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5 ways to find value in Groundhog Day

January 31, 2014 -  By

On Sunday thousands of fans will descend toward a stage tucked away in a seemingly hidden valley to celebrate one of America’s oldest pastimes.

No, it’s not the Super Bowl. Groundhog Day warrants a couple headlines this weekend, too, you know.

Tomorrow marks the 128nd gathering at Gobbler’s Knob—or “the knob” as Punxsutawney, Pa., natives call it. It’s the residing place of the Podunk’s pride and joy: Punxsutawney Phil, unarguably the most admired weathercaster in the nation (“Anchorman” fans, send my regrets to Brick Tamland).

Last year, my best friend and I were dots in the crowd of quirky tourists and die-hard attendees who congregated to see the groundhog’s prediction in real-time.

]Yes, we really drove five hours to see the great Punxsutawney Phil. (I’ve provided photographic evidence to set  straight those of you who seek to call my bluff.) And by the end of the celebration, we had drank the, err, Kool-Aid, and sung the praises of the holiday with the locals.

But before detailing that escapade, it’s important to smooth out the greatest confusion attached to Groundhog Day: If Punxsutawney Phil sees his shadow, there will be six more weeks of winter and if he does not, there will be an early spring. For more on the legend, reference the FAQ page of Groundhog Day’s official website.

Deciding somewhat last minute to attend the jamboree, all the hotels in “downtown” Punxsutawney were sold out by the time we wanted to make reservations—admittedly, there were slim pickings. We settled to stay just the night before Phil’s predication at a rickety inn about 20 minutes from town.

Awakening about 3 a.m., we soon realized we had a late start compared to the experienced knob-goers. For example, lines for the shuttle busses—the only form of transportation to the knob—were so long we pulled up right at sunrise. This, we decided, was perfect timing, though, because we also had underdressed. Most attendees were in full-on snowmobile gear or Carhartt coveralls, with the exception of an Englishman wearing a full-body Winnie the Pooh Halloween costume. We later discovered most donned Groundhog Day attire under their warm-weather garments.

Due to our late arrival and the massive crowd, more specifically the massively drunken crowd (hey, they had to find some way to stay warm), Phil’s prediction was a little anticlimactic. His tall-hatted handlers pulled him from a stump and declared he saw no shadow. Everyone cheered for an early spring and quickly returned to the town square for the after party, an after party that was unexpected to us.

Bars were filled wall-to-wall; the town’s groundhog statues were getting plenty of attention; and there were souvenirs galore. After a few rounds of drinks with a trio of Chicagoans, I ended up leaving Punxsutawney owning a piece of Groundhog Day clothing myself: A sweatshirt. Now, I’ll look like less of a newcomer and more like an experienced participant next time around.

To get back to the headline: As a seasoned partaker of Groundhog Day, I provide five ways for you, landscape professionals, to find value in the holiday, too:

1. Phil’s forecasts are 39 percent accurate. To be blunt, they’re normally wrong. Thus you usually can rely on his prediction to brighten your outlook if you’re displeased by the forecast from your usual outlet—Farmer’s Almanac, the Weather Channel, what have you.

2. If Phil does see his shadow, those of you in warmer regions will continue having a wider product selection from national suppliers—seed, fertilizers, etc.—since those in colder climates can’t get back to regular business.

3. Meanwhile, those of you in colder regions can expect to resume banking on snow removal services if Phil sees his shadow. Or you can take the winter weeks to continue enjoying some downtime and drinking your own form of Kool-Aid at your leisure.

4. This may only be applicable for 2014: If you’re not a football fan, jump on the Groundhog Day bandwagon instead. It’s a once-a-year commitment and much less stressful. If you are a football fan who’s attending the Super Bowl, reference No. 1.

5. As a landscape professional—let alone a business owner—your job is timely and demanding. Use Groundhog Day as an excuse for you and your employees to take a day off. You could even use that vacation day to take your family to the knob, although I advise going with your closest buddies instead. Feel free to contact me if you want to know where to get your kid the best souvenir.

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About the Author:

Former Associate Editor Sarah Pfledderer is a West Coast-based contributing editor for Landscape Management.

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