What you need to know as Punxsutawney Phil gets set to make his annual weather prediction.
As they do each year, thousands will gather in the darkness of early morning Thursday at Gobbler’s Knob in Punxsutawney, all because of a groundhog.
The Western Pa. town of about 6,000 will be overrun with visitors to witness Punxsutawney Phil predict the rest of winter. If the groundhog sees his shadow, as he did in 2022, 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. If you can’t make it in person, you have several viewing options. Groundhog.org, the organization’s website, and PCN will have live feeds. The events will also be live on Punxsutawny Phil’s Facebook and YouTube pages.
The fun begins at 6:00 a.m. with Phil expected to make his prediction around 6:30.
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The tradition: Rooted in Pennsylvania Dutch tradition, the first known trip to Gobbler’s Knob took place in 1887.
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.
For decades, crowds in the hundreds — or even a few thousand — visited Gobbler’s Knob to watch Phil make his prediction.
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 movie 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.
The town: Punxsutawney, which comes from the Unami word for “town of the sandflies,” is the largest municipality in Jefferson County. It was incorporated as a borough in 1850 and is about 90 miles northeast of Pittsburgh.
The groundhog: The groundhog wasn’t named Phil until the 1960s.
Star turn: The groundhog that played Phil in the movie bit Bill Murray so badly the actor needed medical attention.
Accuracy: While independent analysts have pegged Phil as being between 30% and 40% accurate, the club says that any errors are caused by humans inaccurately translating Phil’s prediction.