Tuesday, February 3, 2015

What Does Punxsutawney Have That We Don't?

This time of year, newscasters regularly mention the town of Punxsutawney, PA. No one I've met has a bad opinion of that small town, nor should they. It seems like a nice enough community out in the northwest corner of the state. The Punxsutawney.com website leans more towards welcoming tourists than it does towards telling folks how to pay parking tickets, probably because once a year on February 2nd, thousands of visitors descend on their town just to watch a groundhog be roused from his sleep at daybreak and blearily blink his eyes in the bright TV lights.

Yesterday, I was surprised to hear ABC News say that the committee in charge of the Groundhog Day festivities admitted that they'd made the decision for Phil the night before. I figure they've probably been doing that for a while, given the fact that they don't actually wait until sunrise for their ceremony. Might also explain why, as the Washington Post reported yesterday, Phil's accuracy has dropped to 80%.

But I have to wonder what the admission will do for their tourism. I mean, they've taken away their rodent's magical claim to weather prediction. People can stay home and watch for the Official Tweet from Punxsutawney next year.

What else does Punxsutawney have to offer their visitors? Under "Attractions" on their website, they list their library, parks and playgrounds, even their town square. We have all of those, plus a 1st-class zoo. They have 27 restaurants. I've been working on compiling a restaurant listing for Norristown and I'm up to 45 as of yesterday. I think it might top out close to 60.

Punxsutawney has a "Festivals and Celebrations" category on their website but they list nothing under it. We have the Arts Hill Festival, Riverfest, the West End International Festival, the Car Show, History Fest at Selma, Family Unity Day, Mexican Independence Day, and several church festivals (Did I forget anything?). And this year, we might be adding a North End Festival and Fourth Friday celebrations downtown in the summer.

Our Elmwood Park Zoo hosts the live mascot for the Philadelphia Eagles (Noah the Eagle), and also Stella the Owl, who millions of TV viewers saw last Sunday on the Temple University ad that aired during the Super Bowl. And don't forget our own groundhog, Nora. Each year our zoo staff waits until they see if Nora actually casts a shadow before voicing her prediction. (Nora had no shadow yesterday, by the way--too overcast and rainy.)

So, maybe next year we should invite all the visitors who go to Punxsutawney for their admittedly staged Groundhog Day prediction, to come to Norristown and see Nora instead. Frankly, it's time to start inviting visitors to come to Norristown, period. We seem totally oblivious to the fact that we have so much to offer outsiders.

Meantime, will we have an early spring? Even if Nora's wrong, I'm glad I live in a town that's not afraid to be hopeful.

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