Phil the groundhog sees six more weeks of winter

Mon Feb 2, 2009 2:50pm EST
 
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By Jon Hurdle

PUNXSUTAWNEY, Pennsylvania (Reuters) - America's most famous groundhog declared on Monday that the country will have six more weeks of winter.

Punxsutawney Phil, the latest in a line of rodents that have been "prognosticating" on the length of winter for 123 years, saw his shadow in the morning -- considered an omen of how long winter will last.

In keeping with tradition in this western Pennsylvania town, the groundhog ceremonially emerged from his "burrow" -- actually a box set into a tree stump -- and communicated his prediction to Bill Cooper, a top-hatted town elder who claims to be the only person in the world to speak "Groundhogese."

The event, based on the festival of Candlemas, was made famous by the 1993 movie "Groundhog Day" starring Bill Murray, which was based in Punxsutawney. Town leaders spend about $30,000 on Groundhog Day each year, hoping to maintain Phil's status as the benchmark groundhog forecaster.

Jeff Grube, one of the organizers, said Groundhog Day helps distract him from concerns about his industrial coatings business in the recession and financial crisis.

"People are in a good mood," he said. "It's just good fun."

Hugh and Marirose Dirstine came from Los Angeles to celebrate their 35th wedding anniversary on their first trip to Groundhog Day, saying they were inspired by the movie.

"It's just part of America," said Marirose, a teacher.   Continued...

 
<p>Official groundhog handlers Ben Hughes (L) and John Griffiths (R) look at weather prognosticating groundhog Punxsutawney Phil makes his annual prediction on Gobbler's Knob in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, on the 123rd Groundhog Day, February 2, 2009. Phil saw his shadow, predicting six more weeks of winter. REUTERS/Jason Cohn</p>