Did the German settlers in Pennsylvania have any idea of the impact their localized celebration of Candelmas day would have on their community? Probably not. They selected a groundhog to help celebrate their homeland’s lore: “For as the sun shines on Candelmas day, so far will the snow swirl in May…”
Punxsutawney held its first Groundhog Day in the 1800’s. The first official trek to Gobbler’s Knob was made on February 2nd, 1887. These days, it’s attended by an enormous crowd, and there is a live video feed and a satellite up-link!
People love celebrations. And, if you pair that with the hope that they might escape of few days of winter’s doldrums, they’re in!
I suspect that this year, with the frigid temperatures and icy roads from up north to the deep south, there will be many more people tuning in to find out if Punxsutawney Phil sees his shadow. Everyone will hope it’s a cloudy day.
So what are the communication lessons here (since this is a communication blog)? There are several, believe it or not.
1) It helps to find a time of year that is not already full of activity to plan a new event.
2) Build in some suspense.
3) Give it time to catch on. If it’s something worth doing, people will find out about it.
4) Don’t take yourself too seriously. People love a good fable and an excuse to do the ridiculous, such as wearing top hats out in the cold for hours!
5) Incorporate animals in some way if you can.
6) Capitalize on it every opportunity you get. Punxsutawney is now a destination throughout the year.
As for me, I’m setting my clock so I can watch online as Phil leaves his burrow at 7:20 a.m. February 2nd at Gobblers Knob. I’ll have my rabbit’s foot nearby, my fingers crossed and a big mug of hot cocoa to keep me warm in hopes of a declaration of an early spring.
Happy Groundhog Day!!