by Adam McCully
Since 1887, Punxsutawney Phil – the Seer of Seers, Prognosticator of Prognosticators, the world’s most famous and only legitimate weather predicting groundhog – has welcomed his fans to the town of Punxsutawney and let the world know whether we’ll be stuck indoors for six more weeks of winter or headed for an early spring.
This is one celebration that should be on everyone’s bucket list. Thousands of visitors from across the globe embark on a journey to this picturesque town set in Western PA for a chance to see Punxsutawney Phil and hear his prediction. But if you think the fun’s contained to February 2nd, you’d be sorely mistaken.
In the days leading up to Phil’s forecast, the town of Punxsutawney puts on a wonderful winter festival with street performers, live music, ice carving, and much, much more. It’s a celebration that the town and surrounding areas look forward to all year long. The residents of Punxsutawney go all out with Groundhog’s Day themed activities, while the local shops and restaurants open their doors to visitors from around the world and invite them to sample some local faire.
The celebration begins in Barclay Square, located in downtown Punxsutawney, and then moves to the woodland park of Gobbler’s Knob. This is where Phil has made his prediction 131 times before. The gates to the park open at 3 a.m. and while Gobbler’s Knob is usually a quiet and peaceful spot, on February 2nd there’s a palpable electricity in the air as thousands gather to participate in the “Pre-Phil” activities which include a roaring bonfire, dancing, and music. Just as the darkness starts to fade, the sky is illuminated with a fantastic fireworks display complete with musical accompaniment.
After the last sparkling rocket bursts in the air, the members of the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club’s famous Inner Circle – dressed to the nines in top hats and tails – make their solemn march towards the stage before gathering around Punxsutawney Phil’s legendary stump, the centerpiece of this festive occasion. As the sun peeks out over the horizon, Phil emerges to make his prediction, six more weeks of winter or spring in just around the corner.
Phil Invites You to Experience & Enjoy Punxsutawney
In addition to the winter festival and Phil’s annual prediction, Punxsutawney has a lot to offer its guests. Families will enjoy learning all about the climate and the environment at the acclaimed Weather Discovery Center on Findley Street. The WDC makes learning fun for all ages with interactive exhibits like climbing into a tornado and creating a thunderstorm. You can even try your hand at being a television weather forecaster.
Folks can also take a walk around town and discover each of the 32 six-foot-tall groundhog sculptures on display, aptly named Phantastic Phils! Each is a unique work of art, definitely worthy of a selfie. Stop in to the Chamber of Commerce on West Mahoning Street for a map that will guide you to each sculpture.
When he’s not at Gobbler’s Knob, you can see Phil (along with his wife Phyllis) close up at Phil’s Burrow, located in the Punxsutawney Memorial Library. You can peek through the special outside viewing window and say hello!
History buffs will enjoy seeing Mahoning Street and learning the “History of the Groundhog and Punxsutawney” at the Lattimer and Bennis Houses run by the Punxsutawney Historical Society.
The town also has a quaint shopping district along Mahoning Street, which features old fashioned storefronts including Phil’s Official Souvenir Shop.
The 2017 Groundhog Day Celebration in Punxsutawney will take place January 30th through February 2nd in downtown Punxsutawney and on Gobbler’s Knob. Call (814) 849-5197 or visit VisitPAGO.com for places to stay, restaurants, and a 2017 schedule of events.