Groundhog Day: Floridians Celebrate Six More Weeks of Winter With a Hollywood Swim
At 7:20 a.m. Sunday in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, a groundhog named Punxsutawney Phil awoke from hibernation, saw its shadow, and unwittingly predicted six more weeks of winter. Considering that temperatures were in the 20s that day, no one can really blame the poor fellow for retreating to the warmth of its hole (even though most folks had crossed their fingers for an early spring).
All photos taken by Jess Swanson
Meanwhile, almost 1,200 miles away at the Hollywood Beach Broadwalk, hundreds of people stripped down to their bathing suits and plunged into the ocean alongside a friendly human-sized groundhog to celebrate Groundhog Day the wacky Floridian way. It was 75 degrees, there wasn't a cloud in the sky, and the sun was peeking over the horizon. People lathered themselves with sunscreen and darted for the ocean completely unfazed by the rodent's six-more-weeks-of-winter prediction.
The holiday was first celebrated 118 years ago at Gobbler's Knob in Punxsutawney, where it has remained every year since. Since then, other states have found their own weather-predicting groundhogs and have given them their own alliterative nicknames, but the first -- and most reliable -- was Punxsutawney Phil from Pennsylvania. The famed rodent has met President Reagan, made an appearance on Oprah, and inspired the eponymous movie starring Bill Murray.
Cahoots newspaper publisher Jeff Hansen is originally from Punxsutawney but currently resides in South Florida. As a huge fan of the holiday, Hansen organized South Florida's own Groundhog Day tradition ten years ago. Since then, people have set their alarms early to attend the relatively frigid sunrise swim at Hollywood Beach year after year."You might be better off staying out the night before!" Hansen advises.