Groundhog Day Media Backgrounder

AT A GLANCE

Each year on Feb. 2, thousands of revelers travel to Gobblers Knob in Punxsutawney, Pa., (northcentral part of the state approximately 80 miles northeast of Pittsburgh, Pa.) to witness the prediction of Punxsutawney Phil, a groundhog with the mythical ability of forecasting either an early spring or long winter. With the help of his keepers and protectors, the tuxedo-clad members of the mysterious Inner Circle, Phil shares that prediction with the world from the region known as the Pennsylvania Wilds.

  • If Phil sees his shadow, he predicts six more weeks of winter and returns to his burrow. If he does not see his shadow, spring is just around the corner.

  • The first legendary trek to Gobbler’s Knob occurred in 1887. This year, Phil celebrates 129 years of prognosticating.

  • Crowds numbering as high as 30,000 have visited Gobbler’s Knob for a multi-day festival celebrating the town’s most famous resident – Punxsutawney Phil.

BACKGROUND

European Roots that continued in Pennsylvania

  • The custom dates back to the early days of Christianity in Europe and grew out of a winter festival called Candlemas Day, a day for clergy to bless and distribute candles. According to legend, clear skies on Candlemas Day meant an extended winter.

  • The Roman legions, during the conquest of the northern country, brought this tradition to the Germans, who concluded that if the sun made an appearance on Candlemas Day, a hedgehog would cast a shadow, thus predicting six more weeks of bad weather or “Second Winter.”

  • In Germany, the hedgehog became part of the legend. The German twist was that on a clear, sunny day, the hedgehog would cast a shadow.

  • Some of Pennsylvania’s earliest settlers were German, and they noted a large population of groundhogs. Because of its resemblance to the European hedgehog, the groundhog carried on the tradition.

  • In 1887, a group of groundhog hunters from Punxsutawney dubbed themselves "The Punxsutawney Groundhog Club."

  • The editor of Punxsutawney's newspaper was a member of the Club and he used his editorial clout to proclaim that Phil, the Punxsutawney groundhog, was the one and only official weather prognosticating groundhog. Phil's fame began to spread, and newspapers from around the globe began to report Punxsutawney Phil's predictions.

FUN FACTS

  • During Prohibition, Phil threatened to impose 60 weeks of winter if he didn’t get a drink.

  • In 1986, he visited President Reagan in Washington, D.C.

  • In 1993, Columbia Pictures released the movie Groundhog Day starring Bill Murray.

  • In 1995, Phil was on the Oprah Winfrey Show and in 2001 he enjoyed a tour of New York City including appearances on Regis Philbin Live, the CBS Early Show, and CNN.

  • In 2003, Governor Edward G. Rendell was the first Pennsylvania governor to participate in the Annual Trek to Gobbler's Knob with the Inner Circle. Governor Tom Corbett attended in 2012.

  • Phil is also a social media user. His prediction was available via text in 2010 and more than 35,000 worldwide earned the "PA Groundhog Day" Foursquare Badge on Feb. 2, 2013.

LOCAL ATTRACTIONS

Punxsutawney is among the quaint towns, untamed wilderness and a myriad of events that take place year round in the Pennsylvania Wilds – www.pawilds.com.

  • The GHC Headquarters
    The Groundhog Club Headquarters has a collection of historical and rare Groundhog Club and Punxsutawney Phil items.

  • The Gobbler’s Knob Trail
    The Gobbler’s Knob Trail is a half mile trail featuring metal art created by students from a local trade school each year to celebrate the holiday. Trail signage timelines the history of Groundhog Day, the Inner Circle, Punxsutawney Phil, groundhog facts, and much more.

  • Groundhog Day Road Trip
    The Groundhog Day road trip offers many attractions for the entire family both in and around town any time of year.

  • Punxsutawney Weather Discovery Center (www.weatherdiscovery.org)
    Interactive education center devoted to weather science and folklore housed in Punxsutawney’s former post office downtown, a beautiful 1914 structure listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

  • Phil’s Burrow (www.punxsutwaneylibrary.org)
    Phil’s official home is a terrarium built in the Punxsutawney Memorial Library open to the public.

  • The Phantastic Phils! public art project (www.punxsutawney.com/phils)
    32 larger-than-life fiberglass groundhogs by local and national artists located throughout town.

  • Groundhog Wine Trail (www.groundhogwinetrail.com)
    Features 17 wineries in the surrounding area.