Groundhog Day – Planning to Party Down

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There is a little bit of everything at Groundhog Day in Punxsutawney. Although many adults from around the nation and around the world attend and there are events for adults and children, a large number of each year’s visitors are high school and college students.

The event is managed well enough that there are no major drunken events and everyone can feel safe enough to attend, but Punxsutawney isn’t just for blue noses (unless you forget to wear a ski mask to the dawn prediction).

Once again, as in the past 11 years the famous Straub Brewery in nearby St. Mary’s has produced a batch of Groundhog Brew just for local sale.

Straub is an all natural micro brewery founded in 1872.

http://www.straubbeer.com/

One reason for the big crowds is the physical placement of Punxsutawney near Indiana University of PA (in fact there is a two-year local IUP branch), and only an easy 2-3 hour drive from all the schools in Pittsburgh and Penn State University’s main campus.

GHD events start early. That is appropriate since the big event takes place in the early February 2 morning cold on Gobbler’s Knob but on years when GHD events fall over a weekend, students in particular crowd into town early.

Gob Knob Iron Phil
Phil can sometimes iron out weather problems so I guess this welded iron sculpture by local tech students is an appropriate guardian of The Knob.

January 30, the Saturday before GHD, there is a “Breakfast with Phil” sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce and serving bacon, eggs, and pancakes at the Community Center (about three blocks from Phil’s home/museum.)

This is also a photo op to get your picture taken with Phil and the “men-in-black” who manage his business affairs. There will also be children’s games that morning to keep the kids occupied. (Bring your own camera; no one is going to soak you for an “official” photo.)

Barclay Square is the center of most events except for the big morning and, beginning Saturday, you’ll find everything from a traditional polka band to fire artists.

Ice carving is also a traditional event here because there is a large culinary school in Punxsutawney.

An ice sculpture from the IUP Culinary School.
Ice sculptures from the IUP Culinary School are a newer GHD tradition.

If the weather is terrible – always a possibility in mid Winter – events in Punxy are easy to walk to and the trip to Gobbler’s Knob is always made by bus anyway.

A 6 ft tall Phil statue near a bank.
You’ll find 6ft tall Phil statues all around town. This one, believe it or not, is by a bank.

But if the weather is nice there are lots of interesting places to visit nearby (this is also Amish country – please remember it is not cool to photograph them).

The same isn’t true for Phil and there are lots of places where you can get a photo next to a Phil.

Of course if Phil is your ONLY focus on GHD, check out all the giant statues found around the town.

But don’t bother heading for The Knob early – there really isn’t anything going on until about 2 a.m. on February 2 when upwards of 30,000 Phil Phans will start arriving with the dual quest of trying to keep warm and to see sunrise with Phil himself.

The Knob is mostly security and workers along with TV and film crews making their initial setups.
From a previous year on February 1 The Knob is mostly security and workers along with TV and film crews making their initial setups.

After a rough start to Winter we are experiencing a big melt off here in Punxsutawney and temperatures will be above normal for several more days but we are up in the mountains and it IS Winter so we could be fighting snow drifts by the time February 2 rolls around. Check the forecast and dress accordingly Gobbler’s Knob is a bare hill top with no shelter.

Also, don’t try to drive to The Knob. Take a bus from downtown, it is up in the hills and only approved news crews drive there.

John McCormick is a reporter, /science/medical columnist and finance and social commentator, with 17,000+ bylined stories. He is a 38-year member of the National Press Club, retired emergency management coordinator, physicist, and member of the AAAS. He is a senior NewsBlaze writer who writes incisive, investigative stories.