PUNXSUTAWNEY — A.J. Dereume’s new Inner Circle name has a familiar ring to it.
Or is that a familiar rain?
Dereume’s nickname — The Rainmaker — as the newest member of the Inner Circle was the one once held by his father, Jack Dereume Jr., who was also an Inner Circle member.
During Tuesday’s Groundhog Banquet, President Bill Deeley gave the younger Dereume his nickname, explaining his rationale.
“If you knew Jack Dereume, you knew everywhere he went, it rained,” he said.
Any truth in that?
“Well, it wasn’t that it rained every time,” A.J. Dereume said. “We just kind of had a history of every time we’d go on vacation with another family, it would rain, but when they went by themselves, it didn’t.”
Fair Weatherman Jeff Lundy, serving as banquet toastmaster, explained that the nickname process in the Inner Circle is similar to that of “National Lampoon’s Animal House:” “It could be Pinto or Flounder.”
Deeley said possible nicknames included “Crowd Pleaser,” “Head Hail-raiser,” “White Lightning” and one that Dereume would like to use as his unofficial nickname, “Sergeant Snowplow,” suggested by his girlfriend, Ashley Brady, and referring to his Inner Circle job of maintaining Gobbler’s Knob.
“If you went anywhere with the guy, you’d have more damn fun with him,” Deeley said about Jack Dereume, who passed away in 1999. “If he got an idea, he did it. It was like someone saying, ‘Let’s go to Punxsutawney,’ and he’d do it.
“He was just a fun guy to do things with, but you’d better take a poncho and a rain hat, because you were going to get wet.”
During the banquet, Deeley added, “Maybe there are some spirits in the sky, raining on us.”
Dereume’s mother and step-father, Katie and John Uzzo of Pittsburgh, as well as his brother Ben and wife Beth, along with many friends, were on hand this week to see his Gobbler’s Knob debut.
He said he’s happy with his nickname, too.
“I’m glad to have one,” he said. “That’s the first thing everyone asks you, so it’s good to have one.”