Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Punxsutawney Phil

So my friend Val is an avid fan of nature, especially bugs, turtles, and fluffy animals.  I usually explain to people about where I'm from using Punxsutawney as a landmark, and when Val heard this, she began plotting to convince me to go to Groundhog Day with her.

I'm not a big fan of Punxy, because all of the roads to get there will make you carsick at the end. And if you don't actually throw up, you'll be all pasty and sweaty and have to lie down and think stationary thoughts for a good fifteen minutes before you can function even at a low level.

In the end, Val's convincing, and the possibility of getting some of the World's Best Pizza, meant that we rented a car and headed off for the Wilds of Pennsylvania.  Here she is, at Sheetz (amazing, and sadly unavailable in Philadelphia), with an MTO and a Groundhog Day card my Mum sent.
We arrived at the family homestead before midnight.  I slept wonderfully, despite Mum's weirdly shaped pillow (or perhaps because of).  But Val, who stayed in my old room, was freaked out by the dark and quiet of the county, had an apparently uneasy night.  City folk.

Up and about around 5:00, tea and groundhog cookies consumed shortly afterwards, we bundled up and headed to Punxy.

I was (and am) super proud of myself for getting to Punxy without directions, not having been for probably over ten years!  That's what happens when your Mum drags you and the Lil'Bro there every week of every summer for years and years.  Apart from never getting over the carsickness, the route does get impressed upon you.

We parked downtown next to the McDonalds and hopped a school bus shuttle up the Gobbler's Knob.

Approaching Gobbler's Knob, around 7:00 in the morning.
Bonfire, on the outskirts of the crowd.
No idea where this dude came from.
Apparently security was extra-tight this year, because PA Governor Tom Corbet (Space Cadet) was coming to Punxy for the event.  I did see a man dressed inappropriately in a gray suit, but it wasn't him.

All of my photos of the actual extraction are really blurry because it was dark and I refuse to use a flash.  And there was some lady directly in my way to was taking picture with what I swear was an entire iPad.
The proclamation:

Hear Ye Hear Ye Hear Ye!
On Gobbler's Knob on this magnificent Groundhog Day, February 2nd, 2012, Punxsutawney Phil, the Seer of Seers, Prognosticator of all Prognosticators, was summoned from his burrow in the old oak stump by the tap of President Bill Deeley.

At 7:25 a.m. he greeted his handlers, John Griffiths and Ron Ploucha. After casting an appreciative glance toward thousands of his faithful followers, Phil proclaimed:

As I look at the crowd on Gobbler's Knob,
Many shadows do I see
So six more weeks of winter it must be!

It was actually really nice, for the crack of dawn in February in Western PA.  Not freezing, not snowing, and minimal drunk college kids in for the day.

After the forecast, and after the news teams get photos of Phil and the Inner Circle, Phil gets put in a large plastic cylinder and people process up onto the stage to get their photos taken with him.

This Phil seems to be a relatively newer reincarnation.  He's little and busy, he was jumping up in the Groundhog Cylinder and scrabbling around in the wood shavings.  My favorite part of this photo is the dude with the giant-eyed groundhog hat in the background.
The sign to Gobbler's Knob, after the sun had risen.
Only a fraction of the buses used to shuttle people.  This is why the Punxy school district has the day off: the kids couldn't be shipped to school in the morning.
Downtown Punxy.  Also - I was disparing of seeing anyone I knew in Punxy, because people who are local are kind of 'whatever' about it.  However!  I did run into the Foulkrods (being parents of Amberly and Mr. F. being my old French/English teacher).  So I was super-excited about that.
Pancake breakfast at the Punxy Salvation Army, souvenirs purchased, we headed to the little square by the library.  

There is a groundhog habitat in the library, in case you didn't already know where Phil lives during the off-season.  (It's pictured in the back, behind Val).
And Barney and Philomena were out and busy, walking around and eating vegetables!  They both looked so nice and fluffy.
Val was like, "Barney and Philomena?"  And I was all, "Philomena is Phil's wife, and Barney is Phil's cousin.  It's all in the book.  I grew up around here, trust me."
This more sinister Groundhog was lurking outside the library. 
This was one of the most interesting things going on in the park: the welding classes from Jeff Tech were having a metal sculpture competition!  (I know these things because I talked to an adjunct faculty member about it, who was supervising.)  It was really cool.  The students are split into two teams, they pick a team leader, and start designing their sculpture in the fall.  After the design is finalized and various schematics made, they have to present everything to the school board.  Supposing the board approves the plan, they start gathering materials and assembling smaller components.  On February 2nd, the get to Punxy and start building!
The sculptures are judged by the Inner Circle, and (the winner or both, this was unclear) are later placed in a growing sculpture garden up at Gobbler's Knob!
Three kettle corn trucks in the park, with nary a funnel cake truck in sight.  I opted for the haluski.  My familys' ethnic background does not include haluski, so it's always a treat to eat some (and it's always better from a truck)!
Chainsaw Sculpture - This is Man's Art.  And Western Pennsylvania is know for its chainsaw sculptors.  All groundhogs, in the spirit of the day.

This is how you color the groundhogs, by toasting their outsides with a giant torch.  And no, it's not actually so cold that you can see the guy's breath.  He's smoking while running the giant torch.
Ice sculpting groundhogs too.
Val was all about this burn-down building, because prior to our visit, she was on some website - the Chamber of Commerce or the Punxy Spirit - and was amazing that an article said, "The Punxy Hotel burned down to the ground!"  Apparently she is unused to such dramatic news.  It was an accurate assessment though.  
I told Mum about it over the phone and she solemnly replied, "Punxy has a history of arson.  Be careful, there are a bunch of weirdos in that town."

Miss Havisham lives here.  Next to the bowling alley.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Winter Winterthur

I went to Winterthur for a day in mid/early January, as a guest lecturer for the WUDPAC program.  It's always nice to visit the grounds, and I had a sunny snow-free day to do so.
Part of the house/mansion.
Even toddler-cupids get cold too.

This winter has been so lame.  Maybe it's that year in Canada talking, but if it's not going to snow, I don't even want to bother with winter.  January 12, and the snowdrop were already up.