounding pyrotechnics’ performance, the sky was finally beginning to lighten. In time to frolicsome music, the members of the Groundhog Club Inner Circle promenaded to the stage, their snappy suits and shiny top hats looking hands-down dapper. These gentleman, with titles ranging from “Sun Beamer” and “Thunder Conductor” to “Cloud Builder” and “Big Flake Maker,” gathered on stage around a large tree stump marked “Phil.”
Although these dapper old gents looked lovely, and their titles inspired glee, one couldn’t help but question, “Where are the women?” (Perhaps this ought to be addressed, but this curious fact is for another discussion). Once all members were in place, various pomp and circumstance ensued until, at long freezing last, Phil’s handlers knocked on his door and brought him out into public. The Club President, whose historical cane ‘endowed him with the power to speak Groundhogese,’ proceeded to converse with the adorable little critter. After a short ‘discussion,’ he declared, “WINTER!” This proclamation was a bit anticlimactic and cheesy, but such was to be expected. Words spoken and the accompanying scroll-formatted prose read, the crowd dispersed, shuffling or busing back to town.
One cheap all-you-can-eat pancake and sausage buffet later, us Groundhog’s Day goers could finally locate our fingers and toes again.
The Groundhog’s Day rah-rah will continue until late this evening, closing out Punxsutawney’s four days of eventful celebration with everything from an “Oreo Stacking Contest” to a “Little Mr. & Miss. Groundhog Crowning.”
So, after a sleep-deprived night, a four-hour round-trip drive, and a few too many hours spent in the bitter cold, you might be wondering, is Groundhog’s Day worth it?
Well, here’s the verdict: It’s kitschy, it’s cold, its crazy, but Groundhog’s Day is one of those things worth checking off your life-long list of to do’s! One time, however, will be well enough for anyone. If ever you do make it there, don’t forget to wear as many insulating layers as possible!