Clarion Area Jobs

Community Partner

Want to post an ad on exploreClarion?

Contact us today at 814-297-8004 or email [email protected]

Free Classifieds




Featured Local Job

Featured Local Event

Clarion U. SBDC: Resources for Small Businesses Affected by COVID-19


Punxsutawney Groundhog Club’s Inner Circle Includes Two Pennwest-Clarion Alumni

Monday, February 6, 2023 @ 12:02 AM

Posted by Ron Wilshire

phils-burrowPUNXSUTAWNEY, Pa. (EYT) – While Punxsutawney Phil has a job that requires him to work only one day a year, the mysterious Punxsutawney Groundhog Club’s Inner Circle spends the entire year getting ready for the February 2 event – and, two Clarion University alumni are enablers of the famous groundhog.

(Pictured above: Clarion University alumni Dan “Moonshine” McGinley stands with one of the many groundhog statues throughout Punxsutawney. This one is outside of Phil’s Burrow at the Punxsutawney Memorial Library.)

Dan “Moonshine” McGinley, a 2002 Clarion University graduate, is Vice President of the Inner Circle, and 2008 Clarion University graduate Katie Donald is the executive director of the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club.

According to the official Groundhog Day website,, “The Inner Circle is “a group of local dignitaries responsible for carrying on the tradition of Groundhog Day every year. They’re the ones who are not only responsible for planning the events every year, but they’re also responsible for the feeding and care of Phil himself!”

The Punxsutawney Groundhog Inner Circle is composed of 15 members who serve as Phil’s custodians and are responsible for carrying on the tradition of Groundhog Day each year. Somewhat like the X-Men, upon selection to the elite group, each is given a weather-related identity. Current members include Shingle Shaker, Rainmaker, Thunder Conductor, Moonshine, Iceman, and O-Zone.

McGinley was nominated to the Inner Circle after working with the Groundhog Day stage show. He earned his nickname “Moonshine” because he works lights for the stage show under “the Moonshine.”

(Pictured below: The Punxsutawney Groundhog Club’s Inner Circle crossing the street in Punxsutawney parodying the famous Beatles’ “Abby Road” album cover.)


Donald said as a local, she would always stay for the celebration when she was growing up and has never grown tired of the town’s most famous day and celebrity.

As executive director of the club, she is close to the Inner Circle. She moved out of the area for a couple of years, but when she came back, she was happy to land the job as executive director for the Groundhog Club.

Unlike Donald, McGinley isn’t originally from Punxsutawney, but his wife is. He met her through her cousin, who was McGinley’s roommate at Clarion.

The first recorded Groundhog Day occurred in 1886, and the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club was founded the following year.

There are many other weather forecasters, but there’s only one Punxsutawney Phil who has had the job for the past 137 years. While the first official Groundhog Day was February 2, 1887, the tradition was started in 1886 when a group of Punxsutawney residents marked Candlemas Day by searching for a groundhog.

Candlemas Day is celebrated on February 2, and, as the tradition goes, if any animal came out from underground hibernation and the sun was out, there would be six more weeks of winter.

A local newspaper editor named the group Punxsutawney Groundhog Club, after the group’s first trek to find Phil.

According to Wikipedia, the Christian religious holiday of Candlemas Day has become most commonly associated with the current celebration, but its roots are older than that. The celebration started when Christians would take their candles to the church to have them blessed on February 2. This, they felt, would bring blessings to their household for the remaining winter.

“As time rolled on, the day evolved into another form. The following English folk song highlights the transition to weather prognostication:

If Candlemas be fair and bright,
Come, Winter, have another flight;
If Candlemas brings clouds and rain,
Go Winter, and come not again.

“This ‘interpretation’ of Candlemas Day became the norm for most of Europe. As you can read, there is no mention of an animal of any kind in the preceding song. It wasn’t until this traditional belief was introduced to Germany that an animal was introduced into the lore, hence another evolution of February 2nd. If, according to German lore, the hedgehog saw his shadow on Candlemas Day there would be a “Second Winter” or six more weeks of bad weather. As German settlers came to what is now the United States, so too came their traditions and folklore. With the absence of hedgehogs in the United States, a similar hibernating animal was chosen. This leads us to yet another evolution in the legend and to present-day Punxsutawney.”

The whole Phil “experience” has grown over the years, and McGinley said it is so much more than a one-day-a-year holiday, and the town is happy to host it.

There are still many questions about the “magic” of Phil–known only to the members of the Inner Circle. While other groundhogs only live three to six years in the wild, Phil is not embarrassed by his age or how he has come to live so long.

“Phil enjoys drinking the Elixir of Life every summer, which sustains him for another seven years,” McGinley said.

“He looks great for 137,” Donald added.

To contact the Inner Circle, send an e-mail in care of [email protected].

Click here to meet the crew that carries on the Groundhog Day tradition year after year.

Copyright © 2023 EYT Media Group, Inc. All rights reserved. Any copying, redistribution or retransmission of the contents of this service without the express written consent of EYT Media Group, Inc. is expressly prohibited.


Local and National Sports News


Recipes submitted by our Readers


local movie listings


Have a suggestion?