PUNXSUTAWNEY, Pa. (AP) — It happens every winter, captivates the nation and leaves a lot of fans disappointed, and this year it’s occurring for the first time on Super Bowl Sunday.
Organizers expect about 20,000 revelers to attend the early Sunday morning event in western Pennsylvania, to see whether a prognosticating marmot will forecast an early spring.
The odds favor Punxsutawney Phil seeing his shadow at Gobbler’s Knob and predicting another six weeks of winter. Organizers say that Phil has now seen his shadow 100 times and hasn’t seen it just 17 times, according to the Groundhog Club’s Inner Circle, the top-hatted gents who handle the animal and translate his forecast. There are no records from many of the early years.
Katie Donald, executive director of the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club, said she doesn’t think the big game will steal Phil’s show.
“We really don’t think it will be too much of a factor for us because Phil does his prognostication so early in the morning and people have all day to get to wherever they’re going to watch it that evening,” McDonald said.
The closest the game previously came to coinciding with Groundhog Day was in 2009, when the just-down-the-road Pittsburgh Steelers defeated the Arizona Cardinals 27-23 in the Super Bowl, the night before Phil’s forecast.
Sunday night’s game featuring the Seattle Seahawks and Denver Broncos at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J., will be the Super Bowl’s 48th installment, while Phil has been predicting the weather since 1886.
Legend has it that if the animal sees his shadow, winter will last for six weeks. If cloudy conditions prevent the animal from seeing his shadow, an early spring is forecast.
The folksy celebration typically attracts about 10,000 revelers when it falls on a weekday, but organizers expect twice as many to attend the weekend event. Groundhog-related festivities began Friday in the borough about 65 miles northeast of Pittsburgh and have continued all weekend.
The tradition is rooted in a German superstition that says if a hibernating animal casts a shadow on Feb. 2, the Christian holiday of Candlemas, winter will last six more weeks.
The National Weather Service is forecasting rain and snow with temperatures in the mid-30s around the time Phil emerges for his prediction.
Last year, a prosecutor from neighboring Ohio light-heartedly filed a criminal indictment against Phil for fraudulently predicting an early spring.
Phil’s handlers, the Inner Circle, took the blame, saying they mistranslated his forecast, so the prosecutor relented with a pardon. In actuality, the forecast is about as real as Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy; the Inner Circle conjures up the prediction in advance and only pretends to receive it from the animal.