DR. MICHELLE GASTON
ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR OF BIOLOGY
SCIENCE, BUSINESS, AND TECHNOLOGY DIVISION
Growing Up With The Groundhog
‘Oh yeah…Punxsutawney Phil.’
“Yes, Punxsutawney…that’s where I’m from.”
At home or abroad, that’s the typical start to my conversation with anyone asking about my origins. Some might get bored having the same conversation repeatedly, but I don’t. It’s nice chatting with someone who’s immediately familiar with my little hometown in Western Pennsylvania. And it’s also nice to know that many of them will remember me every February 2nd—Groundhog Day!
“Groundhog Day” began 127 years ago with Germans that immigrated to Pennsylvania. Accustomed to hedgehogs predicting winter’s length, they soon found a suitable replacement rodent in America—the groundhog. To this day, if our beloved rodent Punxsutawney Phil sees his shadow at dawn, six more weeks of winter await. If there’s no shadow, then spring is just around the corner.
Although Phil spends most of his days in his cozy burrow at the local library, he does make appearances at special events. Years ago, my mom’s family raised groundhogs as pets, and often their animals would travel as emissaries for Phil.
Punxsutawney is a quiet little town filled with friendly people—I would not have wanted to spend my childhood anywhere else. On Groundhog Day, thousands of people from all over the world travel to my hometown just to see Phil. Will you join them next year?? If you aren’t into celebrating on a cold winter day, consider a trip for the Groundhog Festival in June. Two yearly celebrations in two different seasons—an appropriate tribute to our furry little weather prognosticator in the “Weather Capital of the World.”