Just a five-hour drive from Ann Arbor you can find the hamlet of Punxsutawney. I went to pay homage to this national treasure made so famous by the Bill Murray movie “Groundhog Day.”
Phil is a huge moneymaker for the community. Everything in the area has his photo on it. Just like the movie, the local radio station is all about Phil.
After walking through town to see the ice sculptures, statues, stores, and souvenirs I had dinner at the local diner. While having the turkey special (with gravy covered fries - a Pennsylvania specialty) Diane, a local retiree chatted with me. She told me about her husband who passed two years ago, her continuing problem with her legs, her new kitten (people just love to tell me about their cats) she said “the groundhog is just another rat. I shoot them out back with my 22.”
I took a couple hour nap (because I’m old) and woke up at 2:30. All of the guides tell you the busses start at 2:30, and Gobblers Knob opens around 3:30 am. My bus was the third trip for the drivers that morning. To my surprise there were several hundred there already when I arrived.
Just like the movie there is the stage where Phil’s Dance Party keeps people moving, there is a huge fire to warm up by, and plenty of outhouses for those cups of coffee and coco. And if you are brave enough to use the port-o-potty in the cold and dark you are more brave than me.
The morning is full of great fun. Energy is high, people are really friendly, and they all have a good sense of humor. Why else would you be in a rock festival for the Groundhog?
Around 5:30 am they announced that there were 4000 people who had taken the bus to Gobblers Knob. We still had two hours to go.
I made a few friends, lots of Steelers fans, several dozen Penn State alum, watched the stage show, had some coffee, stayed warm… The saying was true, cold hands warm heart.
The Knob is split into two areas, student section and family area. It was a little loud for me so I went over with the families. The single adults from Pittsburg were hilarious. I didn’t catch a single name - lets just say that I will not forget the pooping hand carved wooden moose they insisted everyone take a picture with, the Viking horn they blew every few seconds and the smart ass comments most parents gave them dirty looks for… They made me an honorary member of their quartette (three guys and a fiancée) and had me laughing very hard.
After some nice fireworks an army of top hats and tuxedos walk to the stage, read a few lines, pull Phil out, translate what he says, and suddenly its all over.
Only the lame take the bus back to town while several thousand people make the 1.75 mile walk back down the hill to town for an all you can eat pancake breakfast from the Salvation Army.
There are several great quotes from the movie, but none so important or appreciated until having been to this great event
When Chekhov saw the long winter, he saw a winter bleak and dark and bereft of hope. Yet we know that winter is just another step in the cycle of life. But standing here among the people of Punxsutawney and basking in the warmth of their hearths and hearts, I couldn't imagine a better fate than a long and lustrous winter.
And then, there is always the trip home.
Things to note about the trip: 647 miles round trip, 43 MPG, Jenna the Jetta love the snow and long drives, what we call ski resorts in Michigan - Pennsylvanians call a back yard, I now own the worlds warmest gloves and they were hand made in Punxsutawney, I am reserving a room in town for next year. You in?