Groundhog Day 2019: Early spring ahead as Punxsutawney Phil does not see his shadow

Punxsutawney Phil did not see his shadow for the first time since 2016 on Saturday morning, heralding an early spring, during the 133rd annual Groundhog Day festivities in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania.

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A large crowd braved 10-degree temperatures at Gobbler's Knob on Saturday to witness a tradition that began in 1887. Through the years, Phil has endeared himself to crowds annually on Feb. 2, usually at 7:25 a.m. According to the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club, Phil appeared on "Today" (1952), visited President Ronald Reagan a month after his 1986 prediction and was a guest on Oprah Winfrey's television show in 1995.

According to the club's records, Phil has seen his shadow 103 times and did not see it 19 times. There are no records for nine years (1889, 1891-97), and Phil did not make an appearance in 1943 during the height of World War II.

Groundhog Day remains a popular tradition in the United States and Canada, and in Pennsylvania a crowd gathered to await sunrise and the groundhog’s exit from his winter den. According to legend, if Punxsutawney Phil sees his shadow, he considers it an omen of six more weeks of bad weather, gets scared and returns to his den. However, if the groundhog does not see his shadow, it is a sign that a early spring is imminent. When that is the case, Phil stays aboveground.

Saturday morning’s festivities began at 6 a.m. with music on the stage in the city that calls itself the “Weather Capital of the World.” Strains of “Long Tall Sally” and “Dance to the Music” led off the program, followed by a mixture of bluegrass and rock ‘n’ roll standards, and even a barbershop quartet.

In front of 18,000 fans, Phil saw his shadow in 2018, marking the second straight year the rodent predicted six more weeks of winter.

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