The top-hat wearing Inner Circle members feed and take care of Phil and also travel with the prognosticating groundhog throughout Pennsylvania for various engagements. "He's been on television shows in New York City before, but we sometimes have problems with bringing him across state lines. Some states don't want Phil's type brought into their state, we have learned." Says Phil's co-handler John Griffiths, "I always say we're the men behind the hog."
Phil and his 'Inner Circle' member friends keep very busy, not only for annual Groundhog Day festivies, but throughout the year as well ...
Groundhog Club Inner Circle member, Ron Ploucha, pets Punxsutawney Phil while visiting him inside his burrow at the Punxsutawney Library. "Phil's diet consists of various types of lettuce, iron-rich kale, celery and rabbit feed," explained Ploucha. "A special treat for Phil is a honey & oat granola bar. They are hard and crunchy which helps him keep his teeth healthy, sometimes we will even throw in a piece of wood for him to chew on."
There's no manual for becoming a handler for the Seer of Seers. "We go through a very extensive training for this," said Ploucha jokingly. " It's a learn-as-you-go thing, and it takes time to get to know each other and develop trust (with Phil). Everybody smells and sounds different."
Groundhog Club Inner Circle member Ron Ploucha, with co-handler John Griffiths, transports Punxsutawney Phil from a "Meet Phil" event at Punxsutawney High School.
Kids visit with Punxsutawney Phil in the halls of Punxsutawney High School during a youth wrestling match on in Punxsutawney, Pa. "They really see that Phil's not actually a puppet, or just something they saw on television," said Inner Circle member Ron Ploucha. "I get to see the looks on their faces with eyes as big as 50-cent pieces, it's my favorite part about being Phil's handler." While Ploucha appreciates watching kids enjoy Phil, he sometimes gets a little apprehensive when Phil is around large groups of people. "I'm worried that somebody — even though I tell them not to — will come up and put their hands near Phil's face. Sometimes those fingers of theirs looks like carrots to him. It's never happened fortunately, but there can always be a first time, so I am very careful with having him out in the open around people."
So, where did Punsxutawney Phil get his name from? This name is actually the shortened version of his official title which is "Punxsutawney Phil, Seer of Seers, Sage of Sages, Prognosticator of Prognosticators and Weather Prophet Extraordinary." The groundhog got his name from the editor of the The Punxsutawney Spirit newspaper.
Most of Phil's time is spent relaxing in a climate-controlled home at the Punxsutawney Library. For Groundhog Day he is taken to Gobbler's Knob, waits in a heated burrow underneath a simulated tree stump and is then brought out to make his famous appearance at 7:25 am on Groundhog Day, February 2, to give us his weather predictionJust an aside, two years ago while I, my hubby and in-laws took a trip to Ontario, Canada for our lovely week sailing on the Rideau, we spoke to the Cruise Director, Ann, who told us all that the one and only time she ever traveled to the United States was when she visited Gobbler's Knob on Groundhog Day in order to have the chance to actually see Punxsutawney Phil in person, TRUE STORY, my friends! Gotta love that Phil!