Over the past 135 years, Groundhog Day has grown from a Punxsutawney tradition to a national spectacle. While crowds of people will not be gathering at Gobbler’s Knob to see Punxsutawney Phil this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, festivities will still be held virtually for those that follow the famous groundhog.
“Unfortunately, we will not have in-person viewing and no guests on our grounds,” Jeff Lundy, President of the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club’s Inner Circle, said in an announcement via Punxsutawney Phil’s YouTube channel. “But, we are planning all kinds of activities virtually, and there will be live internet broadcasts.”
In a press release regarding Groundhog Day 2021, Lundy expressed hope that a return to normalcy would be possible for 2022 festivities.
“The guests who come to Gobbler’s Knob in Punxsutawney each February from around the world are a key component to making Groundhog Day so special. We look forward to the day when we can welcome back all our guests and faithful followers, hopefully in February of 2022.”
An online scavenger hunt is live via the Eventzee app, where Punxsutawney Phil fans are challenged to complete various virtual tasks to earn points. As for Phil’s prognostication, the event can be viewed live at groundhog.org, Punxsutawney Phil’s YouTube and Facebook and on PCN, starting at 6:30 a.m. on Feb. 2.
Carter Newcome, a sophomore communication major, hails from Punxsutawney and said the time around Groundhog Day drastically changes the area.
“Living in Punxsutawney around Feb. 2 is quite a unique experience,” Newcome said. “Punxsy is a town of just a few thousand people in rural PA, so when 30,000+ show up for a few days it can make it a madhouse downtown.”
While Newcome said the event going virtual will hurt the community and the local restaurants that are typically flooded on Groundhog Day, he believes the anticipation could lead to a big return in the future.
“I think that the town will definitely take a hit from it [the celebration] being online this year simply based on the lack of tourism,” Newcome said. “However, I think next year people will be even more excited to attend.”
Newcome also said his Punxsutawney background helped him develop skills in building relationships.
“Punxsutawney is honestly in its own corner of the world. There are no major highways nearby and the town is not flooded with major businesses or shopping centers,” he said. “Having a small-town background has shaped me in the way of being able to form relationships with lots of people because in a small town people are really all you’ve got.”
While Newcome admitted he did not embrace the tradition growing up, he has gained an appreciation for Groundhog Day since leaving Punxsutawney for Waynesburg University.
“It’s nice that when somebody asks where I am from that I don’t have to say somewhere near Pittsburgh,” Newcome said. “I say I am from Punxsutawney and everyone immediately knows what I’m talking about.”