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Groundhog Day 2012: Much better than 2011, Deeley says

February 6, 2012

Punxsutawney Phil, held by co-handler Ron Ploucha, and Inner Circle President Bill Deeley pause during Groundhog Day last Thursday. (Photo by Alan Freed/The Punxsutawney Spirit)

PUNXSUTAWNEY — After months of planning and weeks of preparation, it’s hard to believe that Groundhog Day is over for another year.

Bill Deeley, Inner Circle president, is citing 2012 as a huge success compared to 2011.

“It’s amazing, the difference of the weather being 25 degrees warmer, no snow to move around and no ice to contend with will do for attendance,” he said.

Deeley said he isn’t sure of the exact number, but estimates are somewhere between 15,000 to 18,000 people who watched Punxsutawney Phil make his annual prognostication last Thursday morning. Deeley said he’s still awaiting the count of the number of people who rode on the buses to Gobbler’s Knob.

Deeley said with Groundhog Day in the middle of the week, he thought it seemed pretty quiet in town during the day Wednesday.

“They just seemed to drop out of the air, and we ended up with a decent crowd for mid-week,” Deeley said, adding that for next year, the Groundhog Club will gear up for double the size of everything, with Phil’s big day falling on a Saturday in 2013.

Deeley said the visit from Gov. Tom Corbett to the Weather Capital of the World was very enjoyable.

Corbett’s speeches at the banquet and at the Knob were both non-political, and he talked mostly about western Pennsylvania and being a big fan of the Pittsburgh Steelers, Deeley said.

“It really worked out well with Corbett here,” he said. “Sometimes, when we bring somebody in like that, it turns into a police event with security posted everywhere. We did nothing different than we normally did for Groundhog Day. The state police told us what it needed to protect him, and we provided it.”

It seems as though Corbett and his wife, Susan, indeed enjoyed themselves at Groundhog Day, Deeley said.

“I’m hearing a strong rumor that we’re going to be invited to the governor’s mansion in Harrisburg some time in the future,” he said. “There’s nothing official regarding that as of now.”

He said that security-wise, everything seemed to go fairly well, and that District Judge Douglas Chambers said this was the first time in 19 years that he didn’t have to arraign someone on charges due to an incident that occurred throughout the Groundhog Day weekend.

Deeley said regarding the spring-like weather and Phil’s prediction of six more weeks of winter weather, it’s not over yet.

“Out west, they’re getting some heavy winter weather,” he said. “Be patient. If you want winter, it’s coming, but I will take what we’ve been getting so far. This is unbelievable, really really nice.”

He said there are many people who apparently don’t understand how Phil’s prognostication actually works.

“If he predicts six more weeks of winter, people expect it to start snowing before we get off the Knob,” Deeley said, adding that if Phil predicts a short winter, some think they can start planting flowers the next day.

“You have to look at the big picture over the long haul and not judge his prediction on the next 24 hours,” he said.

Deeley said Phil is still the No. 1 weather forecasting groundhog.

“We have all of the impostors, competitors, or whatever you want to call them, but Columbia Pictures came here first,” he said, referring to the makers of the 1993 film “Groundhog Day.” “On Feb. 2, none of these other groundhogs make their prediction until we make ours. After we make ours, they either jump on the bandwagon with us, or say exactly the opposite.”
He said the members of the Inner Circle do this with Phil because they love to do it.

“Now that Phil’s big day is concluded, the club will return to working on its latest project of constructing a new and better entrance to Gobbler’s Knob to enhance the Phil experience, no matter what time of year they visit Punxsutawney,” Deeley said.

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