PUNXSUTAWNEY, Pa. – Punxsutawney Phil (search) has "spoken," and the news isn't good.
The world's most famous furry forecaster saw his shadow Tuesday on Gobbler's Knob (search), suggesting another six weeks of wintry weather.
The chubby critter delivered the prediction after he was pulled from his burrow in an oak stump at 7:31 a.m. by a top-hatted handler, and his prediction was greeted by boos from the thousands in attendance.
"He's only the messenger!" one of the members of the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club (search) — the volunteer group in charge of Phil and the town's Groundhog Day (search) festivities — reminded the crowd braving the frigid weather.
In the years since The Punxsutawney Spirit first carried word of the groundhog's failing to see its shadow in 1886, the town of about 7,500 people about 65 miles northeast of Pittsburgh has been dubbed the "Weather Capital of the World."
The tradition stems from the Christian holiday of Candlemas (search), which holds that if a hibernating animal sees its shadow, winter will last another six weeks. If there's no shadow, spring will come early.
An energetic crowd of about 2,000 people were already assembled by 3:30 a.m. Most were bundled against the frigid temperatures, but at least one young woman decided to mark the occasion in a bikini top.
Conversely, Nikki Wehrmann and her 9-year-old daughter, Arianne, were dressed in layer upon layer of clothing as they huddled over hot coffee and chocolate. Arianne was taking the day off from school to see Phil, her mother said. They live in nearby DuBois.
"We considered this an educational purpose," said Wehrmann, who told her daughter about the history of Groundhog Day and plans to have Arianne do a project on the event.
"And anything that brings 20,000 or 30,000 people on some years, we have to do it at least once," Wehrmann said.
But whether Phil sees his shadow every February is beside the point. Organizers of the event and the festivals, concerts and craft fair leading up to Groundhog Day say it is about fun, a chance to shake winter's chilly cloak.
Sue Lingenfelter, who has lived in town for about 12 years, said the annual frenzy still amazes her. And she's amazed at how well-known Phil is.
"I just placed a catalog order yesterday and the guy said to me, 'Is your town ready to go crazy?"' she said.
Some people travel far for Phil.
Ward Brown, 50, and his sister Suzy Fulkerson, 41, came from Sparta, Ill., although they tied the trip in with a visit to their sister, who recently moved to nearby DuBois.
"It was a good excuse to visit her," said Brown, who was toting a $75 stump of wood a craftsman had carved into the shape of a groundhog sporting a top hat.
Marysia Cybulka, 20, of Radlin, Poland, hoped Phil would predict more cold weather.
Cybulka, who was visiting friends in the area, said she first heard of the event from the 1993 film starring Bill Murray.
According to the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club, Phil saw his shadow for the 94th time last year. He hasn't seen his shadow 14 times and there's no record of the outcome in nine years.