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You know how it is. All work and no play make Baby Boomers dull. There's no denying our strong work ethic, but we are also all about having fun. Visit here often and you can kiss dullness - in work and play - good-bye.
Punxsutawney Phil Predicts

 

I'm comin' up so you better get this party started

I'm comin' up so you better get this party started

~~ Pink

As leading men go, Punxsutawney Phil doesn't have the good looks of Brad Pitt, the  charm of George Clooney or the acting range of Johnny Depp. But what he does share with these leading men is an uncanny ability to be the center of attention when he's in the room -- or burrow --  and to attract fans from all over the world whenever he makes an appearance.

Punxsutawney Phil had his Big Moment in his Pennsylvania hometown on February 2 again this year, and was up to the task. Awakened in his burrow by a tapping cane held by the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club's Inner Circle president, Phil emerged from his home rested, alert and shadow-less and made his prediction for an early spring. Then the world's favorite groundhog spent some time checking out the hundreds of fans who gathered around the stage on Gobbler's Knob as he perched on the shoulders of his two handlers. (The Knob -- the epicenter for Phil fans -- is not located in town, but rather on a grassy piece of property just outside the city.)


Phil with his handlers at Gobbler's Knob

The party started after 3 a.m. when the gates to the Knob opened and continued till daylight, complete with freezing rain, fog, and a lot of icy slush. But the nasty weather conditions didn't deter anyone from having a good time. All were in great spirits as they enjoyed dancing by the Philletttes, a local troupe; a full half hour of fireworks which lit up the sky just before daybreak and a lot of corny, but fun antics.

Standing a few feet away from Phil when he made his prediction, it was easy to see why he's such a fan favorite. Who can resist the furry prognosticator who seemed delighted by chants of "Phil" from the chilly crowd?

We enjoyed all that the small town had to offer the day before Phil's revelation, including a gracious welcome from its residents. People in small towns ARE nice, and they enjoyed conversing with visitors from nearby Pittsburgh to as far away as Switzerland and Russia. Russia? Yes. it seems that Bill Murray's movie Groundhog Day, which featured the story of Phil and his weather predicting skills, is a cult favorite in Russia.

One of my favorite things to do was to track down some of the 32 larger-than-life fiberglass groundhogs (part of the Phantastic Phils! public art project)  which hold court along various streets in town. These Phil statues were artistically enhanced by local and national artists and are cute as a button. (For some reason these kinds of art projects really appeal to me. I have a book on the similar dinosaur project done here in Pittsburgh and get giddy when I come across one of the statues I haven't yet seen.)

We were also pleasantly surprised to run into three personalities from the Weather Channel who were on hand to witness Phil's pronouncement. Dr. Greg Forbes, the channel's severe weather expert, was inducted into the Meteorologist Hall of Fame February 2 at the Weather Discovery Center, a fun and creative place to learn more about weather. Located in a historic building, a former Post Office, the center is a must see when you are in town for the February events.

Craft shows, lunch at Caterina's coffee shop and a visit to Phil's year-round terrarium home at the Punxsutawney Memorial Library rounded out the day, topping it off with a  wonderful buffet dinner at the Pantall Hotel.

The trip to see Phil, catch up with the Inner Circle members and enjoy a taste of small town America at its best, was fun and definitely worth doing. If you get the chance to visit Punxsutawney during the first days of February, I hope you will go. With the right attitude, and warm boots and winter clothes, it's a very good time. If you prefer to wait till the weather is warmer, there is still plenty to keep you busy during a visit. And just think: There are all of those giant fiberglass groundhogs to track down!

Fun Facts about Punxsutawney Phil

  • If Phil sees his shadow, he predicts six more weeks of winter. If he does not see his shadow, spring is just around the corner.
  • The first legendary trek to Gobbler's Knob occurred in 1887.
  • Crowds numbering as high as 30,000 have visited Gobbler's Knob for the multi-day Groundhog Day festival. (Truly, this number did increase after the Groundhog Day movie was released.)
  • This year, Phil celebrated his quasquicentennial -- 125 years of prognosticating.
By Teresa K. Flatley
www.boomthis.com
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