Punxsutawney Phil Preps for Big Day

In just a few weeks, Pennsylvania’s most famous groundhog will make his 125th winter weather prognostication.  We Pennsylvanians have been celebrating Groundhog Day for 127 years now, but Punxsutawney Groundhog Club President Bill Deeley says they took two years off during World War II.  “We just didn’t want to aid and abed the enemy in a weather forecast,” he says. 

There will be no such disruptions this February 2nd on Gobbler’s Knob when Punxsutawney Phil emerges from his burrow and checks for his shadow.  If he sees it, Phil predicts six more weeks of winter.  No shadow means an early spring.  Of course the furry little marmot’s forecasts have always been 100% accurate, according to Deeley. 

Since Groundhog Day falls on a weekend this year, organizers are expecting record crowds in Punxsutawney.  That means 30,000 plus could be swarming this small town for some big fun.  If you go, be sure to bring plenty of warm clothes because Gobbler’s Knob will be frigid in the pre-dawn. 

We caught up with Phil, Deeley and a whole gang of handlers at this year’s Pennsylvania Farm Show.  What does the groundhog do when he’s not prognosticating?  “He sleeps, eats and gets his picture taken,” Deeley says with a smile.  The Farm Show is just one of many events Phil attends throughout the year.

Map, Travel, Tourism, Drive, Interstates

Industry Marks Tourism Day at PA Capitol

The rally’s theme, ‘I am Tourism,’ plays off of the more than 400,000 jobs attributed to Pennsylvania’s tourism industry.  It ranks second only to agriculture as Pennsylvania’s largest industry, and Pennsylvania Association of Travel & Tourism President & CEO Rob Fulton says tourism is actually the number one industry for most counties. 

Fulton says the tourism industry’s annual economic impact nears $36-billion, and the reach is broader than one might think.  “Restaurants, convenience stores; visitors go the malls to shop, they go to the outlets to shop, they go the grocery stores,” he explains. 

Included in the economic impact estimate are the $3.4-billion dollars in tax revenues for which tourism accounts.  Officials say their industry is not a part of the state’s budget problems – it’s a part of the solution. 

Rob Fulton

Rob Fulton talks tourism with Radio PA.

Fulton tells us his fear is that without adequate marketing dollars tourists will start to go to other states.  “The numbers will lag a little bit,” Fulton says, referring to the ‘Marketing to Attract Tourists’ line item in the state budget.  The state poured more than $10-million into such efforts in FY2011.  However, the proposed budget for FY2013 would include just over $3-million. 

That doesn’t stack up with other states.  For instance, Fulton says Michigan invests $25-million dollars a year in tourism marketing. 

Looking ahead to this year’s budget negotiations, Fulton hopes Pennsylvania’s policymakers will recognize the important impact 175-million visitors have on the state’s economy.

Hear Punxsutawney Phil’s Official Proclamation

Punxsutawney Phil

The Inner Circle will tell you that Punxsutawney Phil has never gotten a forecast wrong.

Listen to Punxsutawney Phil’s proclamation, as read by Groundhog Club Inner Circle Vice President Mike Johnston:Phil

PA Wine Industry Grows in Size, Reputation

The number of licensed Pennsylvania wineries has grown from just over 100 to more than 180 in the past five years.  “That is an enormous jump, especially when we think about ten years ago when we had about 65-wineries,” says Pennsylvania Winery Association Executive Director Jennifer Eckinger.  Pennsylvania wineries combine two of Pennsylvania’s biggest industries: agriculture and tourism.  Eckinger says they are proud to be a part of both. 

Quality is one key to the recent growth.  “We’re seeing that the overall quality of wine grape growth has spread throughout the state,” Eckinger says, while also pointing to an increased interest in both wines and buying local.

The most recent data pegs the Pennsylvania wine and wine grape industry’s economic impact at $2.35-billion dollars, but Eckinger points out those are 2007 numbers.  “I can only imagine that has increased over the last four years as well.”

An emphasis on research and marketing may truly make 2012 a vintage year for PA wine.  “The wineries have such an immense passion, the winemakers have immense passion and it’s great to try a product that was crafted locally.”

As the industry grows, so does its presence at the Farm Show.  Visitors to the 96th Pennsylvania Farm Show’s Main Hall will be able to check out the Pennsylvania Wine cork sculpture and sample from 20-wineries that will take turns manning “Winery Row.”

Corbett Launches Kayak Tour

Governor Tom Corbett will split time between land and water for the remainder of the week, as he begins a three-day kayak tour of Wyoming and Luzerne counties on Wednesday.  Corbett says it gives him the chance to see Pennsylvania from a completely different perspective.  “I’ve seen it from the roads, I’ve seen it from the air, now I want to see it from the streams and rivers of Pennsylvania,” Corbett explained on Radio PA’s monthly “Ask the Governor” program. 

Tunkhannock Viaduct

Gov. Corbett will tour the historic Tunkhannock Viaduct during day one of his kayak trip.

It’s going to be a condensed sojourn down the Susquehanna River, due to Corbett’s recent back surgery.  “But if it works out, I’d like to be able to do it maybe two or three times next summer, and each summer thereafter,” Corbett says.  The goal is to promote Pennsylvania’s natural resources and their impact on the state’s tourism industry. 

The First Lady won’t be with him on this trip, but Corbett says the two enjoy kayaking on vacations.  This even gives the governor the chance to try out the new kayak Mrs. Corbett bought him for his birthday/Father’s Day back in June. 

As many Pennsylvanians remember, former Governor Tom Ridge held similar bicycle tours to promote travel and tourism during his time in office.

Mummies are a Hit in Philadelphia

After barely a month on display at The Franklin Institute, in Philadelphia, Mummies of the World – The Exhibition has drawn visitors from all 50-states and 20-countries.  “Truly the statistics are astounding,” says Troy Collins, senior vice president of programs marketing and development at The Franklin Institute.  He says it’s a testament to both the exhibition and the city.  “Philadelphia remains a top destination not only for domestic, but for international visitors as well.” 

Tourism was up in Philadelphia, last year, both domestic and international.

Mummies of the World

Mummies of the World -- The Exhibtion

The visitors are being drawn to the largest exhibition of mummies and related artifacts ever assembled.  “The exhibit explores mummification from far beyond the Egyptian standpoint,” Collins says.  In fact, it includes specimens from South America, Europe and Asia too.  The ticketed event opened at The Franklin Institute on June 18th, and will run through October 23rd.  If you plan on attending note that time slots do sell out in advance, so Collins recommends online reservations.

Mummies of the World is in the midst of an exclusive seven-city, three-year US tour.  It started in Los Angeles last July and will head to Charlotte, NC next. 

(Photo credits: Darryl Moan (insert) and Lippisches Landesmuseum, Detmold, Germany (banner))