PORT MATILDA — Sharing festive necklaces, Punxsutawney pencils and groundhog-shaped cookies, Molly Neal brought a touch of Groundhog Day to her daughter's fifth-grade classroom.
The only thing missing was a genuine rodent. The world's most famous groundhog, Phil, will be on the job today when thousands of people descend on Neal's hometown of Punxsutawney for the annual celebration of winter weather prognostication.
But it's not just those who gather at Gobbler's Knob who look forward to Groundhog Day. Neal's daughter and friends got excited about Groundhog Day and her Thursday presentation.
Ever since I told them a month in advance, they started talking about it and looking forward to it, said Neal's daughter, Hope, who helped her mother recount Groundhog Day stories and traditions to her fifth-grade classmates at Gray's Woods Elementary School. It's an annual tradition for Neal, a high school science teacher, to make the presentations to students.
I think they all liked it, said the bespectacled Hope, who wore a headband with a hat and furry ears that resembled a groundhog's.
Several communities around the country also have gone groundhog.
There's Staten Island Chuck, in New York; General Beauregard Lee, in Atlanta; and Wiarton Willie, in Wiarton, Ontario, among others noted by the National Climactic Data Center Groundhog Day Web page.
Punxsutawney can't keep something this big to itself, the Data Center said. Other prognosticating rodents are popping up to claim a piece of the action.
Phil is the original – and the best, Punxsutawney partisans insist.
We welcome them all. We like the competition, said Bill Deeley, president of the Groundhog Club's Inner Circle, which oversees Punxsutawney celebrations every year.