Groundhog Day is one big party — here’s what it’s like to experience in person

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REUTERS/Jason Cohn

There are few traditions more distinctly American than Groundhog Day.

Although most people hear of the infamous groundhog Phil’s weather prediction via a quick blurb in their morning news on February 2, the event is a very real pilgrimage to Gobbler’s Knob in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, where tens of thousands gather to watch the little guy come out of his hole and pray that he doesn’t see his shadow.

This is where my adventure begins.


Groundhog Day, despite being celebrated nationwide in America, stems from European legend. A groundhog comes out of its hole. If it sees its shadow and retreats back into its hole, it’s considered a bad omen, and there will be six more weeks of winter. No shadow seen? Early spring. It’s celebrated on February 2 every year in multiple cities and towns across America.

But no celebration is as grand as the one held in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania. This small town fills with thousands of travelers who are there to see the most important man of that day predict the weather. Punxsutawney Phil emerges in the wee hours of the morning of February 2. But the celebrating starts many hours before …


I was attending Clarion University of Pennsylvania in 2012 when I decided to meet a friend in Punxsutawney. Having grown up in Pennsylvania, I’d always heard that it was a great party. As the photo editor for our campus paper at the time, I brought along a camera.

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As I drove into town on the night of February 1, I was surprised to see very little signage telling me where to go. Thousands of people? Where was everyone?

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I pulled into a Walmart parking lot and rolled down my window as I approached the first person I saw. “Where’s the party?” I asked. “Right here,” he said, and subsequently handed me an adult beverage.


My buddy Bob and some of his friends eventually rolled in. Note: It was freezing. We were very unprepared.

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As we got out and explored the lot, it ended up looking more like a football tailgate. It might not have been THE place to be in town, but I didn’t know any better. It seemed to be the popular college spot.

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The revelers reveled.

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The Walmart itself was the perfect warm-up spot.

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After a full night of partying, buses were available to take us to “Gobbler’s Knob.” This is where it all goes down.

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As we entered the festival of the rodent, I was amazed at the number of people who had gathered in the cold to cheer on the furry meteorologist.

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This sign marked the spot where Phil would make his declaration shortly after 7 a.m.

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Some great hats were worn.

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There were some bonfires to keep people warm.

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There was plenty to do while we waited for Phil.

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Reporters filmed live segments from the scene.

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There was a fireworks show …

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… and some live painting action.

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The crowd started to get antsy. Lots of “PHIL, PHIL, PHIL!” chants.

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People really like Phil.

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And now for the big event. The “Inner Circle” — a group of local dignitaries who are responsible for taking care of Phil — get ready.

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I couldn’t take the anticipation.

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The crowd went wild.

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The verdict? Phil sees his shadow. So as the legend goes, six more weeks of winter. The crowd boos. Everyone crams on the buses and goes home.

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