PUNXSUTAWNEY — The 122nd annual Groundhog Picnic was held at Gobbler’s Knob on Saturday, following the CDC guidelines for gatherings while still celebrating Punxsutawney Phil’s life.

“Boys and girls from around the world, welcome to the greatest COVID-19 picnic you’ve ever experienced,” said Jeff Lundy, Groundhog Club Inner Circle president.

The Inner Circle gathered at the knob for another year of the picnic with Phil’s supporters and the ever important Elixir of Life Ceremony. The evening began with a steak dinner cooked and served by members of the Inner Circle, and a cornhole tournament.

“The Inner Circle worked really hard and they prepared a great meal. Everybody enjoyed the steak dinner,” said Katie Donald, Groundhog Club director.

Dan “Moonshine” McGinley said the cornhole tournament was another great success, even with the added guidelines this year. The main difference with the tournament was the layout of the cornhole boards. McGinley said they are typically arranged in a circle, but this year had to be spread out with picnic tables at each set.

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“We had a great tournament, we had I think like 30 teams,” McGinley said.

Following dinner, the Elixir of Life Ceremony was held. This is the one time of year that Phil is given a special groundhog elixir that is said to add seven years onto his life for every sip. Handler A.J. Dereume brought Phil out of his carrier for his chance at a drink.

“It’s a secret recipe passed down from handler to handler, and this is actually the first year that I made it. Ron (Ploucha) and Jon (Johnston) always helped me out, so I had to kind of wing it, but I think I did a pretty good job. It took me a while to collect all the ingredients,” Dereume said.

He also said this is only Phil’s second appearance since the coronavirus pandemic began. Phil was eager for the chance to be out, and for his elixir. He drank a lot more sips of the special drink than he did last year, according to Inner Circle members.

“We were very pleased with his intake. Phil’s health is always a concern, especially this year, so we feel good that he’s going to be in good health for many years to come,” McGinley said.

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