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Groundhog Festival Committee prepares for its ‘best-ever’ event during summer 2012

March 16, 2012

Members of the Groundhog Festival Committee have been working diligently to put on a successful Groundhog Festival, which is scheduled to take place from July 1-7. Pictured are (front, from left) Mary Steele, Brooke Henninger, Ursula Albino; (middle) Peg Henninger, Nancy Shields, Cindy Saxton, Lisa Wingard, Sally Sallack, Dee Lyle; (back) Norma Martin, Joe Henninger, Kay Anthony, Roger Steele and Jason Wingard. Missing are Brenda Cekovsky, Jennifer Pavlak and Sandy Pavlak.

PUNXSUTAWNEY — Roger Steele, chairman of the Groundhog Festival Committee, said his members are “real close to putting on the best event ever.”

After dedicating “thousands” of volunteer hours, Steele said the committee has almost finalized this year’s festival schedule and is now looking for community sponsors.

“We’re fortunate to have great sponsors,” Advertising Chairperson Dee Lyle said. “People in the community help us out that way. They make it possible for us to put this on for the community. It’s basically what it comes down to.”

The 46th-annual Groundhog Festival will take place from Sunday, July 1, to Saturday, July 7, in Barclay Square.

Steele, who has been on the Groundhog Festival Committee since 1983, said he has seen the festival grow over the years.

He believes the festival is unique in the fact that it lasts for a
period of seven days and provides live entertainment every night.

The festival used to be held during Old Home Week, at which time the festival would close down at night so people could head over to the carnival.

But now, the festival’s nightly entertainment is a huge draw for the community.

“Our evening entertainment is our highlight for the day,” Steele said.

“We book local, regional and national names. And we don’t reschedule the same bands year after year. That way, we keep it fresh and new.”

This year, the committee has booked groups from “all over,” Steele said, including Nashville, Baltimore and eastern Pennsylvania.

Unlike Steele, Lyle just recently became involved in the Groundhog Festival, but said she admires how the committee and the community come together to work for a common cause.

“It just always comes together,” she said. “Everyone gets their job done — it’s amazing.”

Steele agreed. Over the years, he’s seen community support from many organizations.

According to Steele, REACT and the Lions Club help the committee by constructing the canopy over the bandstand for the festival’s entertainment; Jefferson County Sheriff Carl Gotwald provides a security force; and the borough allows the festival to take place during the week of the Fourth of July.

“The borough allows us the opportunity of celebrating a very important week — the week of July 4,” Steele said. “The week that celebrates our liberty.”

This year, the committee has updated and redesigned the festival’s Web site — www.groundhogfestival.com — which has more information about the festival, including the festival’s event schedule, pictures and history about the annual event.

Some of the festival’s events include the Teddy Bear Picnic, the Diaper Derby and the Pedal Tractor Pull, which makes it a festival for the entire family to enjoy, Steele said.

He also said the festival has succeeded for so long because of the dedication of the volunteers on this committee, adding that some members have been on the committee for 10, 15 or 25 years.

“I think that says a lot for our committee and our festival,” Lyle said.

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