Since Groundhog Day – February 2nd – is my birthday, I have always wanted to visit Punxsutawney Pennsylvania, but never thought I’d have the opportunity.
My sister, Susan, offered to use her air miles and take me this February 2nd – announcing, we’d better do it before we get any older – not knowing if Gobblers Knob (the home of Groundhog Phil) is wheel chair accessible for out of shape senior citizens!
So off we went to Pennsylvania!
I thought I was excited…
You know, the usual anticipation for a trip…but my expectations were surprisingly trumped- resulting in an unsuspected, mind-blowing adventure of a lifetime!!
We flew into Pittsburg, rented a car for the 3 hour scenic drive to the picturesque town of Punxsutawney, and found the whole place decorated to the hilt! Holiday lights sparkled from one end of the city to the other. Everywhere you looked, there was an intentional celebration of a town ready to commemorate the event of the century!
WOW! First of all, unbeknownst to us, the traditional festivities had begun a week BEFORE February 2nd in Punxsutawney! Had we known, we could have arrived a few days earlier!
The town (population around 6,000) was decked out from stem to stern, looking like a perfect Hallmark movie setting! Can you imagine a small town expecting thousands of prospective visitors for this holiday every year?
There were parks full of vendors, restaurants full of amazing food, libraries, tours, photo opportunities, a main street full of boutiques, novelty shops and the official Groundhog Club Headquarters. There were scavenger hunts, walking tours and dinner/dances!
We went to the movie theatre and watched “Groundhog Day,” which was showing 24/7 all week!
Who knew? Susan and I were taking turns deciding what to do next on the schedule!
There was a calendar of events to attend from January 28th through February 4th! There were craft fairs, museums, the weather center, an official Birthday Party for Groundhog BIRTHDAYS and weddings commencing every few hours at city hall!
There are 35 giant Groundhog statues around town. We tried to photograph every one!
A special ‘shout out’ to our new friends at Creative Ceramics (Butler PA) who make the most adorable ceramic Groundhogs!
Members of the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club, wearing their black top hats and black top coats, were walking throughout the town, signing autographs and posing for pictures for one of the weekly contests.
FINALLY, the big morning arrived!
The morning of February 2nd, we woke up at 3am, put on every piece of clothing possible and headed for the Wal-Mart Shopping center on the edge of town. School busses were shuttling thousands of men, women and children to Gobblers Knob to join the festivities. Did I mention it was 10 degrees outside? I seriously did not know it was possible to stay alive while being so cold.
I have never worn so many layers of clothing in my life. Now, I understand firsthand what a “wind-chill factor” means! FREEZING COLD is a real thing!
Everyone was excited- 30,000 people in good moods! How fun is this?? The hill at Gobblers Knob was so brightly lit, it looked like broad daylight.
The party started at 3am with a firework display that rivaled Disneyland. The entertainment included non-stop concerts, talent contests and bands until 7am when the sun began to rise and the Groundhog was awakened for his yearly weather prediction!
The crowd was so friendly. We made many instant friends!
The music rose to a climax and the Groundhog’s two handlers opened the double doors to Punxsutawney Phil’s stump and the thousands of fans went wild! The noise was deafening!
They lifted him out of his burrow and the Groundhog saw his shadow, which meant there would be six more weeks of winter!
Hoping for an early Spring, a slightly disappointed crowd began dispersing. The lines for the busses began. However, I noticed TV cameras in another direction and headed toward them! Yes, there were news reporters interviewing people, asking their stories related to the holiday.
I was interviewed on TV! Yes, of course, I loved explaining how and why I had come to see the Groundhog this year!
We actually stood in line (in the freezing cold) for two hours to get on the busses heading back to town. Once warmed up, in an adorable restaurant, we ate breakfast and began our trek around town.
FIRST, I attended the Groundhog BIRTHDAY PARTY at city hall for all those who had been born on this holiday! Hello!! I made 200 new best friends!
Can you believe it? They threw me a birthday party! I got a present, a hat, a cupcake and birthday card with a picture of Phil on the front!
Next, we went to the weather center where I was on TV again!! I have discovered a possible second career as a meteorologist!
I couldn’t wait to visit Groundhog Club Headquarters and become an official MEMBER of the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club!! I seriously felt like my next step should be to buy a home in town!
The following two days, we attended every function imaginable, bought tons of souvenirs, and a large ceramic Groundhog (I had to mail home). We met SO many nice people from all around the country – a couple from Germany, a couple from Buffalo, another from Arizona. I was stunned at the distances people traveled to see my Groundhog!
We also loved attending One Life Church in Punxsutawney on Sunday morning. If you come to the town, this church is a must visit!
I have never written an endorsement for a vacation destination; so, consider this my first! If you ever want to escape the daily routine and rat race of living in fast paced 2018, I have found your solution!
Book a flight to Pennsylvania and reserve a room in Punxsutawney for Groundhog’s Day week. I must warn you, most hotels and B&B’s are booked 2 years out. So, plan ahead. It will be worth every penny!
The genuine “warmth” of people was refreshing. The family friendly atmosphere and events were inspirational. Every minute was simply FUN! (there were times I forgot it was COLD)
Actually, we couldn’t make every event. There just was not enough time. So, I have a huge desire to visit again! Anyone want to join me? I PROMISE you a trip of a lifetime!