Soon we will know whether to expect a longer spell of winter weather. “Punxsutawney Phil” will emerge from his hole on February 2 after a long winter sleep to look for his shadow on Groundhog Day. If he sees it, we can count on another six weeks of bad weather, while Phil retreats back underground. If the day is cloudy and shadowless, the plucky fellow takes it as a sign of spring and stays up here.
Folks in the town of Punxsutawney have popularized the highly anticipated event with their annual celebration, attended by thousands of tourists who arrive to witness the “Most Photographed Pennsylvanian” as he performs the dependable ritual with the assistance of the “Inner Circle,” a group of top-hat-clad dignitaries with titles like “The Big Windmaker,” “Sun Beamer,” and “Thunder Conductor.”
Phil’s 2011 prediction will be his 125th. He gets his longevity from drinking a sip of the secret “groundhog punch” served at the Groundhog Picnic, which gives him seven more years of life.
Just in time for the big day on February 2, local photographer Jeffrey R. Sidle and local author Heather Martin have published their first book, “A Hole Other Matter,” featuring the admittedly adorable but much maligned critter also known as the woodchuck or whistlepig.
Sidle and Martin have planned a special event to promote the launch of the book and to celebrate Groundhog Day (see sidebar).
The playful book features full-color photos taken in Wayne and Pike counties and imaginative stories that introduce August and June Forecaster, Bonnie Heinywagger, Lady Plum Pudding, Amanda Snicklegizzard and other whimsical woodchucks. Each story ends with a question meant to stimulate the reader’s thoughts on a particular situation.
Martin and Sidle have worked together on various projects over the years, and both enjoy nature and value humor. Martin was inspired to write the stories after seeing Sidle’s pictures of the groundhogs. One thing led to another, and they ended up with a book.
The pair learned all they could about self-publishing, then formed Marmot Productions, LLC to publish the book in order to “make folks think, smile and appreciate wildlife.”
Sidle, a resident of Hawley, who owns and operates The Print Shop of Milford with his wife and business partner, drew upon his background in printing and graphic design when he put the book together. Sidle says he has enough additional photos of groundhogs for a possible sequel.
Martin, a lifelong resident of Milford employed at Stroyan Funeral Home, has been writing throughout her adult life, though this is her first commercial publication. After seeing Sidle’s groundhog photos, Martin said, “I decided I knew what they do for a living, and I wanted the names to be silly.”
The duo have also formed a new local chapter of Phil’s Club—
Pike County HEHAA—to provide an opportunity for local fans of the annual event to rally in preparation for the big day. There are 58 chapters of the club around the United States.
For more information or to purchase a copy of the book visit Marmot Productions, LLC at 301 E. Harford St., Milford or call 570/296-7768. Learn all about Groundhog Day at www.groundhog.org . Phil’s prediction will be webcast at www.visitPA.com/groundhog .