PUNXSUTAWNEY â€” The 46th-annual Groundhog Festival will get underway Sunday morning in Barclay Square.
â€śI can always remember which anniversary it is, because itâ€™s the same number as the Super Bowl,â€ť said Roger Steele, Groundhog Festival Committee chairperson. â€śWeâ€™re the summer Super Bowl festival, because weâ€™re the same age.â€ť
This summer, however, committee members prepared for the week-long event with heavy hearts, following the passing of long-time committee member Ursula Albino.
â€śWe were all saddened to hear of the passing of Ursula, one of our greatest workers,â€ť Steele said. â€śShe always asked what else she could do.â€ť
Steele said he wrote the memorial that appeared in The Punxsutawney Spiritâ€™s festival publication, and it took him three nights to do it.
â€śShe will be missed by everyone,â€ť he said.
Formerly a sub-committee of the Punxsutawney Area Chamber of Commerce, the festival committee became its own chartered, non-profit group. It pays all its own bills and has contributed to the many improvements in Barclay Square, such as installing water in the bandstand.
â€śThe water that is used out of the bandstand to water lawns and flowers is paid for by the Groundhog Festival Inc.,â€ť Steele said. â€śOur security at night is paid for by our committee.â€ť
Anything the festival needs â€” such as porta-johns, paper towels, tissues and hand soap for the restrooms in the borough building â€” it pays for it.
â€śThat way weâ€™re not dependent on tax dollars in any way,â€ť Steele said.
â€śA lot of festivals are sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce and/or the municipality, county or state. We receive no such funding.â€ť
This year, the committee had to dig a little deeper into its pockets, having to purchase a license from the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP), a performing rights organization which licenses and collects royalties for performances of its members.
â€śAnyone who uses music as part of its business is required to be a member of ASCAP,â€ť or face fines, Steele said, which could have been anywhere from $8,000 to $12,000 for the week of this yearâ€™s event.