The Groundhog Day Book of Facts and Fun
By Wendie Old; illustrated by Paige Billin-Frye
I have to admit one of the secret items on my lifetime bucket list is to visit Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania on February 2nd to celebrate Groundhog Day. Sure, it may sound corny, but after seeing Bill Murray in Groundhog Day, memorizing the dialogue, and falling in love with the wacky premise of a cynical, self-involved weatherman fated to live February 2nd over and over again until he gets it right, I was hooked.
Being a sucker for traditions of all sorts, I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book relating tons of tidbits on this holiday and the town where the celebration is held, although there are others of lesser note, taking place around the country. But for the true traditionalist, tucked away in the eastern hills of western Pennsylvania is Punxsutawney where, on February 2nd, if Punxsutawney Phil sees his shadow, we’re in for six more weeks of bleak, gray and wintry weather.
According to the book, and here’s the drill, at three o’clock in the morning, a gate opens to let some 5,000 hearty souls enter a usually snow covered hill on the outside of town called Gobbler’s Knob. Fireworks, music and dancing ensue at 6:30, that’s morning folks, followed by the 7:00 entrance of the Inner Circle of the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club bedecked in top hats and long, dark coats. A hush gathers over the gathered crowd as they mount the stage and the Groundhog Handler reaches into a tall fake tree stump where snoozes Phil. The handler does wear a glove because Phil might be a wee bit testy at being dragged out of his cozy lair to prognosticate for the waiting weather wonderers.
He pulls out Punxsutawney Phil, “Seer of Seer, Sage of Sages,
Prognosticator of Prognosticators and Weather Prophet
Extraordinary.” He holds the groundhog high so everyone can
see him. The crowd cheers.
Then he allows Phil time to look for his shadow. The Groundhog
Club president leans toward the groundhog to hear his verdict.
Phil whispers into the president’s ear. He, of course, speaks
in “groundhogese”, but the president understands this language.
What does Phil say? Possible poetic predictions have already been
written on scrolls. …Phil tells the president to choose the poem that most exactly fits his weather prediction.
Phil’s prediction is read and then television, newspaper, radio and internet reporters broadcast Phil’s words to the waiting world. His lengthy or abbreviated winter weather call is met with loud cheers and celebration throughout a day that draws some 40,000 people to this festival. What a hoot!
I bet your kids would love seeing the huge groundhog statue greeting visitors that enter the town of Punxsutawney and reading the other well researched facts on the reasons for the season, differences between groundhogs, woodchucks and whistle pigs. And I have always been a tad curious about the marmot. Well, here’s your children’s chance to learn more funny and informative bits of these burrowers of the underground and have fun doing it.
Hey, did you know the fake tree stump where Phil resides is electrically heated? So the heat is what wakes Phil up from his long winter slumber of hibernation, conveniently allowing him to awaken for his much awaited prediction on February 2nd.
This is the year, as every year, all eyes will be trained on Gobbler’s Knob come February 2nd. If you can’t be there in person, try reading this fact packed book with your kids or maybe even if you’re game, have a grand adventure and pack off to Punxsutawney come February. Okay, so what’s the call, Phil? We won’t tell. Promise.
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