Friday, July 9, 2010

Punxsutawney Groundhog Summer Festival

This week I had the unique pleasure of doing a booksigning during the Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, Groundhog Summer Festival. Punxsutawney is known throughout the country as the home of Punxsutawney Phil, Seer of Seers, Prognosticator of Prognosticators and Weather Prophet Extraordinary. While the most important of Phil's activities occurs on February 2nd each year, when he tells the winter-weary whether or not there will be six more weeks of winter, he's also the host of a family fun festival each year during the week of the Fourth of July.

How, you might wonder, did the Punxsutawney groundhog achieve such fame, appearing on the morning news shows around the country on February 2nd, even inspiring the popular movie GROUNDHOG DAY? The tradition started, as so many Pennsylvania traditions did, with the Pennsylvania Dutch, settlers from Germany and Switzerland who brought their language and customs with them when they settled here. The second of February is Candlemas Day, and tradition says, "For as the sun shines on Candlemas Day, so far will the snow swirl in May." The traditional weather forecaster in Germany was a badger, but since Pennsylvania was lacking in badgers, the settlers used the local groundhog instead, and Phil has been predicting the weather officially since 1887.

We arrived shortly before time for the booksigning to find the town awash in groundhogs. Decorated groundhog statues, groundhog inflatable balloons, groundhog cookies, groundhog beanie babies, groundhog murals...anything that can be turned into a groundhog will be! I was signing at B's Books, a charming shop directly across from the park where the main events were held. The owner had prepared thoroughly for my visit, something which doesn't always happened. She'd been handselling my books and passing out bag stuffers for weeks, and we had a great event. It was such fun to talk to people who enjoy Amish fiction so much and had been looking forward to having their books signed.

We ended the day with a great dinner at a local restaurant--fortunately groundhog wasn't on the menu!

If you'd like to know more about Punsutawney Phil, visit

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