Punxsutawney Phil returned to his bur the day after seeing his shadow and predicted six weeks of winter. But residents and traders in small Pennsylvania The cities that put Phil on the map are hoping that the coronovirus epidemic does not continue to cast its shadow on the next Groundhog Day.
This year’s Virtual Groundhog Day event left the community, about 65 miles (105 kilometers) northeast of Pittsburgh, without its annual economic boost spending money on visitors, food, drinks and souvenirs is.
Mayor Richard Alexander said, “There was hardly anyone.” “The economic impact was really bad.”
The mayor said that the community of about 6,000 residents rotates between 10,000 and 15,000 tourists on Groundhog Day. When it happens on weekends, the number of balloons is up to 40,000, he said.
“On a typical groundhog day, there are a lot of celebrations and businesses and restaurants are flooded,” the Republican said. “Nothing like this happened this year.”
Alexander has lived in the city for nearly 50 years and served as mayor for eight of those people.
The mayor believes that Phil’s popularity with the 1993 film, “Groundhog Day”, boosts tourism. He wants to compare the actual Punxsutawney with the visitors Illinois Places used in the film.
Tourists can see Phil and his female companion, Phyllis, in their environmentally controlled natural habitat in the city’s library. Groundhog statues are scattered throughout the community and the name of the country’s most famous broadcaster is to be seen everywhere.
After the outbreak of the epidemic and restrictions on businesses and gatherings, organizers decided to go virtual for the 135th time that Phil would offer his prophecy.
Tuesday’s livestream from Gobble Knob, the small hill just outside Punxsutawney, was made possible by the Pennsylvania Tourism Office’s Holy-Stay PA and at one time had more than 15,000 spectators worldwide.
Phil was not without some kind of audience though. About 150 cardboard cutouts of fans were “clocked”.
Officials will not put a dollar amount on lost revenue.
“It was slow, but we expected it to be slow since March and it was no different,” said Katie Laska, who owns Lasca’s Pizza, which has been in business since 1987. He is also the president of the city’s Chamber of Commerce.
He said that Groundhog Day usually gives local traders a boost during the time of year when tourism is usually slow.
The origins of Groundhog Day are about a furry rodent in a German legend. Phil’s performance in the late 1800s predicts Phil to have a long winter more than 100 times. The 2020 forecast called for an early spring – however, Phil did not say anything about an epidemic.
“For places that sell souvenirs, it is like a Christmas holiday for their business. They took a hit, but some saw online sales, ”said Laska.
Laska said that no trader has gone out of business during the epidemic. He is optimistic that visitors will return to the park during the final week in June for the Festival of the Chamber of Commerce.
Mayor Alexander says he is eager to return to a pre-pandemic functionality.
“My hope is to get back to normalcy around here,” he said.
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