“Every time Buffalo gets its hands on something they turn it into some massive good time for everyone.”
We sat down with an unnamed official from Punxsatawney PA Mayor Richard Alexander’s office to talk about their infamous traditions, and new celebration in Buffalo that has stolen all the thunder from their small town.
“This day was, without a doubt, the greatest thing our town had going for it. In 1887 when we got started, I tell you what, this town was jumping! Hard to keep the fur trappers from licking their chops every time we brought out old Phil! Haha…. oh… Phil.”
“The event progressed. We knew winter was long and harsh and we needed a reason to get outside and celebrate something. We started lighting some fires and somewhere along the way, people started calling it the World’s Largest Bonfire! Well, you know it was just in a garbage can. Still is today! But we let that rumor run wild.”
“We love getting the visitors into town. By God if Bill Murray didn’t give this thing a big old boost with his motion picture back in ’93. Since then, we get so many people coming into town, asking where to go, we decided to provide a shuttle! We pick them up in the parking lot away from the center of town, and get them out to old Gobbler’s Knob right away. By this time, they’re so excited they don’t seem to care about the fire not being good for much more than warming your hands. They see 30,000 people out on that hill and think – we’ve made it to heaven!”
“But here’s the trick, as soon as old Phil comes out, that’s it! Show’s over! And all these people are saying, ‘Well what do we do now? We drove all this way.’ And that’s when my solution came in – and I got a promotion for this one – we have them get dropped off by the shuttle in the center of town, away far from their cars, and we drop ’em right in front of McDonald’s! It’s the place to be! My old boss just loved the idea.”
“Once they warm up with a couple items off the dollar menu, it’s off to the races! Every store in town is selling a whole lotta stuff we had shipped in here all the way from China! Hats. Frisbees! T shirts! Phil! Phil! They love it.”
We spoke to a visitor from Cleveland in 2018 who said he’d been duped.
“We packed up the car and drove overnight thinking 30,000 people can’t be wrong. They were. We were. After we got kidnapped by that shuttle and dumped by McD’s, we started looking for a bar or something, figuring we’d find someone out there actually celebrating this ridiculous tradition, but the only booze we found was in our flasks.”
The official offered a defense, “Well if you were looking for a party that matched the hype, you came to the wrong place. We do fireworks sometimes, and we still wear the top hats. What else do you want from us?”
Six years ago, something started to happen here in Buffalo that sent a shiver down the spines of the folks in Punxsatawney. A small gathering in Allentown saw a groundhog named Buffalo Mack climb out of the trunk of a Jeep and declare the inevitable, six more weeks of winter, to the cheers and jeers of befuddled onlookers standing by.
Since then, the event has been moved to Flying Bison Brewery, includes polka bands, ice sculptures, outdoor beer gardens, food trucks, and a birth! Buffalo Mack, a female, gave birth to a live groundhog in early 2018 named Buffalo Bert. From dozens, to hundreds, to thousands of attendees in such a short time, this Buffalo celebration put its hype to good use, raising money for the Hawk Creek Wildlife Center outside of the city.
“Yeah. We heard about Buffalo. We heard about it in 2015 once they started gaining some momentum. Surprised they’re not smashing through a bunch of folding tables up there. Can’t believe everything you see on the news, ya know. We’ve still got some tricks up our sleeve down here.”
Last year, we spoke with some visitors who had arrived from Detroit.
“We google’d Groundhog Day parties and page 1 and 2 of the search results showed this bash here in Buffalo. If I wanted to go shiver on a hill sober and go home, I guess I could have driven to PA, but this party rules. Between the five of us who drove in, we’ve already tried every offering Flying Bison has, and ate from each food truck, and we can confidently declare this to be the best Groundhog Day party in the country.”
Well, you’ve heard from Punxsatawney, from Buffalo, from Cleveland and Detroit. Buffalo now owns the crown on this event. However, the Punxsatawney official added they were working on bringing a Pizza Hut into town, and considering adding a second garbage can fire, so you just never know.