On February 2, 1886, a hibernating woodchuck crawled out of his burrow near Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, didn’t see his shadow—granting an early Spring—and Groundhog Day was born! A year later Clymer H. Freas, editor of The Punxsutawney Spirit newspaper and member of a group of local hunters and businessmen known as the “Punxsutawney Groundhog Club,” dubbed this furry little fellow “Punxsutawney Phil.” Little did Phil know he would be carrying on a tradition known as Imbolc that was started long ago by ancient Celts in Europe.
Nowadays, locals and visitors still flock to Gobbler’s Knob near Punxsutawney, site of the annual ceremony to catch a glimpse of Phil, the now-famous groundhog to see whether or not he will see his shadow. Attendance at the event skyrocketed after the release of the 1993 film Groundhog Day, starring Bill Murray as a TV weatherman assigned to cover the event. As anyone who has seen the film knows, he ends up reliving Groundhog Day over and over and over again.
Groundhog Day film trivia:
- The film was shot in Woodstock, Illinois, not Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania
- Tom Hanks, Chevy Chase, Steve Martin, and John Travolta were all considered for the lead before Bill Murray was cast.
- Bill Murray was bitten twice by the groundhog during filming and needed anti-rabies injections due to the severity of the bites.
- Director Haroldn Ramis states that Bill Murray’s character, Phil, lives Groundhog Day over and over for approximately 10 years in the film.
- The American Film Institute ranked it #8 in the 10 Greatest Films of the Fantasy genre.
- The film received fairly warm critical reception upon release, which only grew over time, with religious groups and others eventually calling it “transcendental.”