PUNXSUTAWNEY, Pa. (WTAJ) — When driving through Punxsutawney you may notice statues scattered around the area shaped just like Punxsutawney Phil. They’re of course in honor of the town’s most loved prognosticator; but where did the idea begin?
Throughout downtown Punxsy you’ll see these fiberglass statues called Phantastic Phils. Groundhog Club Inner Circle member A.J. Dereume, also known as Rainmaker, said the idea for the statues originated in other cities.
“Different cities were having these big fiberglass artist rendition statues around and so Punxsutawney thought what a great idea we’ll do it with groundhogs,” Dereume said.
Each statue is identical with certain modifications made to them depending on the design. The statue is designed by a business or organization that sponsors it.
“We do a sketch on them and then we just create from there,” Artist Kelly Porada said. “To look at it, get the idea and figure out how it’s gonna go on a 3D surface, you know. It’s fun, it’s a challenge but it’s fun.”
The first Phantastic Phil debuted on Groundhog Day in 2004. It belongs to the Groundhog Club.
“The very first one I ever did was the one in the park, that’s the first Phantastic Phil,” Porada said.
“We have a Groundhog Club one down at Phil’s zoo so that would have to be my favorite,” Dereume said.
The most recent statue was added in front of Wendy’s along Hampton Avenue. Over 30 others can be found in the borough and more are expected.
“I’m sure there are plans for others. There’s always something in the works,” Dereume said. “If a business would like to get one they usually contact us. Not all are businesses. Some are civic groups and it can be anybody. Someone can say I want one in my front yard.”
A full list of Phantastic Phil locations can be found at the Punxsutawney Chamber of Commerce and on its website.