Dupont Circle’s beloved taxidermied groundhog will make an appearance in this year’s Pride Parade.
Potomac Phil — the stuffed woodchuck that Dupont residents consult each year on Groundhog Day — will be hoisted from the top of a Pride Parade float made specially for him.
“He’ll be on top of an SUV that will be totally decorated to look like the Popemobile.” says Aaron DeNu, co-founder of Dupont Festival and the man behind the famous whistlepig.
This will be Phil’s first appearance in a Pride-related event.
“He only comes out a couple times a year,” says DeNu. “He’s a humble, unflinching prognosticator.”
Early this morning in Dupont Circle, “Potomac Phil” the [stuffed] groundhog declared that DC would have an early spring and that there will be “six more weeks/months of political gridlock.” It was the second annual event, which is organized by Dupont Festival; Groundhog Day always falls on February 2.
Councilmember Jack Evans (D-Ward 2) was in charge of providing the interpretation of “Phil’s remarks” to the crowd that had gathered early in 18-degree weather. Also on hand were Advisory Neighborhood Commissioners from 2B: Chair Will Stephens (2B08), Kevin O’Connor (2B02), Kishan Putta (2B04), Mike Silverstein (2B06), Stephanie Maltz (2B03) and Noah Smith (2B09). (No sign of Bill Murray or Andie MacDowell.)
Organizer Aaron DeNu tried to procure a live groundhog last year, but most of them are hibernating for the winter, so the stand-in stuffed version made a repeat visit to Dupont Circle.
The proclamation of early spring and more political gridlock followed accordion performances of polkas, including one written specially for the event, by Accordionist Silvia Ebberly. Michael Seneco, the presiding bishop of the North American Old Catholic Church, gave the Groundhog Day blessing.
Groundhog Day is celebrated in the United States and Canada and, as Wikipedia notes, the largest “celebration is held in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania,” with Punxsutawney Phil the Groundhog.
Getting a taste of spring weather this week was something of a tease, considering it’s only the beginning of February — but knowing that spring is right around the corner would make the tease less painful.
On Saturday, February 2, Dupont Circle will celebrate Groundhog Day with the national groundhog, Potomac Phil, who will let us know whether to expect six more weeks of winter or an early spring. And unlike Punxsutawney Phil, Potomac Phil will also make political predictions.
Live accordion music, polka dancers and local celebrities will also be on-hand for the celebration.
The event will begin at 7:30 am; Phil will emerge to check his shadow at 8 am sharp at the Dupont Circle Fountain. For more information, visit the Dupont Festival website.
By Michelle Lancaster. You can follow her and let her know your news on Twitter @MichLancaster. Email her at michellel[AT]@borderstan.com.
Welcome to another edition of “Borderstan People,” in which we profile residents-of-interest in the Dupont-Logan-U Street area. Sometimes they are people we simply find interesting, but not in the public eye — and sometimes they are people who’ve gotten some press attention. Aaron DeNu falls into the later category as one of the locals who helps organize events in Dupont Circle as part of the Dupont Festival series (check out other events that have held in the Circle and Borderstan stories on events listed at bottom). Recently, you may have read about DeNu who brought the annual February 2 celebration of Groundhog Day to DC.
Borderstan: You’ve successfully staged a giant World Cup festival that received international attention, organized the first ever feature film (E.T.) screening in the Circle, and convinced a Councilmember to “listen” to a stuffed groundhog in the city’s first Groundhog Day event. What’s the next event you plan to bring to the Circle?
DeNu: Thank you, Michelle. I’d like to think we’ve brought some new life to the Circle. We’re taking notes, assessing outcomes, and working to make improvements. The success of these efforts is due to the team work of Dupont Festival and our board of directors. We’re working towards a number of upcoming outdoor experiences that range from continued movie screenings, a festival focused on jazz, and a table tennis tournament.
Borderstan: Now that we have that to look forward to, can you tell us what precisely it is about Dupont Circle that makes it the natural home for these events?
DeNu: Residents genuinely identify with the location. It’s physically and socially tied to the neighborhoods’ identity. These activities are oriented to be site-specific, they establish a sense of place, and they make up a portion of the community’s character.
Borderstan: Any concerns that the possible Dupont Underground could bring an end or disruption to these events? What are your thoughts on the proposals?
DeNu: Of course, I speak for myself, here. The Arts Coalition for the Dupont Underground (ACDU) proposal is inspiring and thoughtful. I support their vision for the re-opening of the abandoned Dupont trolley station as a world-class gallery space and community hub to promote the arts in DC. I think we’re starting to see a number of inventive projects, across the country, committed to smart, adaptive reuse.
Borderstan: What’s your motivation behind these community events? Is it just a new form of neighborhood socializing or is it driven by a larger goal?
DeNu: I’m driven by this idea of creatively animating public spaces. I consider it a labor of art and collaboration. These endeavors ought to satisfy, so we need to be doing things that bring people together, that improve quality of life, that encourage and promote community identity.
The National Endowment of the Arts define such efforts –towards creatively animating public spaces– as Creative Placemaking (2010). The larger goal is that these efforts ought to satisfactorily impact our city. Honestly, it’s not always easy to accurately assess such goals. How do you measure an ethos? We’re working on it.
Borderstan: How on earth have you been able to work so well with DC government on these projects? What is your advice to others engaged in similar neighborhood endeavors?
DeNu: Networking is key. In the end it’s good ideas and strong relationships that make the difference. Keep at it. Stay focused and positive. You have to put yourself in front of new people, establish trust, and take some calculated risks. I think, it’s a constant learning process, it’s fluid, ever-changing.
