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Potomac Phil to Awaken for Fifth Annual Groundhog Day Celebration

by Tim Regan January 7, 2016 at 11:45 am 0

(Updated at 12:05 p.m.) Dupont Circle’s very own marmot mascot, Potomac Phil, will return for another year of predicting the weather and the year’s upcoming political climate.

The stuffed rodent will make his fifth annual appearance at this year’s Groundhog Day celebration in Dupont Circle park on Feb. 2, said Phil’s close friend and Dupont Festival‘s principal organizer, Aaron DeNu.

“We’re planning on a traditional festival this year,” DeNu said. “We are a total tribute of the longstanding American tradition of Groundhog Day. It’s a tribute to what happens in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania.”

If you’ve never seen the yearly spectacle before, a typical Groundhog Day in Dupont Circle includes top hats, accordion music, a puppet show, and free groundhog-shaped cookies and coffee. But the real climax of the event occurs when Potomac Phil steps — or allows himself to be carried — up to the microphone to make his famous six-more-weeks prediction.

“Six more weeks of political gridlock has been the prediction every year,” DeNu said. As for Phil’s weather forecast, “he’s gone in solidarity with his brother [Punxsutawney Phil] every year. His predictions have been dead-on.”

But how does one coax a prediction out of an “unflinching prognosticator” such as Potomac Phil? DeNu said the process requires watching for Phil’s incredibly subtle cues.

“We have to lean in close,” DeNu said. “We have to look at the glare and the gaze in his marbled eyes. There are a lot of things that we really try to make our best guesses with.”

Make no mistake: Despite the fact that he doesn’t move around much, Potomac Phil is the real deal.

“The official story in Punxsutawney is that … every spring, [Punxsutawney] Phil has a magic elixir, and that’s what keeps him alive,” explained DeNu. “Potomac Phil is frozen cryogenically in place … but he is certainly real.”

DeNu added that, perhaps one day in the future, he’ll discover a similar magic elixir to allow poor Phil to move his arms and legs again and maybe even nibble on that corn cob he’s so fond of.

“Apparently, he is a fan of the corn cob,” DeNu said. “The way he’s frozen, and the fact that he’s holding one, tells us that, clearly.”

And don’t count on seeing a real groundhog … like ever. Phil is here to stay. “We are America’s most humane Groundhog Day,” DeNu explained. “It’s not right to use a live animal for this.”

Plus, he said Phil is a “really special guy,” and the celebration just wouldn’t be the same without him.

“He has fans in all eight wards across town,” DeNu said. “He’s just a really special guy, and he’s humble. He’s a humble marmot.”

And Phil provides locals with the chance to witness something a little odd, DeNu said.

“It’s a great opportunity on your way to work to grab a coffee and a groundhog cookie and look at Phil with your own eyes,” DeNu said. “[You’l] see something that you’re never going to see for another 365 days.”

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