punxy phil...

The World's Largest Groundhog!!!

Ever since I knew about the groundhog and later saw the movie, I've wanted to visit Punxsutawney, PA on Groundhog's Day.

I'd been talking about it for a few years and my hubby would always say that we could go the next time it fell on a weekend.  Well, that was this year!  So, on Friday, February 1, we headed out toward the Weather Capital of the World!!!

It's about a 5 1/2 hour drive from Romeo, Michigan.  We were really lucky with the weather ~ it was clear and dry the entire way there.

Just as it was getting dark, we pulled into the little town and immediately noticed a crowd gathering at a small building.  I saw the handmade sign written on white poster board with black marker "Chili Cook-off".  So, we pulled into the nearest parking lot and stood in line too.  Not knowing what exactly we were standing in line for.

We had gotten there right on time because there weren't many people in front of us and we were able to stand inside the doorway of the building immediately.  We were happy about that because it was DARN cold outside.

After many attempts at trying to find out information, we finally got it all; we could buy tickets to try each Chili and also each Chicken Wing.  There were 18 Chili's to try and 14 Chicken Wings.  The tickets were fifty cents each.  Then you could vote for which one you liked the best.

We chose to sample and share only the Chili's.  And after carefully keeping track of each sample we tried (Jerome would keep track on his iPod and gave each one a :) or a :( or the most popular :|).  By doing that, we narrowed it down to two; #1 and #10, with #1 being the more favored one.  However, we didn't come with much cash and it cost a dollar to cast your vote, so we didn't officially vote.  We overheard others talking about #1, so we were confident that it was a sure winner.

While there we were trying to figure out what time we'd need to be at "Gobbler's Knob" the next day.  We asked around and this nice older lady told us that most people get there around 3AM!  YIPES!

From the Chili Cook-off we walked into the center of town checking out what was going on in the different tents and then going into some shops where it was warm.  Jerome's Polar Bear hat got many compliments from people wearing Groundhog hat's and Raccoon head hats.  We stopped at the shop that was having Stained Glass demonstrations and got to talking to the owner of the shop.  We again asked what time we should think about getting here in the morning.  She also said that dreaded time of 3AM and showed us a photo of the crowd from year's past.  She told us that they are expecting 40,000 people this year.  Oh man...we had better go back to the hotel and try and get some sleep.  But first, we'll have to stop at Walmart and get some long underwear since it is Cold as $h!t out there!

Our hotel was about a half hour away, so that meant if we wanted to get there early enough, we'd have to consider that extra 30 minutes into our planning.

We got up at 3AM and got dressed and headed to the Walmart in Punxy where they had free parking.  They had shuttle buses going from several different parking lots to Gobbler's Knob.  The bus pass cost us $5 a person and we were on the Knob by 4:30AM.  There were already a bunch of people; mostly young people that had been there since 3AM.  There was a bonfire where I could have remained for the rest of the time, but Jerome reminded me that if we didn't find a spot in front of the stage, then we had driven all the way here for nothing.

Found our spot and now we're in it for the long haul!  Phil was not expected until 7:20AM...and it was 1°!  The people of Punxsutawney are very involved with this little holiday and they have a whole program scheduled to keep everyone moving and grooving in order to keep warm.  Loud music, local Zumba students, musical guests, chainsaw artists all on stage keeping everyone moving.  They also have a warming tent set up for people to walk into and keep warm for a while.  It doubles as a medical unit for hypothermia and frostbite.  They were selling hot cocoa-water (meaning it was mostly hot water with a little cocoa flavoring) and hot dogs and the porta-potties are a city block long!  I know this because I had to leave my cherished spot up by the stage to use said porta-potties.  I was gone for upwards of 45 minutes and when it was time to get back to where Jerome was, it was like a battle of the bodies ~ asking people to please excuse me and then when they wouldn't, having to forceably squeeze myself between them.  The crowd was starting to get restless and rude.  Luckily Jerome had his Sock-Monkey hat on that had a big red yarn ball on the top which I could use as a guide and tell the people that he was my destination.  Didn't help much, but I eventually forced my way back to him.
Courtesy the Internet: Getty Images

Just before sunrise, right around 6:15AM they have a fireworks presentation.  I think this is to wake up the sun ~ I couldn't believe we were there for so many hours and the sun still hadn't risen.  It was really cool...but too cold to even keep your head up to watch for very long.  Your eyes may freeze wide open.  Plus I was so tired and continually reminding myself that this was my idea.
Courtesy the Internet: Getty Images

Finally, what we've all been waiting for...the Inner Circle arrives and pulls Phil from his log.  After a long flowery speech by one of the Inner Circle members, Phil makes his decision...SPRING IS RIGHT AROUND THE CORNER!!!  No shadow.

Now to wait for 40,000 to load up onto the buses and head back into town.  We waited for another hour or so, taking pictures and sitting in the warming tent.  We eventually headed back down the Knob and into town.  Had breakfast at a local church that was throwing a Pancake Breakfast.  Met some local people and some travelers at breakfast.  Eventually heading back to the hotel for a couple of hours of napping.

The weather started turning and the snow was accumulating.

But we still made plans to go back into Punxy for a scavenger hunt, a comedy show and dinner, and just to walk around to check out the Groundhog statues that are all around town.

Some interesting things we've learned about Phil...he's 127 years old...he is THE Phil, the same one as always.  He is given a life extending elixir at the summer picnic every year that extends his life another 7 years (so this baby's not going away).  This was a German thing and celebrated by the Pennsylvania Dutch.  He lives his life the rest of the time in the library in a really nice shelter.  He has a girlfriend.

I think we drove to and from Punxy from our hotel about 8 times; 3 times in the snow.  By the next day, the roads were plowed and we were able to make it home in the right amount of time with clear roads.

If you've ever thought about going to Punxy for Groundhog's Day, we would highly recommend it.  Keep in mind that it's not for the faint of heart or the weak and it's best for couples or if you have a group, make sure they are all dedicated to waiting for hours in the stinkin' cold or bad weather - it's worth your sense of fun.


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