A few weeks ago, my husband and I went to Pennsylvania to visit our good friends Matt and Kelly, and celebrate Groundhog Day in Punxsutawney. (This, I’d like to point out, was not an activity that was ever on my “To Do” list, but I rarely turn down an opportunity to do something new and random, even if I have to drive across several states to get there.) We started off our GH Day celebration by watching the 1993 movie, which, it turns out can be turned into a drinking game, and playing Guitar Hero. In an (almost) unanimous vote, it had been decided that no sleep was better than a 2 hour nap. Our friends live in State College, so we had to hit the road at 2:45 in order to get there in time to find parking and stake out a good spot from which to view the Groundhog and the Inner Circle (also known as Men In Fancy Coats and Top Hats).
We hit the road, and, after stopping for gas, coffee, and donuts, arrived in Punxsutawney in time to get a spot in the crowd at Gobbler’s Knob, and watch the fireworks (complete with Star Wars sound track). I never knew Groundhog Day meant fireworks, and I’ve never seen a pyrotechnic display at 6:00 in the morning, but it was a pleasant surprise, and I now believe that fireworks should always be accompanied by John Williams’s music. When the show was over, we watched various groups of children preform dance routines in brightly colored tee-shirts, and finally, around 7:20, the Men In Fancy Coats and Top Hats, (also known as the Inner Circle), traipsed up the aisle and onto the stage to do business with a certain groundhog named Phil. There were perhaps 5 minutes of official proceedings, before one of the groundhog handlers reached into the stump where Phil was residing, and held the large rodent up for the crowd to see. After a short conversation in “Groundhogese” (I did not make that up, someone else can take credit for that), it was announced that Phil had, indeed seen his shadow. According to the tradition, which was started by the Germans a few centuries back, this means we will have 6 more weeks of winter. This year, I don’t think too many people will complain, considering the mild weather we’ve had so far. I’ve heard there are some around these parts who would like to go skiing before spring arrives for real.
With the ceremony was finished, we traipsed back through town in the morning fog, along with thousands of other visitors. After locating our car in the lot at the appropriately named Groundhog Plaza, we hit the road, and most of us slept all the way back to State College.
I don’t think I will be rushing back to Punxsutawney next February, but I’m glad I took the opportunity when it was presented. Embarking on a road trip, staying up all night with friends, witnessing an unusual historical tradition first hand...whether or not it is an experience I ever repeat, it was not one I will soon forget.
P.s. I’d like to thank my husband for holding me on his shoulders so I could get better photos, and for driving the rest of us home while we slept. You’re great. :)