Events

Groundhog Day


Photo of Hedgehog
General Beau Lee,
Photo: Yellow River
Game Ranch

One of the strangest holidays celebrated in North America is dedicated to that solitary member of the Rodent family, the groundhog. On February 2nd, the date marking the halfway point between the Winter Solstice and the Spring Equinox, groundhogs become the weather predictors of choice as they emerge from their dens. If the groundhog sees its shadow, winter will linger another six weeks; should the shadow be missing, spring will soon arrive.

The most famous of the groundhog forecasters is Punxsutawney Phil from Pennsylvania. The Punxsutawney observation of Groundhog Day dates from 1886, although there are earlier references to the use of groundhogs to determine winter's length in Pennsylvania. The German immigrants who settled there brought with them the old-world tradition known as Lichtmess or Candlemas. They believed that if Candlemas, celebrated on February 2, was mild, then the winter would last for six more weeks, but if the weather was foul, spring was on its way.

Perhaps it is the groundhog's habit of occasionally interrupting its hibernation around the time of Candlemas that caused it to be chosen as a replacement for the European forecasting animals that are not known in North America.

Today, an elaborate ceremony, including days of celebration, surrounds Phil's venture forth from his burrow (for this day, heated and located beneath an artificial tree stump). Although his forecast has become quite a media event, Phil is not quite ready for a job at the National Weather Service: his success rate is only about 39%.

Although Punxsutawney Phil is the most famous of the groundhog weather predictors, cities, zoos, private farms and game parks sponsor Groundhog Day events across North America. Some are simple weather forecasts and others are full-blown festivals, sometimes lasting days. Below is a list of some of the events. Click on name of city to visit page: If you plan to attend an event, please check with the event's sponsor in advance in case of error, date change or cancellation.

Canada

  • Nova Scotia

    • Shubenacadie
      Location: Shubenacadie Provincial Wildlife Park
      Date: February 2
      Name of Groundhog: "Shubenacadie Sam"
  • Ontario

    • Wiarton
      Location: Wiarton
      Date: February 2, 2008
      Name of Groundhog: "Wiarton Willie"

United States

  • Alabama

    • Birmingham
      Location: Birmingham Zoo
      Date: January 28
      Name of Groundhog: "Birmingham Bill II"
  • Illinois

    • Brookfield
      Location: Brookfield Zoo
      Date: February 2
      Name of Groundhog: "Cloudy and Stormy"
  • Georgia

    • Lilburn
      Location: Yellow River Game Ranch
      Date: February 2
      Name of Groundhog: "Gen. Beau Lee, Ph.D."
  • New York

    • Staten Island
      Location: Staten Island Zoo
      Date: February 2
      Name of Groundhog: "Staten Island Chuck"
  • Pennsylvania

    • Punxsutawney
      Location: Gobbler's Knob, Punxsutawney
      Date: February 2
      Name of Groundhog: "Punxsutawney Phil"
  • North Carolina

    • Raleigh
      Location: North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences
      Date: February 2
      Name of Groundhog: "Sir Walter Wally"
  • Wisconsin

    • Sun Prairie
      Location: Colonial Club Senior Center
      Date: February 2
      Name of Groundhog: "Jimmy"