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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Go hog wild! Plan a Groundhog Day celebration worth repeating

Bill Murray stars in "Groundhog Day" (1993).  (Columbia Pictures)

Thanks to COVID-19, many of us have woken up each day for the last year feeling like Bill Murray in the movie “Groundhog Day.” But Groundhog Day, during which a groundhog predicts the coming weather, is officially celebrated next Tuesday.

As the story goes, each year on Feb. 2, Punxsutawney Phil emerges from his home on Gobbler’s Knob, which is located southeast of Punxsutawney, Pa. If he sees his shadow, we can expect six more weeks of winter. If he doesn’t see his shadow, we will have an early spring.

Whether he sees his shadow is relayed from Phil to a top hat-wearing, tuxedo-clad member of his Inner Circle in “Groundhogese.” The member of the Inner Circle then translates the message and shares Phil’s prediction with the public.

While it’s uncommon to have a full-out Groundhog Day celebration unless you live in Punxsutawney, if 2020 taught us anything, it’s that we have to celebrate the little things. So, though we might be far from the hub of all things Groundhog Day, here are a few ways you can still get into the Groundhog Day spirit.

Watch ‘Groundhog Day’

As if I could start this list any other way. This 1993 film, directed by Harold Ramis and written by Ramis and Danny Rubin, stars Murray as TV weatherman Phil Connors, Andie MacDowell as news producer Rita Hanson and Chris Elliott as Larry the cameraman. After reluctantly reporting on the Groundhog Day festivities in Punxsutawney, Connors awakes the next day to find himself trapped in a time loop during which he experiences Groundhog Day over and over again. While trying to figure out how to end the loop, he runs the gamut from getting arrested to learning a new language. Since its release, “Groundhog Day” has become both a beloved film and a boost to tourism in Punxsutawney and Woodstock, Ill., where the movie was filmed.

Groundhog trivia

Do a bit of Googling and tests your family or friends on groundhog trivia. I’ll get you started: Groundhogs are also called woodchucks and whistlepigs. Groundhogs are the largest member of the squirrel family. A full-grown hedgehog weighs an average of 13 pounds and can eat one-third of its body weight in a day. One groundhog can move as much as 700 pounds of dirt while excavating a burrow, and their burrows can be as long as 66 feet. Also, groundhogs have a top speed of 8 mph.

Read a Groundhog Day book

There are a variety of children’s books centered on Groundhog Day. Browse your favorite local bookstore for these titles: “Gretchen Groundhog, It’s Your Day” by Abby Levine; “Gregory’s Shadow” by Don Freeman; “Punxsutawney Phyllis” by Susanna Leonard Hill; “It’s Groundhog Day” by Steven Kroll; “Substitute Groundhog” by Pat Miller; “Geoffrey Groundhog Predicts the Weather” by Bruce Koscielniak; “Punxsutawney Phil and His Weather Wisdom” by Julia Spencer Moutran; “Groundhog Day!” by Gail Gibbons; “The Night Before Groundhog Day” by Natasha Wing; and “Before Groundhog Day” by Dee Smith.

Go groundhog spotting

Though we don’t have groundhogs in Washington, groundhogs are a type of marmot, which are abundant in Spokane. Put on your mask and bundle up, then take a walk near the Spokane River and see how many marmots you can spot. If you’re not by the river, take a glance near any pile of rocks in your neighborhood. And while they’re not the fastest creature in the world, they can move pretty quickly across an open field or while scrambling into a burrow, so keep your eyes peeled.

Visit Punxsutawney

Not this year, of course, but you can optimistically plan ahead for 2022. In non-COVID-19 times, the city makes sure Groundhog Day is as celebrated as, say, Halloween. There is live music, games and contests, scavenger hunts, crafts, chainsaw carvings, story time for children, a top hat-decorating competition and more. Even if your visit to Punxsutawney doesn’t coincide with Groundhog Day, you’ll still get a taste of the celebration. You can make a point to snap a photo of the many giant groundhog statues in town, each one decorated by a different artist. You can also visit the Gobbler’s Knob Visitor Center and hike around the area.