Three Rodents Prognosticate on Groundhog Day

Punxsutawney Phil

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:

Jimmy the Groundhog

Jimmy the Groundhog

Sun Prairie, Wisconsin: Jimmy

Claiming to be the Groundhog Capital of the World, all eyes are on Jimmy the groundhog for his annual Groundhog Day Prognostication. Staged by the Chamber of Commerce at sunrise at Cannery Square Plaza in downtown Sun Prairie, the town mayor is called upon to 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.

In Sun Prairie, town festivities start the previous Saturday 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 annual Groundhog Ball.

Punxsutawney Phil

Punxsutawney Phil

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 Willie

Woodstock Willie

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.


About the Author

Julie Henning
Julie Henning is a freelance writer and journalist based out of Eugene, Oregon. She is a member of the Society of American Travel Writers and owner of the family-travel website RoadTripsForFamilies.com. She is a recent past member of the Midwest Travel Writers Association and the Association for Great Lakes Outdoor Writers. Julie is the Oregon Coast destination specialist for Bindu Media, an itinerary-focused website launching in Spring 2016 and featuring the work of 200+ professional, indie travel writers. Julie has been published in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, the Wisconsin State Journal, The Daily Journal (Kankakee, Illinois), the Rochester Post Bulletin, Wisconsin Natural Resources (DNR) Magazine, Sustainable Chicago Magazine, Group Tour Magazine, Student Group Tour Magazine, Silent Sports Magazine, Intercom Magazine, Roadtrippers.com, and FTF Geocacher Magazine. Julie has appeared on Wisconsin Public Radio, Ohio Public Radio, and KCBX FM Central Coast Radio and is an affiliate producer with the Journeys of Discovery with Tom Wilmer, a National Public Radio travel podcast. She has blogged for TravelWisconsin.com, Travel Oregon, and VISIT Milwaukee. Julie travels with her three kids and black lab as much as possible and lives by the motto, "Not all who wander are lost." Check out some of her best work at www.juliehenning.com.