Pennsylvania doesn’t have the only Groundhog Day event going on; in Hollywood Beach, Florida, Groundhog Day was celebrated with a fundraising Plunge to raise funds for area lifeguards. Fourteen years and still going strong, Groundhog Day morning brings crowd to Ocean Alley Restaurant right on the Boardwalk in Hollywood, Florida for a great breakfast followed by a plunge in the ocean.
It was about 1000 miles to the south and about 50 degrees warmer but the focus was all on Punxsutawney Phil Groundhog Day morning in Hollywood Beach. The crowd gathered inside Ocean Alley restaurant for a sunrise breakfast in front of monitors streaming live video from Gobbler’s Knob. Even though South Florida is not known for a drastic winter and the thought of another six weeks means nothing there is still a sense of excitement.
“Our idea is that we want to see how many more days of tourism we are going to have because this is where people stay if it is cold up north.” Says Debra Case. She is the owner of Ocean Alley which has been hosting the event each year. The restaurant provides breakfast prior to the arrival of Phil which can be viewed on monitors throughout the dining area. 12 dollars gets you breakfast, a t-shirt, and chance to take part in the post breakfast swim in the Atlantic.
Jeff Hansen is the event organizer and wanted to bring the vibe of Punxsutawney here to South Florida. “I went up there for 3-4 years and just about froze to death but loved the vibe.” He says as he collected money at the door. “We started the event down here for the lifeguards.” He said. “Funding for the travel team is kind of light so we try to help them out.” This year the Hollywood Beach Competition team is traveling to Virginia Beach for the annual meet.
At 7:30 AM the crowd cheered at the emergence of Punxsutawney Phil and the cheers grew louder at the announcement of six more weeks of winter. With that the restaurant as the crowd crosses the beach and heads for the annual Groundhog Day plunge. At 75 degrees it may not be too dramatic and last a little longer than polar plunges often seen up north. “Snowbirds come down here for this and think the water is downright hot compared to where they are from.” Says Hansen as he views the crowd from the beach. Each year the crowd grows by about 10 or 20 and the hope is to continue the event next year to make if 15 years in a row.