Get your Phil, DC: Groundhog adjusts his plans for Feb. 2

Potomac Phil is all about two things: the corncob and making the tough call on Feb. 2.
Potomac Phil is all about two things: the corncob and making the tough call on Feb. 2.

Back before COVID upended Everything, Potomac Phil would make his big public appearance in Dupont Circle, visit with neighbors and make his official forecast.
Back before the coronavirus pandemic upended everything, Potomac Phil would make his big public appearance in Dupont Circle, visit with neighbors and make his official forecast. So this year, the events have been adjusted to allow for social distancing.

Potomac Phil's annual Dupont Circle proclamation was even immortalized in this painting by Vanessa Monroe.
Potomac Phil’s annual Dupont Circle proclamation was even immortalized in this painting by Vanessa Monroe.

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Potomac Phil is all about two things: the corncob and making the tough call on Feb. 2.
Back before COVID upended Everything, Potomac Phil would make his big public appearance in Dupont Circle, visit with neighbors and make his official forecast.
Potomac Phil's annual Dupont Circle proclamation was even immortalized in this painting by Vanessa Monroe.

Potomac Phil is a groundhog of few words. Get him on a video chat or on the phone, for instance, and any questions are met with silence.

Is it shyness? Is it arrogance? Is it because he’s stuffed?

No, D.C.’s weather-predicting marmot is stoic and dignified. A strong and silent type. And his steadfast focus is two things:

  • The precious corncob he eternally holds, and
  • Making the tough call every Feb. 2

Back before the coronavirus pandemic upended everything, Potomac Phil would make his big public appearance at Dupont Circle, soak up some dope polka beats (e.g., the song below), and make his official forecast.

The Potomac Phil Polka (Silvia Eberly)

This Groundhog Day, of course, will be different. The coronavirus pandemic means there will be no official ceremony: Organizers said they’re canceling the festivities in order to limit the spread of the virus.

But fear not: Phil is still issuing his annual Groundhog Day proclamation on his Twitter feed at 8 a.m. Tuesday. He’ll hang out at Dupont Circle from 8 to 11 a.m. to meet with his fans too, said Aaron DeNu, Phil’s spokesman.

“If folks are just getting cooped up and want to get out of the house and go get a selfie with Potomac Phil, we welcome them to come and say hi to him,” said DeNu, president of the nonprofit Dupont Festival.

The festivities will start Tuesday morning at Dupont Underground, and DeNu encouraged all of Phil’s fans to support a neighborhood business while they’re in the ‘hood — like picking up a to-go lunch from an area restaurant. Several will be offering Phil-related specials.

“We don’t want to create crowds,” DeNu said. “So what we did this year is just create this opportunity to still see Phil, but not have it at a particular time, so people can come and go out there at their leisure.”

Phil’s proclamation last year was just weeks before public health restrictions became an everyday fact of life. And the Dupont Festival has since been forced to pause its activities.

“Our entire mission is not only about creatively animating public space with fun events, but also to specifically bring people together face-to-face,” DeNu said. “Virtual events just don’t work for us, so we ended up unfortunately canceling everything last year and are still in a holding pattern.”

One thing it’s doing in the interim is putting together a historical video on the original 1921 dedication of Dupont Fountain, and a celebration of some sort is planned for the fountain’s 100-year anniversary on May 17.

And what kind of weather can we expect for that celebration? Phil was, again, reticent when asked.

But in this WTOP exclusive, Potomac Phil did agree to share a few of his inner thoughts via email.

Q: How are you these days?
A: Hello darkness, my old friend. It’s been years since I’ve eaten, yet I’m stuffed.

Q: Why are you so stoic, Phil?
A: Mostly because I have no heartbeat since my surgery.

Q: Any advice for those of us who are sick of being holed up at home?
A: Go forth to meet our shadowy future without fear and with a marmot heart.

Q: Groundhogs generally avoid the limelight except for Feb. 2. It appears you, however, like to hit the town once in a while. How has the pandemic affected your social life?

A: [silence] …

DeNu: Phil fell back asleep before he answered this one, but I can tell you that in years past he’s been invited to The Miss Adams Morgan Pageant at the Capitol Hilton and has been featured on floats in the Capital Pride Parade.

I think he misses bringing a chuckle to people seeing him make random appearances across town.

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