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Signs of Spring Everywhere

Interview With Punxsutawney Area Middle School

Punxsutawney Pennsylvania is known for groundhog day. Each year people from Punxsutawney gather on February 2nd to see what Punxsutawney Phil will predict.

This is the reply that we got back from Mrs. Divelbliss' Language Arts class at Punxsutawney Area Middle School about the questions that we sent them about Groundhogs and Groundhog Day!

January 20, 1998

Dear students of Class 703 of Dolphin Sr. Public School, Groundhog Day is a time of great celebration in our community of Punxsutawney! We are happy to answer your questions!

Q. Why did they choose Groundhogs to predict whether winter will be longer or shorter?
A. This is because Groundhog Day is based on the German tradition of Candlemas Day.

Q. Would you get another groundhog if Phil died?
A. Phil will never die!!!! Each summer our town holds a special Groundhog Picnic. At the picnic, Phil drinks Groundhog Punch. Each sip he swallows add seven years to his life. He will live forever!!!

Q. Why is Groundhog Day February 2?
A. Once again, it is because we follow the German tradition of Candlemas Day-- Now you have something else to look up and research!

Q. When did the tradition start?
A. The first Groundhog Trek in Punxsutawney was held in 1896. The tradition is a 112 years old.

Q. Is Phil male or female?
A. Phil is male. Phil, and several of his family members, live in a special Groundhog Zoo that is part of our Civic Centre and Library.

Q. What kind of groundhog Is Phil?
A. Phil is just an ordinary groundhog--his species is native to Western Pennsylvania.

Q. How do you celebrate Groundhog Day in your city?
A. You would be really exaggerating to call Punxsutawney a city. We are a borough of approximately 6000 people. We do know how to have a celebration though! We dedicate days to celebrating our Groundhog!

Here are some of the ways we celebrate:
  • Shadow Swing - a fancy dance for adults
  • Dances for Middle School and High School students
  • Groundhog Banquet
  • Naming Man and Woman of the Year
  • Crowning Groundhog King and Queen at a special high school assembly
  • Groundhog Games and Activities in the schools
  • Food Fest, Games, Activities, Special Entertainment at our Community
  • Centre
  • Groundhog Jog - a race
  • Special Songs

Early in the morning of February 2, thousands (last year about 50,000 people) of people gather at Gobbler's Knob outside of the town. There people stand huddled in the dark, cold early morning hours awaiting the Groundhog's appearance at dawn. There is entertainment, singing, music, bonfires, cocoa,doughnuts, and much merriment !

A few minutes before dawn the Inner Circle--about a dozen men dressed in tuxedos and top hats--make their way through the crowd to atree stump located at the front of the crowd. There is a stage-like area so that people throughout the crowd can see. The President of the Inner Circle of the Groundhog Club knocks on the door of the stump with a special stick, the door is opened, and an Inner Circle remember reaches in and brings the groundhog out!! There is much cheering at this point!

The groundhog is held up to the ear of the President of the Groundhog Club and he whispers to the President in his special Groundhogese. Then the President announces what he has been told--whether the groundhog has or has not seen his shadow!!

The Inner Circle members then hold up signs telling if there will be an early spring or if we will suffer a long winter! There are cheers or boos depending on the decision of the Groundhog! And then, it's all over! People flock back to town to eat breakfast and participate in the Groundhog Festivities. It's a lot of fun--you should come sometime!

Q. How old Is Phil?
A. He is 112 years old.

Q. Why did you name your Groundhog Phil?
A. We don't really know--probably because it sounded good with Punxsutawney!

Q. Did you have any Groundhogs before Phil?
A. Nope, we'll have the same Phil forever!

Q. Is Groundhog Day televised?
A. Absolutely. The Trek to the Knob is covered by local as well as national television stations. We expect a lot of people will be watching this year to see if El Nino has an effect on Phil's predictions!

From: Mrs. Divelbliss' Language Arts class
Punxsutawney Area Middle School