Downingtown East High School senior Maya Rylke-Friedman has traveled to Punxsutawney numerous times before to visit her grandmother, Mary Dinger, but her trip there last weekend for Groundhog Day allowed her to cross an item off her bucket list.
Maya went on the trip with her mother, Leslie Rylke, who grew up in Punxsy, and friends Kayla Christopher, Ethan Reiland, and Jake Ulmer. They were joined by former Downingtown resident Leah Lurie, who flew up from her new home in Lakewood Ranch, Fla., to join the adventure.
Upon arriving in the Weather Capital of the World on Saturday afternoon, the group jumped right into the festivities by exploring the downtown area that was full of vendors, activities, and people. A highlight was a trip to the library to visit Punxsutawney Phil’s burrow, where he spends all his non-Groundhog Day days, and taking photos with several of the 32 various “Phantastic Phil” statues throughout the borough of roughly 5,700 residents.
On 4:30 AM Sunday morning, while donning groundhog gear purchased the day before, the teens made the trek up to Gobbler’s Knob to join thousands who were entertained with various performing acts, a talent show, and even pre-dawn fireworks.
Around 7:15 AM, the members of the Groundhog Inner Circle, dressed in their signature top hats and tuxes, pulled Phil from his temporary burrow. They asked him in “grounhogese” whether or not he saw his shadow. His response was on a scroll that read, “now my forecast on a day that’s a palindrome will cause some to cheer and some to moan. So, do I hope you think it’s neighborly, for there is no shadow of me, spring it’ll be early, it’s a certainty!”
With Phil’s words, the crowd began to disperse.
“The groundhog’s optimistic prediction filled me with the warmth I needed to hike through a cornfield in the cold,” said Leah. “Luckily, the walk was all downhill, and I was with great friends.”
“I think everyone should visit Punxsutawney at least once to experience Groundhog Day,” said Maya. “And this year was extra special because it was 02-02-2020!”