So much to do, you need not leave town this weekend

PUNXSUTAWNEY – The leftover turkey has been stored, and Thanksgiving 2011 is one for the recipe books and photo albums.

To that end, the Punxsutawney Area Chamber of Commerce, local businesses and organizations stress to the shopping and traveling public that with so many events and attractions going on downtown Saturday, it’s possible to spend the whole day downtown.

So resist the impulse to travel elsewhere — north, south, east or west — and stick around for the weekend.

“A day full of events; people won't have to leave,” Chamber Executive Director Marlene Lellock said.

Here's a rundown of what’s happening Saturday, the official kick-off of the Christmas season in Punxsutawney:

• Mistletoe Madness begins at 8 a.m. in the gift and specialty stores and on the streets and sidewalks of downtown, featuring special holiday promotions, events and more.

• Diva Day 3 begins at 10 a.m. at the Punxsutawney Area Community Center, with 20 direct sales vendors, such as Thirty-One Purses, Cabi and more.

• The Groundhog Festival Committee and local organizations will host Punxsy’s Winter Street Festival from noon to 6 p.m., with local charities and non-profits setting up booths and locations along South Findley Street.

“Punxsy is such a generous town, with such generous and caring people, we want to do something to get them involved,” said event organizer Michelle Covert.

Local groups will sell items to benefit charities and non-profits, with local talents – including Pastor Paul Thompson, Mike Venturini, the First English Ringer, chainsaw Wizard Randy Rupert and others – providing entertainment and displays.

“We run until 6 p.m., when the parade starts,” Covert said. “It’s just more to do in town that day, and to help people stay in town.”

Roger Steele, Punxsutawney Borough Council member and chairman of the Groundhog Festival Committee, said the committee also sees this event as a way to thank the community for its support, as well as to lend some of its equipment – normally stored away until summer – for the event.

He said, “It's a way of drawing more people into downtown for Small Business Saturday,” which is a second annual event, sponsored by American Express, dedicated to supporting small businesses during one of the busiest shopping weekends of the year.

n At 6 p.m., the annual Home for the Holidays parade steps off, heralding Santa Claus’ first official visit to Punxsy in 2011.

Punxsutawney Postmaster John McBee reminds youngsters to bring their letters to Santa for postal workers to pick up during the parade.

Children and Santa-believers alike should include their return addresses on their letters, McBee said, assuring youngsters that Santa will answer every letter he receives.

In addition, those who wish to contribute unwrapped toys for Toys for Tots – spearheaded by Femco Machine Co., the U.S. Marines and Community Action Inc. — should also bring their items to the parade.

“We'll have ‘elves’ on hand to collect the toys just before Santa arrives on the Femco truck, and we'll also have a drop-off location near the tree lighting ceremony” in Barclay Square, said Femco Machine Co. Marketing Associate Thom Pratt.

• Around 7 p.m., after the parade, Santa will visit with children in the Agape Student Housing building at 105 W. Mahoning St. (the former Punxsy Christian High School).

• Also around 7 p.m., the Punxsutawney Rotary Club will host its annual Circle of Trees and the lighting of the community Christmas tree, standing tall on Memorial Bandstand in Barclay Square.

For more information, check out or call 938-7700.