Punxsutawney Phil Hosts Thousands as Beloved Prognosticator Prepares for the Main Event

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Jack Healey continues his Day 2 Adventures with Punxsutawney Phil.

Punxsutawney Pennsylvania is a small town like many others in the United States.  Upon arriving last night with my wife Gail, daughter Sarah and I were struck by three discoveries:  First, this town lives for Phil.  There are 32 Phil replicas throughout the town, there are Phil gift shops, museums and restaurants- Phil’s den is located at the town library and shared with some of his ‘friends’ and is illuminated 24 hours a day so that one may catch a glimpse of the town’s unofficial mayor.

phil7Second, the town bears little resemblance to the movie “Groundhog Day” starring Bill Murray and Andie McDowell.  Oh yes, there are quaint homes nestled in nice neighborhoods, but the town looks much like any town in the Northeast, complete with a Rite Aid Pharmacy (prominently displaying their Phil souvenirs) and a McDonald’s.  The stage where Phil is awakened from his deep sleep in the movie is actually part of the town square.  However, to see Phil in real life, you have to catch a shuttle in the Walmart parking lot at 3 a.m. and be driven to “the Knob”.  In the movie, Phil Connors walked out of his bed and breakfast and strolled to the square and said hello to the handful of residents present for the event.  I have seen pictures of ‘The Knob’ in all of the gift shops and there will be thousands of people present – imagine Times Square New Years Eve!  Lots of celebrities too – Jim Cantore from the Weather Channel was on our flight from Atlanta and will be covering the event!

Phil04Now, I am not a movie novice, having spent well over $200,000 on my film education -(my oldest daughter Claire graduated with a film degree and now works in post-production in Los Angeles), and have learned of that technique they refer to as ‘movie magic’ from my back lot tours at Universal Studios (yes I know corn flakes squished sounds like people walking on gravel), but this is a bridge too far!  Catching a shuttle at 3 a.m. will test even this Phil Fanatic’s resolve – especially since one townsmen let it slip at dinner last night that it can be viewed in its entirety on local cable!  

The third thing we learned is how nice and inviting the residents of Punxsutawney are to the visitors.  Each one we met asked the same questions, made the same comment and offered the same advice.  First the questions:  “Are you here to see Phil?” (deductive reasoning anyone?) and “Where are you staying?”  After hearing our response to the lodging – we received the same comment: “The big Hotel should be open next year, and you can stay there” (perhaps a subliminal message to make this pilgrimage again?).  The ‘big hotel’ is the Pantall Hotel, which caught fire and closed in 2012 and is a majestic 1890’s building located across from the town square, a great location when renovated.

phil6The advice:  “Get to the knob early, go to the bathroom before-hand and dress warmly”.  Folks then explained that you need to be on the first shuttles at 3 a.m. to get a spot up front.  As of the writing of this post, I have not convinced either my daughter or wife that the ‘front row’ is worthy of us leaving our hotel at 2 a.m.- (I used up all of my ‘get-up-early’ political capital when I made them arrive 2 hours early for a Braves game on ‘hat day’).  But if nothing else, I am persistent (or as my daughter likes to phrase it “annoying”) to the point that I should convince (read: break their spirit) when the time comes.

I am enclosing some of today’s sites and pictures of “Phil Fest” and look forward to bringing you more tomorrow- Groundhog Day!

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