In This Town, People Party All Night Long—For Groundhog Day
Here's how to join the fun surrounding Phil's shadow in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania.
If you’re looking for a good reason why thousands of people would stand outside all night for a weather prediction made by a groundhog, don’t bother. There isn't one.
The annual Groundhog Day festivities that occur in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, defy logic, so to fully appreciate the madness, one must do as the residents of Punxsutawney do—just go with it.
Every year, no matter the weather (it’s usually frigid), visitors from around the world pour into this tiny town in the middle of nowhere to pay their respects to a prophetic groundhog named Phil.
Groundhog Day has been celebrated in Punxsutawney since 1887. As the story goes, if a groundhog emerges from his burrow on February 2nd and sees his shadow, winter will last another six weeks. If he doesn’t see it, an early spring is around the corner. However, the legend forgets to mention the part where Groundhog Day is a celebration akin to rural Pennsylvania’s Mardi Gras. [Read what a groundhog really looks for when leaving his hole.]
The revelry culminates around 3:00 a.m. on February 2nd, when buses drop off thousands of visitors at the Gobbler’s Knob amphitheater, where Phil makes his prediction. At this point, the party is in its eleventh hour. Phil’s faithful followers have attended back-to-back events all over Punxsutawney, including the town banquet, the Time Square-esque ‘Phil Drop’ at midnight (with an illuminated, fiberglass Phil), and the drinking of more than a few “Philsners” at local bars like the Burrow, Rumors, and Midway Inn.
Still, once everyone stumbles to the Knob, the real party begins. Bundled up against the cold, the crowd only pauses the singing and dancing to warm up by the bonfires. At 6:30 a.m., fireworks light up the predawn sky, signaling that it is time for Phil to make his prediction.
It’s the moment everyone has been waiting for. Phil is routed from his burrow by his top hat-wearing handlers. Sides are taken—are you team spring, or team snow? However, once Phil’s prognostication has been made, everyone’s on the same page: it’s time for coffee.
Based in nearby Pittsburgh, writer Madeline Quigley covers food and travel. Follow her story on Instagram.