As an avid fan of both winter and Bill Murray, I’ve always found myself drawn to Groundhog Day. Since I love snow so much, I’m usually pretty pleased with the verdict when Phil pops up his little head, and he’s just so darn cute, so it was natural that we would attempt to visit the famous Gobbler’s Knob one February 2.
We had planned initially for February 2, 2009, but a certain very important Pittsburgh event got in the way (the Steelers won the Superbowl the night before, so we weren’t exactly in any kind of state to drive to Punxsutawney for a 4am party). So this year it was on. We made our plans early – or, what we thought was early. We learned, while searching for a hotel, that ‘early’ meant that you booked your room more than a year in advance. Apparently, Groundhog Day people are kind of fanatical about this stuff, and the fact that there is only one *real* hotel in downtown Punxsutawney doesn’t help.
So, we did the next best thing, which was to reserve a package deal room at a hotel in Clarion that would bus us to the festival in the middle of the night, and provide us with a free buffet breakfast the next morning. We arrived around 4pm, had dinner and bedtime margaritas at the Applebee’s that shares a parking lot with the hotel, and were passing out in front of an old Hugh Grant movie by 7:30pm.
By 4am, we were on a bus to Punxsutawney, where it was 7 degrees.
The funniest and most awful thing of the night was that the bus dropped us off at the very top of the hill at Gobbler’s Knob, and we had to walk downhill to the area where everyone was standing (and we were pretty early, so we could get fairly close). They were playing Lady Gaga, and I was dancing around all excitedly and not paying much attention, and neither was my husband, who stepped onto a patch of ice and went flying into the air, hitting me just behind my knee in that really good spot that makes you fall forward instantly. So, there we both were, in 7 degree temperatures, bruised and embarrassed and lying on ice several feet away from the local news crew. Only we could start a night out that way.
The temperature continued to drop, so the MC of the evening (one of the members of the Inner Circle, and also conveniently the town chiropractor) kept us all dancing to stay as warm as possible. We got delicious hot dogs and danced to every song that was ever popular in the 1970s. The crew did funny games and fake game shows with people in the crowd, Ned Ryerson showed up to remind us that the first step is a doozy, and really, we all just banded together to try not to freeze.
Just before sunrise, they set off fireworks, and at the end of that, the Inner Circle arrived to prepare Phil for his prognostication. I would like to add that Phil is stuck in that tiny little stump you see on TV the entire time that the dancing and partying is going on. There is no way that poor little thing gets any sleep, but they make a very big fuss over ‘waking him up’ to do the prediction.
And the Inner Circle (all guys in tuxedos and top hats with fantastic names that sound like 1980s pro wrestlers, like The Thunder Conductor and The Stump Warden) makes quite a show of pulling Phil out and speaking to him in Groundhogese, at which point he announced that there would be six more weeks of winter.
Also at which point, I was one of three people in the crowd cheering.
It helps to know that Groundhog Day was on a Tuesday, and the following Friday was the Great Snowmageddon of 2010. You can all thank me for those days off from school and work. 😉
(It’s true – we have had a multitude of friends and family beg us not to return to Punxsutawney ever again after this winter. Sorry! 🙂
And so, after Phil’s great prognostication, freezing cold but happy, we made the incredibly long trek downhill (through a cornfield) into downtown Punxsutawney, where we had a greasy, delicious breakfast with the star of the show himself. And here are the pictures!