PUNXSUTAWNEY — A new bearded man wearing a top hat and tuxedo will make his first “trek” to the Gobbler’s Knob stage early on the morning of Feb. 2.
Members of the Inner Circle, more specifically, handlers John Griffiths and A.J. Dereume, do everything from carry Punxsutawney Phil on Groundhog Day to chop up vegetables for his lunch. The Inner Circle has 15 top-hatted members, and eight retired ones, according to www.groundhog.org.
Inner Circle members get to be a part of many Phil-related activities leading up to Groundhog Day, as well as special passes for the day itself. All members are required to “believe in the legend,” as well as wear a top hat and tuxedo, of course.
Jory Serrian is a Punxsutawney Area High School graduate who will join in the 133rd iteration of the annual tradition this year, said PGC Executive Director Katie Donald.
Serrian is the Purchasing and Parts Supervisor for P&N Coal Company who “appreciates what a small town has to offer,” his online biography says.
Although being a part of the PGC is a big responsibility, Serrian says, it’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for a Punxsutawney native.
“It’s the ultimate way to be involved in a great, unique American tradition,” he said. “Also, I want to know what the true, accurate weather is going to be. It’s a great group of guys that make it fun to live in Punxsutawney.”
Serrian will offically put on his top hat after the fireworks are finished on Feb. 2, when he makes his first journey to the Gobbler’s Knob stage, looking out at all of “Phil’s Phollowers,” as well as his friends and family, Donald said.
As a child, Serrian can remember when he woke up early with his mom and brother to witness Phil’s prediction.
“That was before Punxsutawney closed the schools for the day, so we would go up to see the prognostication, come home to get a hot shower to warm up, and then go to elementary school,” he said.
Serrian will even have the chance to pick his Inner Circle nickname at the Feb. 1 Groundhog Banquet, Donald says.
“After reading past articles and looking through old Punxsutawney history books, one of the GHC founding member’s nickname was “Head Huntsman,” Serrian said. “I thought that was an awesome nickname, and also a way to honor the past.”
The public can join the PGC, too, receiving an “official membership card” signed by the keeper of Punxsutawney Phil and PGC president, as well as a copy of his official proclamation made on Feb. 2 and an advance notice of celebration activities, according to the PGC website.
PGC members will be invited to an Inner Circle reception on Feb. 1, where they can mingle with other club members and meet Phil’s handlers. Members also receive the “Groundhogese,” a quarterly-published e-newsletter.
For more information, visit www.groundhog.org.