TAMPA, Fla. — It’s Groundhog Day again. Every year, we look to a small town in Western Pennsylvania, watching men in top hats pull a rodent from his cozy stump to determine whether spring will make an appearance before the official end of winter on the vernal equinox (Mar. 20).
A tradition dating back to 1887, “Punxsutawney Phil” is the most popular inconsistent meteorologist, owing much of that to Bill Murray’s 1993 film Groundhog Day.
Other cities claim their own version of Phil – Milltown Mel (Milltown, NJ), Buckeye Chuck (Marion, Ohio) and Wiarton Willie (Wiarton, Ontario).
The only rodent representation in Florida most people know is a certain 93-year-old mouse near Orlando.
However, several online forums and unofficial lists seem to think Tampa hosts someone named “Pardon Me Pete” every Feb. 2, as the area’s own version of Phil. The only such character seems to be the narrator of the 1979 Claymation film Jack Frost.
If anyone would know the truth behind Pete and Tampa, it would be the mayor’s office. Communications Director Adam Smith helped set the record straight.
I asked around and have found no one so far who has heard of Pardon Me Pete. The City of Tampa does not have Punxsutawney Phil Envy. We have beautiful weather, a gorgeous bay, a booming economy, Stanley Cup and Lombardi Trophy winners, and a great arts and cultural scene. If Punxsutawney Phil, like so many other Americans, wants to leave his frigid town and move here, we’d welcome him.