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Tom Purcell is a Pittsburgh Tribune-Review humor columnist. Copyright 2023 Tom Purcell. Distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate.
Groundhog Day cannot come soon enough.
It’s the thick of winter. Cabin fever must be setting in. Incivility is worse than ever.
A delightful, silly diversion is what we need about now, and Punxsutawney Phil has been delivering needed joy this time of year since 1887.
As you know, every Feb. 2, on Groundhog Day, Phil is pulled from a tree stump on Gobbler’s Knob, a few miles outside of downtown Punxsutawney, Pa.
If he sees his shadow, his Inner Circle organizers allege, there will be six more weeks of winter. If he doesn’t, spring will be just around the corner.
Regardless of what Phil proclaims, there will be an abundance of fun surrounding the event.
The Inner Circle, a group of local dignitaries, works hard all year long to make sure of that.
As the legend goes, the Inner Circle president is the only person on Earth who understands Phil’s native language, “Groundhogese.”
At daybreak on Feb. 2, Phil tells the president whether or not he has seen his shadow. The president then directs his vice president to present a paper scroll that shares Phil’s prognostication to the world.
This event has put smiles on thousands of people’s faces for many years, but, with the popularity of the delightful 1993 Bill Murray movie, “Groundhog Day,” it has swelled to attract some 20,000 visitors to the small town every year.
In addition to the festivities on Feb. 2, visitors enjoy a large banquet, a talent show, a dueling-piano contest and a “Groundhog Club” event in which Phil’s fans from all over the world celebrate their love of all things Phil.
Phil’s popularity has led to the establishment of the Punxsutawney Weather Discovery Center, which, this Feb. 2, will induct Phil as the final member of the Weather Discovery Center’s Meteorologist Hall of Fame.
The Center hosts a series of entertaining and educational weather exhibits for children, as well as adults, that helps them learn and explore “tornados, thunderstorms, weather folklore (including our own famous Punxsutawney Phil), precipitation, clouds, the water cycle, weather forecasting technology, lightning, and weather emergency readiness.”
The Center also hosts a variety of field trips and educational events, such as the exploration of the winter season through activities, games and technology.
Their “Snow Day Saturday” lets children immerse themselves in winter-related exhibits, snowy crafts and activities like the “famous snowball fight” — even though that old-fashioned childhood “sport” is probably now illegal in other parts of the country!
All of these wonderful, fun and informative communal events — which have grown out of an innocent and silly bit of folklore — are what we need right now.
They offer an example of human nature at its best — one worth noting in a world surrounded by so many examples of human nature at its worst.
I wish I had planned ahead to attend the events in Punxsutawney this year.
My two-year-old Labrador, Thurber, was born there. (He can’t predict the weather but he sure does have meal times down pat.)
I’ve become good friends with the two terrific “Punxsutawney-ians” whose two beautiful dogs, Sunny and Tank, gave me the best pup I could ever hope for. (See more at ThurbersTail.com.)
The point is, every day, each of us has the choice to be positive or negative, hopeful or dour, kind or rude.
The kind citizens of Punxsutawney have chosen to bring much needed cheerfulness into an increasingly uncheerful world with an enjoyable and upbeat tradition that brings out the best in us all.
When a whole town of people get civility and good humor so right, it’s worth calling attention to their great work!