Sunday, February 03, 2008

The bad news? Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow.

The good news? We were there to see his prognostication!

I've wanted to spend Groundhog's Day in Punxsutawney since seeing the movie Groundhog Hog, but due to Larry's crazy schedule, we've never been able to go. This year Groundhog Day fell on a Saturday and Larry actually had the day off, but I wasn't sure I was ready to drag Creed along on the journey. Late Friday afternoon, we decided despite the icy weather and baby in tow, we'd better take advantage of our last chance to go before we move west. Larry was more confident that we could pull it off than I was, and I'm so glad that he convinced me to go because it was awesome!!!!! I'm not even sure how to begin to explain this crazy weekend.
We arrived around 11:30, which was not a problem as many of the Punxsutawney businesses stay open all night to accommodate all of the visitors.

We checked out the official gift shop, which ended up being a wise choice because the next day there was a line winding around the block to get into the shop. Punxsutawney has so many things going on to entertain visitors. They had things going on all night so it wasn't necessary to find a place to sleep. The Shadow Scavenge ran from midnight to 2 am so we saw teams scurrying all over town.
We opted to catch a little sleep before heading to Gobbler's Knob to see the ceremony. We knew all the hotels around were long ago booked, but for $5.00 you're welcome to bring your own sleeping bag to the Community Center Crash Pad, where there were playing the movie Groundhog Day in the old theater and people were sleeping along the rooms and hallways in every nook and cranny. It was very ghetto, but Larry says he's glad we did it to get the true Groundhog Day experience, and thankfully the ladies signing people in took pity on us and gave us our own little room so Creed's cries wouldn't disturb anyone else.
Gobbler's Knob opens at 3 a.m. for the celebrations to begin. The night of they determine whether or not you can park in the hills based on the weather. With all of the ice parking wasn't open this year, but there are always bus stops all over town and for $5.00 you can get a roundtrip ride to Gobbler's Knob. With so much traffic, I would recommend doing this even if you could park your own car.
We slept until 5:30 and then bundled up and got on a bus around 6:00, which was perfect for us because we didn't want to spend too much time in the cold with Creed. I have never seen so many school buses lined up and organized in my life. It was amazing!!!!
Things were in full swing when we arrived at Gobbler's Knob. It's a big clearing in the forest in the hills on the skirts of Punxsutawney. There are bonfires around the edges of the clearing for warmth, but the crowd kept things warm enough for us. They also sell hot chocolate and snacks. Starting at 3 a.m. they have live performers and big fireworks show, keeping the crowd fully entertained.
You know Larry can never resist an informational sign!

The movie Groundhog Day wasn't actually filmed in Punxsutawney, but they got a lot of the details right like the event being run by the Groundhog Club's Inner Circle, local dignitaries dressed in top hats and tuxedos with tails. We met one in the crowd (Ed whose official title is
Storm Chaser, this is the home of the Meteorological Society hall of fame after all) who was handing out official Punxsutawney Phil Beanie Babies. He was friendlier than he looks in this photo.
After some time dancing with the rest of the crowd, the sky got later and it was time for the ceremony, we just happened to be right next to the aisle that the National Guard cleared to escort the Inner Circle members to the stage.
All eyes were on the stage, waited for Phil.
The crowd was HUGE I felt like I was in the middle of Times Square on New Years Eve or something. It was estimated that there were 30,000 people in attendance and 10,000 stuck in town because they couldn't make it up on time (they stop buses at 6:30). I'm told all of the college students in the crowd can get a little wild, but we didn't experience any of that because we opted to watch from the family section. The bigger pictures are ones that we took so you can see that we ended up with a pretty good view of the festivities, but I borrowed these from the official Groundhog Club site so you could see a bit better.
The whole crowd chants for Phil until his handlers bring him out at dawn (around 7:30). He speaks to the Groundhog Club president in "Groundhogese"(a language only understood by the current president of the Inner Circle). His proclamation is then translated for the world.
This year he proclaimed, "As I look around me, a bright sky I see, and a shadow beside me. Six more weeks of winter it will be!" And the whole crowd broke into boos. You can watch it here but it's nothing like seeing it live.
Creed thought the whole thing was highly entertaining.The crowd cleared out quickly after the announcement and headed back to town. Many opted to walk back to town as the lines for buses were huge, but the wait was surprisingly fast.
I have never seen a town so dedicated to something. It was amazing, but it was cold so I didn't bring out my camera a lot so you're only getting a small taste of the Groundhog obsession. There are Groundhogs decorating the whole town.
Can you see the ground is covered with thick ice? You could slide down the sidewalks. At one point we even saw a stick of chapstick hidden, frozen in the thick ice under our feet.

