Groundhog Day 2012: Why is Punxsutawney Phil top groundhog?


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Groundhog Day 2012 news coverage proves it: That Punxsutawney Phil sure has a great P.R. agent.

There are literally dozens -- dozens! -- of prognosticating marmots pressed into duty Thursday on what is undoubtedly one of the world’s wackiest holidays. There’s Staten Island Chuck, famous for biting New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. There’s Woodstock Willie in Woodstock, Ill. There’s Georgia’s most famous groundhog, General Beauregard Lee. To the north, there’s Alberta’s Balzac Billy and Ontario’s Wiarton Willie... We could go on, but you get the idea.


So why does that Punxsutawney Phil always seem to get top billing? After all, you don’t see Sir Walter Wally of Raleigh, N.C., as the No. 1 single most searched for term on Google today, do you?

No, that remarkable perch is held by none other than Punxsutawney Phil.

That’s because he’s the first -- and he’s got Hollywood cred.

The rest are just imitators.

Punxsutawney has been at this for 126 years, if the Inner Circle of Punxsutawey, Pa., is to be believed. And we’d just as well. The members, who are partial to top hats, snappy ties and long formal coats, proclaim themselves to be the official handlers and translaters for Puxsutawney Phil himself.

(One question they always get: How can Punxsutawney Phil live so long? Suffice it to say that the answer involves a magic potion. And try not to think about it too much.)

But there’s more. Punxsutawney Phil also has the support of Hollywood.

He’s the furry star of the beloved 1993 comedy classic ‘Groundhog Day,’ along with Bill Murray and Andie MacDowell. Murray plays a full-of-himself journalist who is none-too-happy about an assignment covering Punxsutawney Phil weather prediction on Groundhog Day. Punxsutawney Phil gets his revenge at the slight: Murray finds himself reliving Groundhog Day over and over again until he gets it right.

The film title has also become part of the national lexicon, a shorthand reference for drudgery that just won’t quit.

The movie is set in Punxsutawney, Pa., although the shoot actually took place in Woodstock, Ill., because filmmaker Harold Ramis was besotted with that community’s town square. It serves as the centerpiece for all the action.

Come to think of it, Punxsutawney Phil must have a heck of a talent manager as well as a PR agent.


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-- Rene Lynch
Twitter / renelynch