Pennsylvania roads: Punxsutawney Phil

groundhog-day-usa

For the record Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania is the home of a very special fellow…..he is cute as a button, loves to sleep, and doesn’t mind company at all!  He is the adorable and very famous groundhog extraordinaire – Punxsutawney Phil.

This little guy is the most famous groundhog in America. On February 2, Groundhog’s Day, of each year, the town of Punxsutawney celebrates the legendary groundhog with a festive atmosphere of music and food. During the ceremony, which begins well before the winter sunrise, Phil emerges from his temporary home on Gobbler’s Knob, located in a rural area about 2 miles east of town. According to the tradition, if Phil sees his shadow and returns to his hole, he has predicted six more weeks of winter-like weather. If Phil does not see his shadow, he has predicted an “early spring. The date of Phil’s prognostication is known as Groundhog Day in the United States and Canada, and has been celebrated since 1887.

A select group, called the Inner Circle, takes care of Phil year-round and also plans the annual ceremony. Members of the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club’s Inner Circle are recognizable by their top hats and tuxedos…well, everyone knows this right?

But did you know……..

Prior to 1952, a groundhog named Pete was Punxsutawney’s groundhog. Pete’s downfall was caused by one William A. Swartworth, a rookie newsman in the Pittsburgh bureau of the Associated Press.

As the newest staffer, Swartworth was assigned to write the bureau’s annual Groundhog Day story on February 2, 1952. Veteran newsmen disdained the task, feeling it was simply an exercise of the imagination, the more fanciful the better, fabricated from three basic elements- groundhog emerges from his burrow at sunrise; if he sees his shadow, it’s six more weeks of wintry weather; if not, spring is ready to burst forth.

Swartworth did his job, with one exception. He changed the groundhog’s name from Pete to Phil. Minutes after the story hit the news wires, the AP’s Philadelphia bureau (control point for the state) sent a message challenging accuracy of the groundhog’s name. Swartworth then fired off this historic reply: “Pete died. Phil is his son.” Swartworth chose the name Phil after the notorious con man from the 1950s dubbed Pittsburgh Phil. And so to this day Phil remains the world’s most famous groundhog weather forecaster.

AND…..

in 1942: the prediction read: “War clouds have blacked out parts of the shadow.”

1943: no prediction due to the US being at war…….

as of 2014 Phil’s predictions have proved correct 39% of the time!

Also…..

1. Germans started asking the groundhog about spring as an excuse to drink, eat and be merry

The first celebrants of Groundhog Day were the Pennsylvania Dutch (originally from Germany). They used the holiday as an excuse to get together and party.

2. Punxsutawney Phil has a pretty terrible success rate

When you compare Phil’s predictions against information from the National Climatic Data Center, Phil’s success rate is a pitiful 39%. Of course, if you ask the members of the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club, they’ll tell you he’s right 100% of the time.

3. Groundhogs are great swimmers and tree climbers

I can see those little guys being good at climbing trees, but I never thought about them being good swimmers. Their preferred habitat is at the edge of woods where they always have the option of scaling a tree to escape danger if they can’t get to their burrows.

4. Groundhogs are really deep sleepers

Groundhogs hibernate through the winter, slowing their breathing and heartbeats and letting their body temperatures fall not too far above freezing. They survive the hibernation living off the fat they stored during the summer and fall months. In warmer climates groundhogs may only hibernate for as little as three months but in colder regions it can last as long as six months!

5. Punxsutawney Phil has an awesome full title

Ready for this? Phil’s full name/title is Punxsutawney Phil, Seer of Seers, Sage of Sages, Prognosticator of Prognosticators and Weather Prophet Extraordinary. He was given that name by the editor of the Punxsutawney Spirit newspaper in 1886.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Punxsutawney_Phil

Here’s hoping we get an early Spring……..Happy Groundhog Day!

 

Country Hugs,

Lois

 

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Comments

  1. I never heard the story of Phil/Pete, Thank you for this interesting tidbit. Hopefully, he only saw his shadow because of all the cameras and Spring is around the corner.

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