There's an art project right now with these sculptures EVERYWHERE and each one is decorated differently.
And the Punxsutawney Zoo only has one animal, groundhogs, of course!
I loved the signs in all of the shop windows.

They had loads of fun activities going on: big breakfast buffets at most of the churches and restaurants, a treasure hunt to collect trinkets from the local businesses, and of course everything groundhog related that you could possibly think of.
Even the geese dress up as groundhogs (I had to take this picture for you Lish!)

There were several people in full groundhog costumes wandering around town.

My favorite part was the hundreds of groundhog hats people were wearing. I didn't think to take hat pictures until the end of our little trip, but here are a few for your enjoyment!

Creed was embarrassed to be seen without a groundhog hat so he disguised himself in my sunglasses and hoped that no one would recognize him!
We drove home through Pittsburgh with a brief stop for lunch at Ikea and made it home around 7:30. We count ourselves blessed as my car broke down at the entrance to our development so we know we were being watched over because I needed to teach in church today and Larry had to work at the hospital and I can't imagine what would have happened if it broke down in freezing cold rural PA! Ironically my car was in for repairs from Monday through Wednesday last week because I thought it just hasn't been running well since it was repaired after our accident.


Shannon Sundberg said...

You guys are always up for fun adventures. We sure love keeping up with all that you are doing. Thanks for always having such a great outlook on life. What a happy little family.

Kim said...

I'm glad you made it you little adventurers. We are already experiencing the 6 more weeks of winter. We woke up to more snow this morning and had a terrible time getting to church. I think it is still snowing now. Glad you made it home safely and good luck with your car.

Mom said...

Say - Steph, you do have family to help you drive to Utah this summer. How about Elle & Roz come along to help entertain Creed - and then fly back to Columbus together? (Nikki & I talked about it last night.) It would be a grand adventure for them - and it's a LONG way off, anyway.

Cassie L. said...

All I can say is WOW!!! I never had any idea that Groundhog's Day was so amazing and so full of fun. Now I am wishing that I had gone while I lived my entire life almost in Ohio. I had twin girls in class when I was teaching and they were from Punxsutawney. They always talked about Groundhog's Day like it was Christmas. And on that day, they brought in treats to school and were all decked out in groundhogs clothes and you'd think it was the happiest day of their lives - and I didn't get it at all. But thanks for the glimpse into that it sorta makes sense!

~wenhether~ said...

OMG that looks like soo much fun! Now I wanna go!! :)

J.R., Meg, and Alyssa said...

Love that you guys made it there this year! Looks like a fabulous crazy adventure--and we will all live vicariously through you this time.

Elle said...

I'm so glad you made it to see Phil! A couple of my friends went too (although they were most likely in the crazy college student section.) Adventures are always fun!

Heather said...

We almost went this year...but dragging three small children through the cold was just too daunting a prospect for us. Glad you had so much fun!

lilliandcrew said...

hey stephanie! i love your blog, you do such a great job! we should get together sometime for a playdate!

lisa (lost pezhead) said...

i'm sooo glad you went!! it's on our list of trips to make now.

Tenay Jo said...

I'm so jealous that you got to go see the groundhog. Tyson and I wanted to go one year when we still lived in DC, but we planned our trip too late and couldn't find any hotels still vacant. So the trip was cancelled. maybe someday we'll get back there, because it looks like so much fun!

Molly Malia said...

wow, that would be so much fun!

Reba said...

Glad you made it to Groundhog's Day, and thanks for all the awesome pictures--I feel like I was just there.

But your car broke down again? Oh man, it's a sign that you need a really awesome mini van.

MeganRuth said...

Oh remember the Groundhog's Day party we had?! Love it! I am so jealous you all got to go there on the 2nd. My sister and I went this last summer and it was amazing, but there is nothing like Punxsutawney on the 2nd of Feb. Glad you went and loved your post! :)