PUNXSUTAWNEY — Whether you’re enjoying the winter weather of late or are counting down the days until it’s over, you’ll have to hunker down at least six more weeks, as a shadow greeted Punxsutawney Phil upon emerging from his stump on Gobbler’s Knob Wednesday morning.

The Seer of Seers, Prognosticator of Prognosticators, seemed to anticipate the dismayed reaction of the crowd gathered in the cold morning.

“Winter has been bleak dark and bereft of hope,” Tom “Shingle Shaker” Dunkel, vice president of the Groundhog Club Inner Circle, read from the scroll prepared in the event of a winter prediction, after Phil told President Jeff Lundy what he had seen in the traditional Groundhog-ese.

However, Pennsylvania’s most famous ground-hog had words of comfort for his faithful followers.

“Winter is just another step in the cycle of life,” Dunkel read. “As I look over the faces of the true believers from around the world, I bask in the warmth of your hearts. I couldn’t imagine a better fate.”

The shadow he cast, he said, signifies a “long, lustrous six more weeks of winter.”

And though not everyone will be pleased by the news, there was plenty to celebrate as the Groundhog Club made the 136th annual trek to the Knob — particularly as the festivities were back in person, after 2021’s events were forced to go virtual due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Lundy joked that he had presided over the largest one-year increase in attendance ever seen on Groundhog Day. But on a more serious note, he declared that Wednesday had drawn the largest-ever midweek crowd to Gobbler’s Knob.

“You people have proven something to the world,” he said, “that 10,000 people can get together at 3 a.m. and have fun and music, and nothing but fun and music, and God bless you for that.”

He then led the crowd in a chant to draw Phil from his burrow.

Virtual options were still available for Groundhog Day 2022, and according to the Associated Press, livestreams drew as many as 15,000 viewers worldwide at one point.

As always, the hours prior to the prognostication were fun-filled to keep the gathered crowd awake and excited. Dave “Thunder Conductor” Gigliotti and Dan “Moonshine” McGinley led the entertainment, with help from other members of the Inner Circle, a number of bands, Phil’s Dancers and Miss Pennsylvania 2021 Meghan Sinisi.

They took a moment to remember Chris Lash, a former Inner Circle member and pioneer of the Groundhog Day stage show, who passed away in November of last year.

Emeritus members of the Groundhog Club who were in attendance were recognized as well, including past president Bill Deeley, Butch Prushnok and Dr. Paul Johnston, who at 95 years old has been a 49-year member of the club. McGinley did the math and estimated that his total treks to the Knob now total 5.5 miles.

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