February 2, 2012


2002 photo from The Washington Post

Groundhog Day is a fun memory for me. i went to college a few hours from Punxsutawney, and my senior year, one of my suite mates convinced us to go to Groundhog Day. PA is freezing in February, so we piled on as many thermals and clothes and outer gear as possible- someone was definitely wearing 3 pairs of pants- and piled into the car around midnight for the trip. once there, we were all herded onto a school bus for the jaunt up to Gobbler's Knob.

this was ten years ago, which if you noticed by the title, meant that the day was 02-02-02. for some, this was a HUGE deal. we talked to people who had traveled hundreds (thousands?) of miles to be there for this particular Groundhog Day. there were also the regulars who come every single year, and have been coming for decades. because of the huge deal, there were a record 38,000 revelers, heightened security and extra police. we were all searched for alcohol & other contraband and then herded onto the bus.

Punxsutawney, by the way, is very proud of its groundhog heritage. Houses are decorated for Groundhog Day, but even more telling are the permanent groundhog accoutrements, like murals on the side of auto shops. Phil the groundhog actually lives at the library the rest of the year, which i think is totally adorable.

once you're up on the Knob, you have about 5-ish hours of standing in the dark, bitter cold ahead of you. so, they try to keep you entertained. the year we were there, there were local radio DJ's, D-list celebrities (Survivor contestants or something like that) and a patriotic fireworks display (this was 5 months after 9/11). the fireworks display was choreographed to "America" songs, ending with Neil Diamond's "Coming to America" and a fireworks explosion directly in front of us, in the shape of 02-02-02. oh yes. 'Merica, indeed.

2002 photo from The Washington Post

so after we were all exhausted from dancing to keep warm, the sun finally creeps up and the "ceremony" starts. this was so weird. OK, these guys who call themselves "The Inner Circle" parade up to the stage. they're all dressed like Abraham Lincoln at a society wedding, but they all have these meteorological superhero names like "The Storm Chaser" or "The Tornado Lasso-er." they unfurl a scroll and read a proclamation, knock on Phil's fake wood stump- which they call his "lair"- someone bends down so Phil can "whisper" in his ear, dude stands up and proclaims Phil's prediction.... and we all turn around and go home. a bit anticlimactic, but overall it was a really fun adventure. we walked down the Knob back our car and drove back to campus. and now every February 2nd i think of those girls and smile at the memory.

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