Thursday, February 2, 2012
Today is the 126th anniversary of the ceremony at Gobbler's Knob. Punxsutawney Phil is the most famous groundhog and weather predictor around. HAPPY GROUNDHOG'S DAY!
The weather-predicting groundhog's official name is: "Punxsutawney Phil, Seer of Seers, Sage of Sages, Prognosticator of Prognosticators and Weather Prophet Extraordinaire."
The Punxsutawney Groundhog Club (yes, he has a fan club) notes that Phil is also known as "National Treasure" and "Most Photographed Pennsylvanian."
Whenever Punxsutawney Phil sees his shadow and "tells" the Inner Circle, we have six more weeks of winter. Who are the Inner Circle top-tatted guys who are in charge of the ceremony?
There are 15 members of the Inner Circle (each having a particular title), local dignitaries, who plan the ceremony and events, and actually care for Phil who resides year round in the Groundhog Zoo, an annex of the town library. To see the Inner Circle/Groundhog Day official website CLICK HERE.
Groundhog Day in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania may be all about Phil and his prediction, but there's much more to it. The weekend around Groundhog Day in Punxsutawney features a chili cook-off, ice carving exhibitions, trivia contests, a Prognosticators Ball, groundhog day weddings, sleigh rides, woodchuck whittling, the Phil Phind Scavenger Hunt, music, food, fun and games.
The 1993 Bill Murray movie "Grounghog" raised the awareness of Punxsy Phil to the level of bringing 30,000 visitors to Punxsutawney, PA to watch the early morning festivities.
Punxsy Phil is not the only weather-predicter; we have Buckeye Chuck from Ohio, Staten Island Chuck, Smith Lake Jake, and General Beauregard Lee. But, Punxsy Phil is my favorite. I have never been to Punxsutawney, PA on Groundhog Day, but I HAVE BEEN TO PUNXSUTAWNEY many years ago, a small quaint town.
Groundhogs, which are the largest members of the squirrel family, are said to have a brain the size of a cashew. These squirrel cousins feast mainly on grasses and other plants, as well as fruit and tree bark. Also known as woodchucks, groundhogs gorge themselves all summer, then hibernate. Groundhogs take winter hibernation seriously. That's why they go into "profound hibernation." They greatly reduce their heart and metabolic rates and their "body temperature drops to just a few degrees above ambient temperature." In a deep burrow below the frost line, this can lead to body temperatures as low as 39 or 40 degrees Fahrenheit. When they awake in February, groundhogs will have lost almost half of their body weight during hibernation. Talk about an effective diet!
February 2 falls close to the halfway point between the winter solstice and the vernal (spring) equinox. Astronomically speaking, there is always about six more weeks of winter after February 2. But the Groundhog Day traditions are so much fun!