Hangin' with Phil, sort of... Some of the Ada entourage 'phraming' Phil, or a sort of reasonable, but bigger and shinier facsimile thereof, were (left to right): Julie Graubard, Lynne Scott, Lilly Graubard, Liza Vogt and Josh Klein.
Hangin' with Phil, sort of... Some of the Ada entourage 'phraming' Phil, or a sort of reasonable, but bigger and shinier facsimile thereof, were (left to right): Julie Graubard, Lynne Scott, Lilly Graubard, Liza Vogt and Josh Klein. (photo submitted)

ADA — Groundhog Groupies!

After some stealth investigative journalism, I have discovered an underground (pun intended) cult — okay, it might be more like a “fan club” — right here in Ada, Ohio.

Besides regular clandestine meetings, which I infiltrated, these “Worshipers of the Groundhog” make a yearly visit to none other than the ‘Groundhog Capital of the World,’ Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania (pop. 5,778 + Phil).

They go for Groundhog’s Day, Feb. 2.

This year five of these village groundhog groupies, including Ada High School math teacher Josh Klein, traveled east.

Josh said they got to Punxsutawney the night of Feb. 1, got some motel rooms (which wasn’t easy), and arose at (Are you ready for this?) 3:30 a.m.! They got dressed, drove to a Punxsutawney shopping plaza parking lot, and they were then picked up by a school bus (the kids in this area are off this day every year), and driven up Gobbler’s Knob.

But no, not for turkeys. But rather, for: Phil.

“Punxsutawney Phil.” Josh said there were already a good number of people atop Gobbler’s Knob when they arrived at 5:15, some had even stayed in tents overnight.

There was a stage with music.

“Phil Phireworks” followed.

And then, Phil himself (or itself?) emerged.

At 6:42 a.m., every year on this day, Phil emerges from his hole to see his shadow, or not.

If he sees his shadow, we’re in for six more weeks of winter weather. (Who needs high-tech weather satellites, huh.) If he doesn’t see his shadow, it means it’s cloudy. (Sorry.)

Now Josh, being the analytical sort (given he teaches high school calculus and all), wasn’t, oh, sold on all the explanations he was hearing this day. This had been his first Punxsutawney trip.

For one, this event has been going on since 1887 with the same “Phil.” Even though the life span of your average groundhog is about 12 years – sans a predator. Doing the ‘math,’ Josh estimated that should have been 17.3 Phil’s so far.

But, rather, it was explained this one Phil is given a “secret potion” that will make him live forever. (This is part of what has attracted the cult following.)

Then, well, how exactly does Phil communicate once he’s seen his shadow, or not?

Easy.

The president of the Punxsutawney “Inner Circle” (think: Groundhog Illuminati) is able to speak groundhougese (okay, not a word according to my spell check) through his/her possession of an ancient acacia wood cane.

Uh… well okay, maybe.

Bottom line, said Josh, is “Phil’s phaithful phollowers” (and the Punxsutawney Chamber of Commerce) believe.

While many (including myself) ‘believed’ Phil lived in that hole on Gobler’s Knob year round (spoiler’s alert), he, and his wife Phyllis – I’M NOT MAKING THAT UP! – actually live the other 364 days in a pretty tricked out, temperature-controlled, big glass terrarium at the Town Hall. It’s actually called: Phil’s Burrow.

Josh & Co. saw this on the Town Tour after the event.

Josh, who was wearing a groundhog ceremonial top hat – “Yeah, I thought it was pretty silly, until I saw everyone else wearing ‘groundhog’ hats’ too” he smiled. – said Punxsutawney is literally “…all things groundhog.”

Josh said that like Lexington, Kentucky has “painted horse” sculptures on many downtown corners, and Cincinnati has “flying pigs,” Punxsutawney, of course, has big, groundhog sculptures on most downtown corners. (The ‘Golden Groundhog’ on the town square is made out of melted jewelry from the cult followers, sorry phollowers.)

And as if all this groundhog gravitas (or non-gravitas depending on whether you’re a ‘phollower’ or not) isn’t enough, there is even a beer at the Punxsutawney Pub with the name: “Punxsutawney Phillsner.” Which, apparently, EVERYONE in Punxsutawney is drinking a little too much of.

Note: Not to be outdone, but frankly they are, Ohio also boasts a famous groundhog that does, practically, the same Feb. 2 gig at 6:42 a.m. in Marion, Ohio, every year. His name: “Buckeye Chuck.” (I’M NOT MAKING THIS UP, EITHER. GOOGLE IT!) What’s more, like Phil (I forgot to mention this) Chuck didn’t see his shadow this year as well – meaning the rest of the winter should be relatively mild.

Although to quote actor Bill Murray in the famous Groundhog’s Day movie (that actually put Punxsutawney – but not Marion – on the map): “Harry little rodents don’t tell the weather.”

Just don’t tell Phil’s phollowers that.