Punxsutawney Phil

Groundhog handler AJ Derume holds Punxsutawney Phil, who saw his shadow, predicting a late spring during the 136th annual Groundhog Day festivities Feb. 2, 2022, in Punxsutawney, Pa. (Jeff Swensen/Getty Images)

My District: Is Home to Punxsutawney Phil

By Ben Mathios | Feb. 2, 2022 | State Legislatures News | Print

“My District” gives NCSL members a chance to tell us about life in the places they represent, from the high-profile events to the fun facts only locals know.

Smith

Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow today, and that means only one thing:

Six more weeks of winter.

Thousands of people gathered at Gobbler’s Knob in Punxsutawney, Pa., as members of the groundhog’s “inner circle” summoned him from his tree stump at dawn for his prediction. According to legend, Punxsutawney Phil has given his weather prognosis more than 100 times since 1887: If he sees his shadow on Feb. 2, it’s six more weeks of winter; no shadow means an early spring.

That’s why Phil’s title—“Seer of Seers, Sage of Sages, Prognosticator of Prognosticators and Weather-Prophet Extraordinary”—is so impressive and why the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club declared the town to be the weather capital of the world 125 years ago.

The Feb. 2 tradition came to Pennsylvania from Germany, where Christians would have candles blessed to last the rest of the winter. Before 1993, the Punxsutawney celebration attracted up to 1,000 onlookers. But the release of the movie “Groundhog Day” with Bill Murray elevated Phil to stardom.

Today, the tradition attracts as many as 45,000 fans from around the world, eager for Phil’s latest prediction.

Pennsylvania Rep. Brian Smith (R) serves House District 66, which includes Punxsutawney, about 160 miles northwest of the capital, Harrisburg. NCSL asked him what Phil means to him and his constituents.

Do you regularly attend Groundhog Day? What’s it like?

Smith: As a resident of Punxsutawney, I have attended Groundhog Day for many years. There are many events to attend during the annual celebration. Just a few are the Groundhog Ball, the Groundhog Banquet, Lunch With Phil, Dueling Pianos, Groundhog Club Members Reception and, of course, the legendary prognostication by Phil at Gobbler’s Knob. During the past many years, my wife and I have helped the inner circle by selling bus tickets from 1 a.m. till 7 a.m. for the ride to Gobbler’s Knob.

What does it mean to you and your district to be home to the world’s most famous groundhog and the center of winter weather prediction?

Smith: It is an exciting time here in Punxsutawney and the surrounding area. The influx of tourists boosts our local businesses’ income and really makes a difference. The national and worldwide attention brings many folks from all over the world to our small town and livens up the community in a normally slow time of the year.

What should visitors expect when they visit on Feb. 2?

Smith: Our district has a lot to offer for the many tourists who come here. There will be art shows, craft shows and a talent show. Our local community center will be playing the movie “Groundhog Day,” and the Punxsutawney Weather Discovery Center will have many weather-related activities. In addition, our local stores will offer Groundhog Day specials, as well as a hospitality tent in our local park.

Ben Mathios is a former NCSL Communications intern.

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