Lexington woman celebrates Groundhog Day all year long

LEXINGTON - When Stacey Underhill wants to work, she's in her garage, turning out pottery-- vases and bowls that are pieces of art. When she wants to play, she puts on a suit.

She says Groundhog Day is her favorite holiday.

For the past eleven years, Stacey has had her friends over for a Groundhog Day party, complete with groundhog stew (spaghetti), special desserts and Woodchuck cider. Her favorite movie, "Groundhog Day," plays in the background.

She can't really explain her obsession with groundhogs. Her friends know she just likes to be different.

"They think I'm nuts," she says.

"I'll invite people and they're like, 'I've never been to a Groundhog's Day party,' " she says. To her, that's strange.

But the fun starts long before the party, when Ms. Underhill goes undercover. She purchased a groundhog costume a couple of years ago and wears it every February 2nd.

She emerges from her burrow and goes out into the world to spread some groundhog cheer, waving at cars and school buses along Bryan Station Road and getting lots of honks in return. Stacey never breaks character.

"A lot of it is big mannerisms," she says. " I don't speak when I'm in it because I don't want anyone to recognize my voice. I never take the head off in front of children."

If people stop for a picture, Stacey's friend Rachel Eldridge rewards them with a sticker.

Rachel saus she thinks it's fun to make the day as positive as possible.

But this is not just a February fascination. Stacey's alter ego appears at birthday parties and other events throughout the year.

Stacey says " I feel it wouldn't be right just to leave the groundhog in a closet 364 days a year, so I let him out."

Last year a friend caught a groundhog and released it behind Stacey's house which backs up to several acres of dense woods.

"I didn't want the groundhog to be lonely in a new environment, so I had the costume on to welcome him to his new habitat."

Every day in the groundhog suit is special to Stacey but she's already planning for a big blowout five years from now when the date will be 2-2-22.

And if she can get the star of her favorite movie to come then... or earlier... she'd be all smiles.

"So Bill Murray, if you can come to the next groundhog's day party, that would be awesome, " Stacey says.

So now you know. Pennsylvania may have the famous Punxatawney Phil, but Lexington also has a wacky woodchuck. When it come to spreading cheer, she casts a pretty long shadow.


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