PUNXSUTAWNEY, Pa. — The large crowd in Punxsutawney, Pa. for Groundhog Day Saturday cheered loudly when they heard the prediction from the furry forecaster.
“An early spring it will be,” read the forecast from Punxsutawney Phil much to the delight of the announced largest crowd ever for the event. The crowd was made up of many who had been waiting for hours in single digit temperatures to see Phil.
Before the announcement the crowd sang, danced and chanted “Phil, Phil, Phil” in anticipation of his arrival as snow flurries fell on the crowd. Fireworks lit the early-morning sky a half-hour before the big prediction. Many were dressed in groundhog hats, and a few wore full groundhog costumes.
This year marked the 127th celebration of the event in the small Pennsylvania town that lies about 70 miles west of State College.
Penn State alumnus and State College resident Patrick Laninger said the ride was worth it, even with cold temperatures.
“It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience just to see it,” Laninger said. “It was definitely worth it.”
The legend goes that if Phil sees his shadow as he emerges at dawn on Feb. 2 then six more weeks of winter are ahead. But since he did not see his shadow Saturday, the predication is that spring is just around the corner.
Butch Philliber, iceman of the Punxsutawney Groundhogs Club Inner Circle, a group of 15 residents whose mission is to promote the legend of Punxsutawney Phil and the Punxsutawney Borough, said that after the 1993 movie “Groundhog Day” the crowds grew 20 times.
“It’s really kind of an adult Christmas,” Philliber said. “Because these adults are standing here in the cold bouncing around with childlike enthusiasm, waiting for Phil to come out an see his shadow.”
Philliber said that the crowd is typically made up of people from around the state and country who want to check it off their bucket list.
Some came from even farther such as Tanya Surtees of Cape Town, South Africa who said she had never experienced such cold weather before.
“I have never seen cold like this in my life, but I just love the vibe — everybody is just out to have a good time. I just think it is really cool,” Surtees said.