Three Rodents Prognosticate: Groundhog Day 2011
Groundhogs, woodchucks, marmots. No matter what you call them, these furry rodents find a special place in our hearts on February 2: Groundhog Day. Elementary students across the country are depleting reams of brown construction paper this week, cutting and gluing their predictions for a long winter or an early spring. Really, a person does wonder why any weatherman bothers to show up for work that day.
Three towns are busy as, well, beavers this week planning for the big event. With balls, pancake breakfasts, parades, and even movie showings, here are some places you won’t want to hibernate:
Sun Prairie, Wisconsin: Jimmy
Claiming to be the Groundhog Capital of the World, all eyes will be on Jimmy for his 63rd Annual Groundhog Day Prognostication. Staged by the Chamber of Commerce at 7:10 AM (sunrise) at Cannery Square Plaza in downtown Sun Prairie, Mayor Joe Chase will interpret Jimmy’s prediction—an early spring or six more weeks of winter—to the crowd of onlookers. People around the world will call the Groundhog Hot Line, 800-400-6162, to get up-to-the-minute details of Jimmy’s prediction. The hotline is open 7:15AM to 9 AM Groundhog Day.
Town festivities start the previous Saturday (January 29) with a Groundhog Day Community Celebration. Beginning with a pancake breakfast, the day continues with entertainment, a birthday party for human groundhogs (people born on February 2), roaming “Jimmy,” and ends with the 37th annual Groundhog Ball. Now, I’m personally partial to Jimmy. But only because I live in Sun Prairie and also because find Punxsutawney a hard word to spell. Having pet Jimmy in his cage earlier this winter (he “purrs”), I think he’ll make the town proud again this year.
Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania: Phil
Punxsutawney Phil, Pennsylvania’s world-famous prognosticating groundhog. Each year on Feb. 2 the famous groundhog emerges from his burrow and decides if we’ll be having more wintry weather or if spring will be coming soon. A tradition that originated in Germany was carried to Pennsylvania in 1887 and is now a world-renowned, family friendly celebration. Tens of thousands of visitors trek to the top of Gobbler’s Knob in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania and wait with anticipation to hear Punxsutawney Phil’s weather prediction.
Not only does this celebration include Phil emerging from his burrow, the days leading up to the big event are filled with family festivities including breakfast with Phil, a kid’s craft corner, s’mores with the Inner Circle, the caretakers of Phil and a Groundhog Day birthday party for those guests whose birthday falls on the same day as Phil’s. A close-by attraction also worth a visit is the Weather Discovery Center in Punxsutawney, also known as the “Weather Capital of the World.” At the Discovery Center, visitors of all ages can walk a mile in Phil’s shoes, participating and exploring different weather technologies and prediction techniques.
Woodstock, Illinois: Willie
Celebrate Groundhog Day at Gobbler’s Knob, otherwise known as the Woodstock Square Park (official prognostication is from 7:00AM- 7:30AM on the morning of February 2nd). Brave the weather and gather on the Woodstock Square to see Woodstock Willie emerge from his tree trunk home just as he did during the Groundhog Day movie filmed in Woodstock in 1992. To quote Bill Murry’s character in the movie, “Where else can you gather to worship a large rat, and have such a good time doing it?”
Come for the food, the shopping, the entertainment and special event—shadow or no shadow, one thing is for sure—you will have a good time in Woodstock during Groundhog Days. Festivities start with a groundhog awakening and continue with a movie showing, chili-cook off, charity dance, walking tours, pancake breakfast, and story telling. For more information, official Groundhog Days in Woodstock website or call the hotline at 815-338-4483.