PUNXSUTAWNEY — Years ago, The Punxsutawney Spirit decided to make a conscious effort to reach out to the community and thank it for all the faithfulness it had shown the paper. From that idea, The Spirit's Appreciation Day was born, and after many successful years, the tradition will carry on again this Saturday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the SS.C.D. auditorium, just across the parking lot from The Spirit's office on Pine Street in Punxsutawney.
"Appreciation Day has been around for approximately 15 years," Spirit publisher Tracy Smith said. "It all started because we just wanted to give something back to the community. Everybody does so much for us, and we wanted to create a day of fun where people could come out and celebrate, and we could offer them some special deals."
Over the years, the expansion of the event has forced it to move a number of times, but this year's event is scheduled to take place at SS.C.D., where it was held last year.
"It used to be held down at the park, then it moved to the Community Center," Smith said. "It grew so much that we had to move it again to its current location."
From displays of local talent to the pumpkin hunt, the event promises plenty of food and fun for "kids" of all ages.
The vendors -- from food to crafts -- will start the day's activities when Appreciation Day opens at 9 a.m.
"There'll be about 28 vendors that will set up with crafts, homemade knick knacks and other things," Smith said, adding that she encourages folks to come out and check out the spread.
The live entertainment portion of the event will begin at 11 a.m. with the talent show.
"A few years back, we got to thinking that we needed a new event, and with America's Got Talent, American Idol and other similar shows being popular, we thought it'd be fun to do something fun for the community to give its members an opportunity to showcase their own talents," Smith said.
The event will be judged by Zak Lantz, The Spirit’s editor; Katie Laska, current Punxsutawney Woman of the Year; and Tom Chelgren, former Punxsutawney Man of the Year.
Adding some incentive for the competitors, the winner of the contest will receive a $100 cash prize.
Immediately following the talent show, the highlight of the day for the kids 11 and under will take place with the pumpkin hunt, though Smith said the "hunt" is more about the decorating contest that will take place once the children choose their pumpkins.
"We have 100 pumpkins that will be available to the first 100 kids, and we have 100 treat bags to hand out to the kids as well," Smith said. "This event has been a part of the Appreciation Day for quite some time, and it's something the kids really look forward to."
While the decorating competition will be a fun one, there will also be prizes awarded in five different categories:
• Most original pumpkin;
• Funniest pumpkin;
• Ugliest pumpkin;
• Most beautiful pumpkin;
• The Spirit's favorite pumpkin.
Smith said she would like to extend thanks to County Market for sponsoring the event and to Pine Valley for donating the pumpkins.
Smith wanted to encourage all the members of the community to come out and allow the members of The Spirit's staff to offer them a sign of gratitude — from young to old.
"Come on out," she said. "There's lots of food; there's fun; and there are all kinds of vendors. From kids right up to seniors, there'll be something fun for everyone."