Many have heard that on Groundhog's Day, it can be predicted whether winter is at its end based on whether the groundhog can see his shadow after emerging from underground. What some may not know is where this tradition started.
Since 1886, the folks of Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania have gathered on February 2nd to celebrate Groundhog's Day. The celebration centers around Punxsutawney Phil, a groundhog who emerges each Groundhogs day from his hole on Gobbler's Knob to let towns people know whether or not they should put away their winter clothes.
The nation looks to Punxsutawney Phil as "the'' Groundhog's Day groundhog. The media converges on the small town of just under 7,000 residents, which is located 90 miles northeast of Pittsburgh to cover the emergence of Phil.
The event, which draws - by some estimates - approximately 30,000 tourists, is big business for the town which, until some recent economic developments, relied heavily on the coal mining industry.
The town of Punxsutawney has learned to parlay their annual shot at fame into an ongoing tourist industry. Visitors from all over come to the town every day to see Punxsutawney Phil .
The Punxsutawney Groundhog Club plans the events that will take place in the town each February 2nd. While the events are free, the town and the surrounding area still benefit from the influx of visitors to the area.
There is much legend surrounding Punxsutawney Phil and his powers of prediction. Those who visit the website of the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club will learn that there has only been one Punxsutawney Phil, and that the groundhog has been making predictions for almost 130 years. The site also claims that Phil's predictions are correct 100% of the time .
While some of the records of Phil's earliest predictions have been lost, the records are complete since 1900. That is, no doubt, due to the fact that the Groundhog Club was formed in 1899.
Punxsutawney Phil's earliest predictions were made in private, but that changed in 1887 with the first trek to Gobbler's Knob. Since that time, Phil has grown in popularity and has been on major news shows, such as the Today Show and even paid a visit to the White House in 1986 to visit President Reagan. He also appeared on the Oprah Winfrey Show in 1995.
Phil has also, at times, been a bit of a political activist. During prohibition, he threatened to extend winter if he was not allowed to have a drink. During the Iranian hostage crisis in the early 80's, Phil wore a yellow ribbon to show his support. Phil's fame continues to grow. In 2001 his prediction was shown in lights in Times Square.
Whether his predictions are accurate or not, Punxsutawney Phil is likely to keep growing in popularity and the residents of the town will continue reaping the benefits.