Beyond the shadow: What to know about Phil’s big day in Punxsutawney

Groundhog Club handler A.J. Dereume interacts with Punxsutawney Phil, the weather prognosticating groundhog, during the 136th celebration of Groundhog Day on Gobbler's Knob in Punxsutawney, Pa., Wednesday, Feb. 2, 2022. (AP Photo/Barry Reeger)

By Ashley Adams

January 30, 2024

What you need to know as Punxsutawney Phil gets set to make his annual weather prediction.

On Friday, thousands will descend on Gobbler’s Knob in Punxsutawney in the wee hours of the morning to see a groundhog roused from his stump to predict the weather.

The Western Pa. town of about 6,000 is home to the most famous groundhog, Punxsutawney Phil, and the most famous Groundhog Day celebration If Phil sees his shadow, as he did in 2023, tradition says winter will stick around for six more weeks. If he doesn’t, spring could be on its way earlier than expected.

The Punxsutawney Groundhog Club has a full slate of Groundhog Day events leading up to and after Phil makes his prediction. 

The fun begins at 6:00 a.m. with Phil expected to make his prediction around 6:30. If you can’t make the hike to Punxsutawney, you can watch the festivities live on Groundhog.org or PCN starting at 6 a.m. or at visitPA.  The events will also be live on Punxsutawney Phil’s Facebook and YouTube pages.

Until then, if you’ve been wondering ‘Why a groundhog, and why Punxsutawney?’ Here’s why:

How did Groundhog Day start?

The first Groundhog Day celebration was held in 1877 at Gobbler’s Knob in Punxsutawney. However, the tradition of using a rodent to predict the weather dates back much earlier and was brought to the US by German immigrants.

The German immigrants to Pennsylvania originally celebrated Candlemas, which commemorated the last of the 40 days of purification the Virgin Mary underwent after the birth of Jesus. In their native land, the celebration included a hedgehog predicting the weather. When they arrived in North America, they began relying on groundhogs for prognostication because hedgehogs are not native to this continent.

Why Punxsutawney?

The Groundhog Day celebration was created by a newspaper editor in Punxsutawney named Clymer Freas, who was part of a groundhog hunting club called the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club. Together, they designated Punxsutawney Phil as the nation’s official groundhog meteorologist.

Today, the celebration is led by the Inner Circle, a group wearing top hats and who speak in the Pennsylvania Dutch dialect. Every year, they trek to Gobbler’s Knob to get Phil’s weather prediction.

How did Phil become so famous?

The groundhog’s popularity took off in the 1980s and ‘90s, with visits to the White House and an appearance on “Oprah,” as well as a sponsorship with Sega.

Of course, the biggest boost in popularity came from the 1993 movie “Groundhog Day” starring Bill Murray as Phil Connors and directed by his “Ghostbusters” castmate Harold Ramis. Connors is a cynical weatherman forced to cover the annual Groundhog Day celebration. Connors then gets stuck in a time loop, reliving the day thousands of times. 

How many times has Phil been right?

As of 2023, Phil has predicted 107 continued winters and only 20 early springs, according to records kept by the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club. That works out to a 39% accuracy rate for Phil as per Stormfax Almanac.

Of course, the club says that any errors are caused by humans inaccurately translating Phil’s prediction.

Author

  • Ashley Adams

    In her 16 years in the communications industry, Ashley Adams has worn many hats, including news reporter, public relations writer, marketing specialist, copy editor and technical writer. Ashley grew up in Berks County and has since returned to her roots to raise her three children.

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