ALL CLEAR: PHIL SEES SHADOW, PREDICTS 6 MORE WEEKS OF WINTER
PUNXSUTAWNEY — It’s 1 a.m. on February 2, and I’m just leaving work. That is not such an abnormal thing. As the editor of The Punxsutawney Spirit, it’s not all that uncommon for me to leave at this time.
As I take a left-hand turn off Sycamore Street and on to West Mahoning Street (that’s our Main Street), I don’t see a lot of traffic, and there aren’t all that many people in sight. I don’t have to go all that far from The Spirit’s office on Pine Street before things take a turn from the ordinary, though.
As I make my way through town on my way home to catch a few minutes of shuteye, things start to seem a bit different. Town is still quiet, but there are signs of life beginning to emerge — a person walking down the sidewalk in a groundhog hat, bright lights surrounding town, traffic.
You’ve heard of the calm before the storm? Well, this is the peacefulness before the prognostication. This is no ordinary day in Punxsutawney. It’s February 2. It’s Groundhog Day!
Once a year, the population of Punxsutawney takes a quick turn upward for a day, as thousands of people pour into town to hear what Punxsutawney Phil — the Seer of Seers and the Prognosticator of Prognosticators — has to say about the weather forecast.
And so, we fast-forward just a few short hours, and Punxsutawney is no longer quiet and peaceful. There’s a buzz about town, as many people — some who have come from far away to visit and some who have lived here their entire lives — prepare to make the trek to meet Phil at Gobbler’s Knob.
Some are hoping for an early spring — with warmth and sunshine on their minds — while others are hoping for six more weeks of winter as they think of the warmth that comes with their favorite cold-day activities, from skiing to sipping cocoa.
The early-morning festivities begin around 3 a.m. at Gobbler’s Knob, as the most faithful fans begin to board buses or to walk up the hill toward the biggest party in town.
At 6:30 a.m., things start to feel more official, as Mary Sarah — a 21-year-old singer/songwriter known best for her time on “The Voice” — performs a beautiful rendition of “The Star-Spangled Banner.”
At that point, one of the annual traditions up on the hill takes place, as fireworks rock the early-morning sky over top of Punxsutawney. There’s no doubt that Phil and his crew announce his presence with a “bang.”
From there, the entertainment — Inner Circle members Dave Gigliotti (Thunder Conductor) and Dan McGinley (Moonshine), along with eight high school seniors known as the Philettes — return to the stage to keep the crowd dancing and warm for the final hour before the official forecast is given.
Jeff Lundy, Groundhog Club vice president, welcomes the crowd at 7:11 a.m., and after wishing everyone in attendance a Happy Groundhog Day, Lundy introduces his fellow Inner Circle members.
At that point, he turns things over to Groundhog Club President Bill Deeley, who welcomes the crowd and joins Max, the grandson of late Inner Circle member Bob Roberts, in rapping on Phil’s door to wake him.
When Punxsy Phil emerged from his stump at 7:18 a.m., Deeley pointed out his feisty demeanor, as the crowd welcomed him with a loud cheer.
Deeley didn’t waste any time speaking to Phil in his native language, Groundhogese, and selecting the proper scroll. The full text of the scroll appears below, but the crowd’s disappointed response told the whole of the story.
Most in attendance were obviously hoping for an early spring, because Phil, having seen his shadow, reported six more weeks of winter, and the crowd let out an audible sigh.
And just like that, it was over — at least for another year.