Borderstan: What has been the biggest surprise about these events? Any particularly sweet success stories or vignettes to share with us?
DeNu: It was surprising to get a financial donation from Henry Kissinger at one point. He gave the Soccer in the Circle event team a gift towards the implementation of our World Cup festival. As it turns out, Kissinger had served as chairman of the North American Soccer League board of directors back in 1978.
Borderstan: I know you’ve worked closely with ANC 2B/Dupont. If you were a commissioner for a day, what would you put on the top of their agenda?
DeNu: There’s been (unconfirmed) reports of a Sasquatch near the P Street Bridge and Rock Creek Parkway. It would be great if they could check into that for us.
Borderstan: Tell us more about you. What do you do when not planning hijinks in the parks around Borderstan? What brought you to DC?
DeNu: I’m a native of Cincinnati and lived in New York City for grad school before landing in DC for a job at GW. I absolutely love exploring this city on bike. I spend my time around town with friends and with my fiancé, Lauren Rurak, who works as an account executive for Discovery Communications in Silver Spring.
Borderstan: What are your favorite haunts and things to do in the neighborhood?
DeNu: I can’t get enough of the cheese enchiladas at El Rinconcito (11th & M NW). I’ve made a habit of ordering the moules marinière from Café Dupont (19th and Dupont Circle NW). I can confirm that The Gibson makes a mean cocktail (14th and U NW). And I find myself frequenting The Phillips, Long View Gallery, and The Keegan Theatre quite often.
Related Posts on Dupont Festival
- Potomac Phil Says “Six More Weeks of a Nice Winter”
- June 24 in Dupont: Cinema in the Circle Showing E.T.
- Photos: World Cup Soccerpalooza in Dupont Circle
Dupont Circle has a new tradition: Ground Hog Day with “Potomac Phil” the Groundhog. Actually, this year’s Potomac Phil was a stuffed groundhog as the event organizer was unable to procure a live critter for this morning’s festivities. The faux groundhog was provided by Miss Pixie of Miss Pixie’s Furnishings & Whatnot on 14th Street NW.
Still, under cloudy skies — and with the sounds of polka music in the background — Potomac Phil “saw” his shadow (or would have had he been living). According to groundhog weather prediction lore, this means we will have six more weeks of winter. The event organized by Aaron DeNu as part of ongoing Dupont Festival events.
Today with Councilmember Jack Evans (D-Ward 2), ANC 2B Commissioners Mike Silverstein (2B06) and Kevin O’Connor (2B02), and organizer DeNu looking on, Potomac Phil declared “six more weeks of a nice winter” to the crowd in the Circle. Actually, it was Evans who provided the interpretation from Phil that the remaining six weeks of winter would be “nice.” DeNu had tried to procure a live groundhog, but most of them are hibernating for the winter, so the stand-in stuffed version from Miss Pixie was used for the inaugural event.
The event was lively and fun with plenty of media coverage, as well as kids from Ross Elementary School. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) was also there to protest the event, even though the groundhog was not live. PETA is headquartered in the Dupont neighborhood.
Groundhog Day is celebrated in the United States and Canada and, as Wikipedia notes, the largest “celebration is held in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania” with Punxsutawney Phil the Groundhog.
If Aaron DeNu has his way, “Potomac Phil” will help DC predict an early spring or prolonged winter on Thursday. Yes, there is a person who is actively working on a Groundhog Day ceremony in Dupont Circle, complete with groundhog. Huffington Post has the whole story, because I can’t make this stuff up. “Potomac Phil” is a play on the name of Punxsutawney Phil, the famous groundhog up in Pennsylvania who comes out each February 2.
The Dupont Festival website says the event is on for 8:30 am sharp on February 2: Moreover, a spokesperson for Councilmember Jack Evans (D-Ward 2) confirms that he will be there. (Note to Evans: Avoid having photo taken with groundhog.) Yes, Borderstan will have photos for you. BTW, there’s a Facebook page, too.
Apparently, the Department of the Environment gave him the go ahead to use a live groundhog, but readily available wild groundhogs are underground, hibernating, at this point in the year. But if anyone can make it happen (a back up plan includes a stuffed one from Miss Pixie’s on 14th Street NW), Aaron can. He’s one of the guys you can thank for the World Cup viewing parties in 2010 in Dupont Circle. (See Photos: World Cup Soccerpalooza in Dupont Circle.) We will keep you posted on the celebration plans and varmint status.
BTW, here’s the scoop on groundhogs seeing their shadow on February 2: If a groundhog sees his or her shadow, it means six more weeks of winter. It’s celebrated in the United States and Canada and, as Wikipedia notes, the largest “celebration is held in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania.”
Surely you’ve seen the 1993 movie Groundhog Day with Bill Murray?
More winter weather is underway or on the way. Where to go for weather news — especially closings, delays and reschedulings?
- Several of the major news outlets in the area provide good weather coverage: The Washington Post, TBD.com and News Channel 8/TBD (28 on local Comcast) all provide good local weather coverage.
- But when it comes to comprehensive, updated lists closings, delays and reschedulings, I always go with WTOP Radio’s website: www.wtop.com. They list schools, government (of various types, D.C., federal, states) as well as events and meetings.
Happy Groundhog Day. What are you seeing this morning? Shadows and six more weeks of winter… or no shadows and an early spring?
I realize most of us don’t have a groundhog handy, so I advise using your dog. If your dog sees his or her shadow this morning, it means six more weeks of winter.