Groundhog Day—The Second Largest Publicity Event in February?

By: Elissa Hill, Communications/Digital Strategy Committee Member

Feb. 2. For most people, it may be just another cold winter
day, but for those residing in myGroundhogDay hometown of Punxsutawney, Pa., it’s our second Christmas (except more important). If you still don’t know what I’m referring to, Groundhog Day is the annual holiday where Punxsutawney Phil, a groundhog, is pulled out of hibernation for the world to see whether or not Phil sees his shadow. As the legend goes, if Phil sees his shadow, he predicts six more weeks of winter; if he does not see his shadow, Phil predicts an early spring. Those are the bare bones of Groundhog Day festivities, but almost every other aspect of the event is what could be called a “publicity stunt.”

Here are the top 5 additional elements of Groundhog Day meant to draw publicity to the event and to the town of Punxsutawney:

1. The Inner Circle

This is made up of fifteen local men wearing black tuxedos and top hats, even though the weather has often reached sub-freezing temperatures by February. These men are the organizers of Groundhog Day and Phil’s official handlers—and to make it that much better, they even have names like “Stump Warden,” “Shingle Shaker,” and “Moonshine.”

2. Phil Dancers

Between six and 10 high school senior girls are chosen each year by the inner circle to be “Phil’s Dancers” and perform their self-choreographed mash-up songs throughout the all-night Groundhog Day entertainment show. Did I mention that this all happens outside in sub-freezing temperatures?

3. Groundhog Day at the Punxsutawney Community Center

Why would anyone actually want to watch this [already repetitive] movie over and over again for 24 hours straight?

4. The “Phantastic Phil” Statues

If you’ve been to Punxsutawney in the past 10 years or so, it would be almost impossible to say that you haven’t noticed the six-foot-tall fiberglass groundhog statues placed around town and outside of many local businesses. Sponsored by families and businesses and designed by local artists, each statue pays a unique tribute to an aspect of the Punxsutawney community.

5. Groundhog Day King’s and Queen’s Court

Do any other high schools have a royalty court for Groundhog Day? The annual king and queen are brought on stage at the all-night Groundhog Day entertainment show so that the town can show off its prized high school seniors on local television.

Groundhog Day is successful in bringing masses of tourists to the otherwise Podunk town of Punxsutawney each year in February, in part due to these popular publicity attractions created by the Groundhog Club and the Punxsutawney Chamber of Commerce.

What traditions does your hometown partake in to generate publicity?


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