A tradition since 1887, Gobbler’s Knob in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania draws in thousands of people each year on February 2nd, many of which are hoping to hear news of an early spring.
The groundhog, Phil, emerges from his burrow and speaks in “Groundhogese” to the president of the Inner Circle (a language in which only the current president can translate) and lets him know if there will, in fact, be an early spring or six more weeks of winter. Although Punxsy Phil has been wrong in the past and it may not be the most effective way to predict the weather, it’s a fun tradition and something I’ve wanted to do for a while now. Being that it fell on the weekend again this year and that I now live in Pennsylvania, I decided to make the trip to Punxsutawney and witness Phil’s prognostication in person.
The prognostication occurred early in the morning–approximately at 7:25am. A few minutes prior, the Inner Circle was introduced to the crowd. They encouraged the crowd to begin chanting Phil’s name in order to wake him up, and then they tapped on the door of his burrow before pulling him out.
The crowd erupted in cheers.
“Okay, Phil, you gotta talk to me buddy,” President Bill Deeley said. “Get it right for a change!”
A moment of silence.
“Okay, I got you,” Deely said. “We’ve got a prediction.”
Turns out, according to Phil, we should all expect another six weeks of winter.
Another eruption in the crowd, but this time, it was all booing. (Hey, I’m personally okay with more winter.)
You’d never guess it based on the weather this morning–temperatures were in the 40’s and it was actually slightly raining (raining!) instead of the frigid winter temperatures that you might expect in western Pennsylvania this time of year. But with another major winter storm hitting Pennsylvania tomorrow morning, perhaps Phil was spot-on with his prognostication.
After Phil’s prognostication, you’ll have a chance to get on stage and see Phil close-up, but be quick before the thousands of others get into line.
Book Lodging Well in Advance
I tried to book something (anything) in Punxsutawney way back in August and everything was completely booked, so as an alternative, I stayed in Pittsburgh.
I’m sure this has something to do with the fact that Groundhog Day fell on the weekend. But if you know you’re definitely planning to travel to Punxsy next year to see Phil’s prognostication, don’t wait. Book as soon as possible.
It was freakishly warm today, yes, but that’s very unlikely. You don’t want to be cold and uncomfortable, so dress in warm layers, wear under armor, etc. Speaking of dressing right, though, don’t forget about this one…..
Wear the Right Shoes
The ground conditions likely won’t be good; it will likely be covered in snow or slush, or in this morning’s case, it will be a complete mud pit. This may seem like an obvious one, but I was definitely not prepared and it was insanely muddy–not so sure the shoes I wore are going to survive.
Don’t Expect Groundhog Day the Movie
Groundhog Dog wasn’t actually filmed in Punxsutawney, which is something I’ve known for years, but it seems a lot of people have made the mistake of thinking it was. The town actually looks nothing like it does in the movie, nor is Gobbler’s Knob actually located within the town’s area. You can’t just walk there like everyone does in the film. Gobbler’s Knob is located in a separate area, about 1.5 miles uphill, and you’ll either need to walk or take a $5.00 shuttle bus. With that being said…
Arrive Very Early
The gates open at 3am and you should aim to get there by then (or on the shuttle bus by then). At the very latest, I’d recommend getting there by 5am. Expect very large crowds (see photo below).
You can park at Wal-Mart and other nearby retailers to take a shuttle bus, but I had overheard that all the parking lots were completely full by the 6am hour. Not only do you want to make sure that you get to Gobbler’s Knob on time, but you want to make sure you’ve got a good spot! Phil’s a little guy, and if you’re far away and can’t see much, it will take away from the experience.
Once again, this was the weekend and it was unusually warm, so next year might be different. But plan accordingly. Getting there early isn’t as bad it seems: there’s entertainment on stage and there’s fireworks, so you won’t be bored.
Essential Travel Information
Getting to Punxsutawney: You’ll likely fly into Pittsburgh, and it’s about an hour and a half away to Gobbler’s Knob. There isn’t much else to do, so if you’re actually flying in for this event, you’d probably want to pair it with a weekend in Pittsburgh instead.
Hotels: There are a few hotels in Punxsutawney, but they are usually sold out well in advance for Groundhog Day, so plan ahead. Some choices include the Hampton Inn DuBois and Cobblestone Hotel & Suites. I stayed in Pittsburgh the night before at the Omni William Penn Hotel, and I highly recommend it.
All photos taken by Joe Butch.