Weekend Trip Idea: Punxsutawney for Groundhog’s Day

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On February 2nd, basically all elementary age school students’, and pretty much no one else’s, eyes will be trained on Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania to see whether Punxsutawney Phil, arguably the world’s most famous groundhog will emerge from his burrow to see his shadow and forecast winter weather for 6 more weeks, or if clouds will prevail and spring will come early. Personally, I’m hoping for at least 6 more weeks of winter, since we just now started to get any semblance of decent snow, but unfortunately I think I’m among the minority here, even if I don’t pay much heed on this particular folk tale.

Groundhog Day for me is usually pretty forgettable. As I mentioned, I’m a fan of winter, plus its purpose mainly seems to be providing elementary teachers craft project ideas for the last week of January (was I the only one who seemed to cut out way too many paper groundhogs back in the day?). I normally forget that it’s even a thing, unless I’m channel surfing and come across the titular Bill Murray flick, and that even conjures up negative connotations. I remember one time when I was younger my dad and uncle brought us to the movies-I want to say we were supposed to see Homeward Bound, or Jurassic Park, or the Lion King-something 8 year old me was genuinely excited about, and we got there late (I’m assuming an important football bet or scheming to see how they could drink while watching children was the culprit) and Groundhog Day was the only theatre showing, so that’s what we saw. I remember being incredibly disappointed and bored (and being an incredibly naïve, and pretty dumb child, I didn’t pick up on the fact that the repetition was a major plot point-I actually thought the movie was broken). It’s really an amazing which childhood grudges we chose to hold on to.

Anyhow, I remember last year my cousin was pondering going out to Pittsburgh with some of her girlfriends in order to take a party bus up to Punxsutawney for the Groundhog Day celebrations-which piqued my interest-I’m nothing if not a fan of creating an unnecessary party over a miniscule/unimportant celebration (see: Preakness, Parade Day, Mummer’s, random Tuesday’s, etc., etc.,).

Unfortunately, despite countless (read two, and off and on) hours scouring the deepest corners of the worldwide web, I could not find these fabled party busses, although I’m sure they exist if you knew where to look. I did however, find some interesting information out about this celebration. Do I still want to go? Probably not. It’s over a 5 hour ride, however if I was already situated in western PA, I’d probably give it a go.

Apparently Groundhog day is a German tradition, that actually started in southeastern PA (Punxsutawney is located north-ish of Pittsburgh), and though Punxsutawney has monopolized the groundhog day market I did not know existed, there are several other celebrations held around the state. I also learned that groundhogs are one of the cleanest rodents out there and one of the only animals to legitimately hibernate (they basically put themselves into a non medically induced coma. On top of that I learned that groundhogs have a lifespan of 5-7 years, but that every summer Punxsutawney Phil is given “groundhog juice” that keeps him more or less immortal. Visit PA has a good article about the history behind Groundhogs Day.

Anyhow, there’s basically events going on all week in Punxsutawney leading up to Groundhog’s Day. Penn Live has this helpful little article about what to expect and what it entails, and the official Groundhog’s Day website has FAQ of what to expect at 5aM on Gobbler’s Knob (which, I’m sorry, sounds like a sexual act).

So there’s my spiel on Groundhog’s Day. Regardless of the outcome, I still hope winter sticks around some more.

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