The mood in Punxsutawney was jubilant during the freezing cold moments before the sun was set to rise on the special day.
Revelers, wrapped in layers, their morning brews’ steam rising like white ribbons into the cold black sky, huddled together in frenziful anticipation.
“I think it’s going to be an early spring!” Walt Goodman of Steubenville said boisterously as he stood next to his wife Myrtle and their 2 children.
“Oh Walter,” his wife said, lightly punching him. “You always have such a head for knowing.”
Their kids took seconds away from their phone screens to roll their eyes.
The rest of the crowd chattered similarly as the line up of entertainment performed on a stage next to the ornately decorated sacred hole in the ground. A colonial drum line, a band of mimes, the Punxsutawney Elementary School’s 5th grade choir and the headliner–a Lee Greenwood impersonator from nearby Anita Pennsylvania.
As the last seconds of night ticked away, the sky over the party filled with fireworks. While the humans oohed and ahhed, every woodland creature within a 10 mile radius stirred in his or her sleep and then hunkered deeper down inside their burrows.
Except for one.
Phil finished brushing his giant buck teeth and then smiled in the mirror to see how he looked.
Awesome as usual.
He turned and pulled on his new military style jacket, applied a coating of Chapstick to his lips, slid on his John Lennon spectacles, and then headed to the door of his subterranean home.
This was it. His annual big moment. This year he was adding a little surprise for all the ding-dong humans who liked to pretend that he had any supernatural meteorological powers to predict the seasonal future.
Phil sighed, took one last gulp of his coffee, picked up the rolled-up poster board resting up against his dirt wall, and headed up the stairs.
He waited as he listened to the congregation of local officials making their speeches. Would it be 6 more weeks of winter? An early spring?
After Brother Carl of the Punxsutawney Baptist Tabernacle finished his prayer for warmer weather, the sun peeked over the horizon and Phil took his cue.
The crowd stood silent as he popped his groundhog head out. Usually the men grabbed him up and showed him off. But not this time.
Phil climbed out of the hole, stood up on his little groundhog legs, unraveled the poster board and held it up for all the crowd to see.
Punxsutawney Phil hoisted a homemade sign that read:
Love Trumps Hate
Flashbulbs went off by the millions as the celebrity critter flashed a toothy grin and the peace sign. News crews from all around the globe went crazy.
The gathered crowd cheered. A few of them booed.
And as Punxsutawney Phil rolled up his poster and headed back down into his home, hundreds of miles away in the nation’s capital, the president of the United States turned his attention away from his television screen and pressed his tiny finger once again against his well-worn Twitter app.