Pennsylvania- Not the Groundhog Capital of the World?
For many of us,Groundhog Day is synonymous with Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania. For some though, Groundhog Day is a Wisconsin tradition.
While the eyes of America focus on the shadow of Punxsutawney Phil, residents of Sun Prairie, Wisconsin will be eyeing the 64th annual prognostication of Jimmy the Groundhog.
For nearly 60 years, Sun Prairie citizens have been proclaiming their town, "The Groundhog Capital of the World." Certainly, this 'claim to fame' is a fine rallying point of pride for the town, but the origins of the claim are truly a story to be told.
Groundhog Day festivities in Sun Prairie began in 1948, when Wisconsin celebrated its centennial and an artist sought to bring the state together for the occasion. Ira Bennett, a commercial artist from Eau Claire and his young son created a series of commemorative post cards, relating Wisconsin locations to holidays throughout the year. For example, Independence, Wisconsin corresponded with July 4th; Port Washington, Wisconsin was picked for Washington's Birthday, you get it.
Sun Prairie was chosen to be connected to Groundhog Day because it was decided that the groundhog sees his shadow when the sun comes up on the prairie, thus, Sun Prairie.
The postmaster of Sun Prairie at the time was Margaret McGonigle, a lifelong resident, who wasted no time asking the artist for permission to use the idea in further promotion of Sun Prairie.
The artist gave her permission, and the idea was certainly taken further. It was not long before the Sun Prairie Groundhog Club was organized, individuals born in February 2nd were eligible to be groundhogs and people born on other February days were designated to be woodchucks.
The tradition kept going from there; festive drinks were invented combining milk and liquor, a real groundhog (Jimmy) began a Sun Prairie residence, marriage ceremonies of stuffed groundhogs took place, a supposed groundhog launched to the moon and of course, a Wisconsin Congressman declared all Sun Prairie groundhogs legitimate and those from Punxsutawney to be otherwise, and of course, media coverage over whether or not Jimmy saw his shadow was extensive.
Friendly competition with citizens of Punxsutawney has been on-going through the years as well, however Sun Prairians boast a forecast accuracy of roughly 80%.
In comparison, a quick wikipedia search demonstrates that Punxsutawney Phil has been accurately only 39% of the time... I'm no math major, but that does appear to be less than half.
If ou want to learn more about Sun Prairie, Wisconsin or Jimmy the Groundhog, visit the website of their Chamber of Commerce here.