As all eyes turn to Punxsutawney, PA on Wednesday morning to learn whether winter will last six additional weeks, the Pennsylvania Tourism Office is turning to Foursquare to promote its infamous groundhog and offer its first Groundhog Day badge.
Foursquare users who follow visitPA, check in from anywhere in the world between 12:00 AM and 11:59 PM ET on February 2, and “shout” the word “groundhog” will earn the inaugural badge.
According to Foursquare, a shout is, “a quick message to your Foursquare friends that you send along with a check-in…or that you send separately to reach your Foursquare network.”
A rep for the Pennsylvania Tourism Office says this year marks Phil’s 125th prediction. She did not have any information regarding his accuracy. (Update 8:05am: Phil did not see his shadow; Spring is therefore imminent.)
“There is only one weather-forecasting groundhog: Punxsutawney Phil in the Pennsylvania Wilds,” says Mickey Rowley, deputy secretary for tourism at the Pennsylvania Tourism Office, in a prepared statement. “This year, anyone will have the opportunity to earn a badge featuring his likeness from visitPA.”
In addition, a webcast of the Groundhog Day festivities in Punxsutawney will be available at VisitPA.com/groundhog. The page will also include links to Punxsutawney Phil-related videos on YouTube.
And while Phil does not have an official Twitter handle, a rep said his prediction will be tweeted on @visitpa and @patourismpr.
With no less than eight dedicated pages on Facebook, Phil can also boast nearly 12,000 fans (although it is not clear if any of these pages are official).
But Phil is not the only weather-predicting groundhog with a Facebook page.
Staten Island Chuck at the Staten Island Zoo in New York also has his own Facebook page (although he has a more modest 455 fans). On it, he posts videos and news stories as well as comments about New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who he bit during a past Groundhog Day celebration.
Not to be outdone, groundhog Essex Ed at the Turtle Back Zoo in West Orange, New Jersey has a recipe for Groundhog Day Salad on his zoo’s Facebook page. The salad includes Ed’s favorite ingredients like spinach, strawberries and almonds. The zoo calls it “a meal both groundhogs and people can enjoy, pre or post prognostication.”
Essex County has 36,000 Facebook fans and 2,800 followers on Twitter. The zoo has also been tweeting about its Groundhog Day festivities.
2011 marks the ninth year Essex Ed has made predictions. He has been correct seven of the past eight years, according to Zoo Director Jeremy Goodman.
What’s more, Goodman says Essex Ed will be tweeting predictions for other events throughout the month of February – including the Super Bowl, American Idol and the Academy Awards – at @turtlebackzoo.
For his part, Goodman plays it cool about the relationship between the groundhogs.
“There really is no rivalry [with Punxsutawney Phil] as Essex Ed predicts the weather for the tri-state area and Punxsutawney Phil predicts the weather for Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania,” Goodman says.
The Oregon Zoo, which has 34,000 likes on Facebook and 5,600 followers on Twitter, is not so diplomatic. It put out a release taunting Phil, in which it says, “You ain’t nothin’ but a groundhog!”
That’s because the zoo’s African pygmy hedgehog, Jabari, will be the one making a prediction on Wednesday.
Zoo Director Kim Smith explains, “The groundhog is actually a latecomer to the weather predication game. It was only when immigrants to the United States realized that there aren’t any hedgehogs here that they turned to the groundhog. We’re proud to bring this tradition back to its true origins.”
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