DC’s Potomac Phil declares an early spring

The unflinching gaze of Potomac Phil. (WTOP/Stetson Miller)

Potomac Phil, D.C.’s stuffed groundhog, emerged from his slumber to give his annual Feb. 2 prediction in front of the Dupont Circle fountain on Thursday morning.

About an hour after Punxsutawney Phil declared six more weeks of winter before a crowd of thousands about 65 miles northeast of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, D.C’s stiff and mysterious furry critter came to a different conclusion.

Meanwhile, the creature also predicted “6 more months of political gridlock,” after not seeing its shadow.

“Potomac Phil is a very important local character,” said Gary LaBella of Arlington. “And he doesn’t always follow what happens in Pennsylvania with the head groundhog.”

The creature also predicted “six more months of political gridlock,” after not seeing its shadow.

“We haven’t killed any animals or misused them, but we’ve got a taxidermized groundhog for Groundhog Day,” said Vincent Slatt, Commissioner for Advisory Neighborhood Commission 2B03.

Aaron Denu, president of the Dupont Festival who helps organize the yearly event, said to get prediction from Potomac Phil, they must look “closely in his eye” and then, let the public know about his prediction.

“This is our 12th year, [and] I will say that his prediction of the politics has been six more months of gridlock for the past 12 years,” Denu said.

The event featured music and hot coffee for those who made it to the Circle. ANC 2B03 Commissioner Vincent Slatt said the neighborhood is very “pro-animal,” and the yearly prediction by the stuffed groundhog is a good way to bring people to the park.

“People see us as they are going to work, and this is where we are having fun,” Slatt said. “There is a lot of things going on at Dupont Circle; we love people to come to it and this is one example of us using the space.”

Gary LaBella of Arlington, Virginia, attends the prediction party every year, calling it a “very important national holiday.” He had a chance to speak to the ambassador of the Netherlands as children took photos with the groundhog. The atmosphere of the event is what makes it special and a great time to attend, he said.

“I came here one year, and I just loved the way that everybody was enjoying [taking] the pictures and all the kids and so now I share it with my family,” said LaBella. “They all think I’m nuts.”

Despite their thoughts, LaBella said he loves the event and enjoyed Potomac Phil’s “broader prediction” compared to his Pittsburgh advisory.

“Potomac Phil is an important local character and he doesnt always follow what happens in Pennsylvania,” LaBella said. “He’s an interesting guy.”

Meanwhile, New York City’s Staten Island Chuck agreed with Potomac Phil, during his event Thursday at the Staten Island Zoo.

WTOP’s Stetson Miller contributed to this report.

Matt Small

Matt joined WTOP News at the start of 2020, after contributing to Washington’s top news outlet as an Associated Press journalist for nearly 18 years.

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