A tale of two groundhogs

Story posted March 23, 2014 in News, Best of CommMedia by Kirsten Appleton, Mike Bordick, Hannah Bressi, Maria Bryant, Abigail Johnson and Noelle Mateer

A Tale Of Two Groundhogs

It takes something special to get thousands of people to stand outside before sunrise on a frigid early Feb. 2 morning in Pennsylvania.

But a rodent?

Groundhog Day is legend in lots of places, but nowhere is it bigger than in Pennsylvania. Folklore has it that, shortly after sunrise, if the groundhog sees its shadow, there will be six more weeks of winter.

North of Pittsburgh, in Punxsutawney, Pa., population 5,904, Groundhog Day fuels the town economy. The 1993 film Groundhog Day, which starred Bill Murray as the arrogant television weatherman, Phil, was set here. And if you type “Punxsutawney” into Google, the first result you get is Groundhog.org. More than 30 groundhog-themed statues line the town’s streets.

UHVueHN1dGF3bmV5IGFuZCBRdWFycnl2aWxsZSBhcmUgMjE3IG1pbGVzIGFwYXJ0LiA=It turns out, though, that Punxsutawney Phil, the furry four-legged star of the show, has a rival in the eastern part of the state. Octoraro Orphie, a stuffed groundhog that is attached to a wooden base, has been predicting the weather in Quarryville, Pa., population 2,638, for more than 100 years.

“They get some publicity,” said Bob Roberts, officially Phil’s “Protector.” “But they don’t get anything like we do.”

According to members of Quarryville’s Slumbering Groundhog Lodge, that’s not the point. The Lodge prides itself on family traditions and friendships.

“I grew up around this,” said Ethan Mylin, 35, whose father, brother, great-uncle and uncle are all Lodge members. “It’s sort of a family thing.”

Depending on the day of the week and the weather, Quarryville’s Groundhog Day festivities can draw anywhere from 200 to 400 people, not like Punxsutawney where the crowds can number tens of thousands. Community members gather for parades, speeches and skits.

And beer. Lots of it.

In both Quarryville and Punxsutawney, many rise early and soon have a drink in hand.

“It’s the party, there’s no question,” said Jim Cantore, possibly the most recognizable face from the Weather Channel who broadcasts live from Punxsutawney each year.

The two celebrations resemble each other in early-morning antics, festive atmospheres, goofy names (Phil prognosticates from Gobbler’s Knob)—and serve as a way to break up the monotony of a Pennsylvania winter.

“It’s a great way to spend a bleary time of the year,” said Pat Newswanger, a member of the Slumbering Groundhog Lodge since the 1970s.

But perhaps Al Donst, a die-hard Punxsutawney Groundhog Day fan from Belvedere, N.J., said it best: “It’s a whole bunch of fun about absolutely nothing.”

~ text by Noelle Mateer


About the Contributors

Maria Bryant's photo

Maria Bryant

Senior / Broadcast Journalism and Spanish

She is a producer and reporter of the Centre County Report and a student in the International Reporting class that will be traveed to Cuba in March. She is also interning WPSU-FM. Maria works for The Daily Collegian as a multimedia and print reporter, and is a former producer for ComRadio News.

Maria has previously interned at the Courier News, A Gannett Company Newspaper, in New Jersey and at the Ryan Seacrest Foundation at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.

Noelle Mateer's photo

Noelle Mateer

Senior / Print Journalism and French

Noelle studies both print and multimedia journalism. She spent her junior year in Southern France and will travel to Cuba this spring with the College of Comm’s international reporting class. As you may have guessed, she hopes to work in an international setting. She plans on moving to East Asia upon graduation.

Abigail Johnson's photo

Abigail Johnson

Senior / Visual Journalism / Anthropology

Abigail Johnson is a Penn State senior majoring in visual journalism and anthropology. She is currently working as a communications intern for Penn State Institutes of Energy and the Environment. In this position she produces stories and outreach materials highlighting research being done at Penn State. Abigail has studied abroad in both Australia and South Africa, focusing primarily upon human-environment interactions in protected areas. After she graduates in May 2014, she hopes to pursue a career in digital storytelling.

Hannah Byrne's photo

Hannah Byrne

Senior / Photojournalism

Interested in creating engaging stories through multimedia.  Projects completed include Groundhog Day and covering the 2014 Croke Park Classic.

Michael Bordick's photo

Michael Bordick

Senior / Visual Journalism

Michael Bordick is a senior visual journalism major.