February 2, 2019. 10 degrees Fahrenheit.
As early as 3:00am buses begin shuttling thousands of visitors to Gobbler’s Knob every 15 minutes from 3 locations: McDonalds, Paunxsy Plaza, and Wal-Mart. There is some confusion among out of town bus drivers and police on the bus route to Gobbler’s Knob causing the 1.5 mile trip to take almost 30 minutes. In the miscommunications, we aren’t charged the $5 bus fee.
- The McDonalds bus location was the most convent being a couple blocks from the festivities following Phil’s prognostication.
- Thousands of people created 40+ minute long lines for the bathrooms, warming and charging stations, and the souvenir shop. We recommend visiting a bathroom before arriving at Gobbler’s Knob.
- Several children are among the crowd and no one we encounter seems overly intoxicated. Many brought their own drinks and snacks to Gobbler’s Knob.
- Punxsutawney Phil is over 100 years old. Each year he drinks a magic elixir giving him 7 more years of life. According to the Inner Circle, Phil has not been wrong in 133 years. According to CNN, Phil is correct 40% of the time.
Around 7:20am, the Inner Circle begins. Two scrolls were prepared for the event by the Inner circle, one for an early spring and a scroll for 6 more weeks of winter. While holding an ancient wooden cane, The Groundhog Club President is able to speak to Phil in Groundhogese.
Phil is roused by the crowd chanting his name, “Phil, Phil, Phil”! Upon waking, Phil discusses with the President his prognostication and the corresponding scroll is read. Translating, the President announces a prediction is made: Phil has spoken! He did not see his shadow and spring is just around the corner.
Passport to Punxsy
At 8:00am, after Phil makes his prediction, the crowd immediately disperses to the stage hoping to get a photo with Phil and towards the buses. Visitors can walk 1.5 – 2 miles or bus back to the town of Punxsutawney for additional activities.
- Gobbler’s Knob and Gobbler’s Knob Trail: A half mile trail with metal groundhog art.
- Punxsutawney Memorial Library
- Ground Hog Headquarters: Free entrance to view Groundhog Club and Punxsutawney Phil related items.
- Phil’s Burrow: The climate controlled burrow where Phil and his wife Phyllis live, viewed form the outside through a glass wall.
- Mahoning Shadow Trail: A 15 mile trail of reclaimed railroad ties along the Mahoning Creek. 1 mile of the trail passes through Punxsutawney Borough.
- Punxsutawney Historical and Genealogical Society: Groundhog Day exhibits, stories, games, hot chocolate, and cookies in the Reschini Room and Lattimer House.
- Phantastic Phils: Scattered throughout Punxsutawney are 32 groundhog statues measuring 6 feet tall.
- Punxsutawney Weather Discovery Center: $7 entrance fee. The center has interactive weather and legend exhibits, scavenger hunt, and craft.
- Craft and food vendors, chainsaw carving, and live music began at 8:00am in Barclay Square. Scheduled events take place throughout the day in town, most ending by 4:00pm.
- After his prognostication, Phil spends his remaining time on Groundhog Day in his climate controlled burrow, with the exception of an appearance at Phil 101 and the 20’s themed Groundhog Ball. The Groundhog day schedule can be found here.
Was it worth it?
It wasn’t for us but we’ve always been curious about the Groundhog Day experience in Punxsutawney and are glad we went. With warmer temperatures, we would have walked through town in search of all 32 Phantastic Phils, had a drink at The Burrow, and hiked the .5 mile Gobbler’s Knob Trail. After walking almost 2 miles from Gobbler’s Knob to town and wandering through Barclay Square, we struggled to fill the remaining 2.5 hours until Phil 101 at 11:00am and decided to head home.
The Traveling Gingerbread Note: We recommend booking at hotel more than 2 months in advance. In early December, we booked the closest available hotel in Brookville. Had we stayed in the area after Groundhog Day festivities, we planned to check out: Boxcar Brew Works at Doolittle Station in Dubois and Blackbird Distillery in Brookville.
- In the future, we’ll visit Phil on his travels to Pittsburgh 2 weekends before the celebration and spend Groundhog Day inside where temperatures are warmer.