Council denies current Groundhog Fest Committee use of Barclay Square

Larry McGuire
Staff Writer

After much discussion during a special Punxsutawney Borough Council meeting and an executive session, council voted to deny the use of Barclay Square for the 2020 Groundhog Festival to the current Groundhog Festival Committee Inc.

The special meeting was called to discuss whether or not council would grant the Groundhog Festival Committee’s request to hold the festival next year the week of the Fourth of July in Barclay Square.

Toby Santik, council vice president, said, “After council had an executive session, as lengthy as it was, if Roger Steele, chairman of the Groundhog Festival Committee, Inc. would be willing to step down, rewrite your by-laws so that it’s an inclusive organization, a committee including SPLASH, PRIDE, Punxsutawney Fire Department, vendors and any other local entity that has a vested interest in this and with Steele as a member of this committee equal to all those others that are involved, with the Punxsutawney Area Chamber of Commerce being the facilitator to make the festival bigger and better, would you be willing to do that, yes or no?”

Steele did not respond immediately, then said, “This was a discussion with my committee members this afternoon; we would have to go back to our solicitor and discuss that proposal, and we would accept what that attorney would tell us concerning extensive long-term planning. We would consent, the committee has to vote, not (me), and if that was what they wanted to do, then they would remove all of their equipment from the park as soon as possible.”

Santik asked Michele Lorenzo, council member, to make a motion.

Lorenzo made a motion to deny the use of Barclay Square to the current Groundhog Festival Committee, and Santik made the second.

Council President Larry Chenoga asked for a roll call vote to deny the park to the committee: Chenoga yes, Lorenzo yes, Jeanne Porada yes, and Santik yes. Justin Cameron, Cindy Rebuck and Jim Bianco were absent. The motion carried 4-0.

“Please convey to our attorney all your reasons as to why we aren’t able to have Festival No. 54 in Barclay Square; he’s interested in knowing your exact and particular reasons,” Steele said.

See the July 20 edition of The Punxsutawney Spirit for the complete story.