BY TOM LAVIS
Not all of the Groundhog Day celebrations are in Punxsutawney.
Fans of the furry prognosticator will congregate at two local events to commemorate the Seer of Seers.
Organizers are joining forces to celebrate the shadowy figure on Feb. 2 and 3.
The fifth annual Groundhog Day Celebration Dinner Dance will be held at 7 p.m. Feb. 2 at Ace’s, 316 Chestnut St. in the Cambria City section of Johnstown.
The celebration will continue at 8 p.m. Feb. 3 at the Crow’s Nest in Tire Hill.
The evening at Ace’s will feature a homemade spaghetti dinner prepared by Gary Matolyak, owner of Ace’s.
Matolyak was skeptical that a tribute to the groundhog would draw a crowd.
“It’s hard to believe this is our fifth year for the Groundhog Day Celebration,” Matolyak said.
“It’s uncanny how every year this becomes more and more successful.”
The meal is an added bonus to the celebration.
“We do a sumptuous homemade spaghetti dinner for $10, which is included with the price of hearing the Rockers,” Matolyak said.
He was quick to say that when the Classic Rockers perform, the cost is usually $10 without a dinner.
The Prognosticator of all Prognosticators will be summoned from his burrow in the old oak stump the morning of the celebration at Ace’s to let the world know when spring will arrive.
“We are very excited about this year’s event because it falls directly on Groundhog Day, making our event more special,” Matolyak said.
The festivities will also include prizes and “Phil” folklore.
The Classic Rockers will take the stage at 8.
Tickets will be available at the door.
The party continues Feb. 3 at the Crow’s Nest in Tire Hill with live music by Cajun Norman and the Jam Session Band with similar festivities.
Spearheading both events is Norman Chynoweth, the keyboard player in both bands and a fan of all things Punxsutawney Phil.
This will mark the first official celebration at the Crow’s Nest.
“I think having the celebration at two venues will enhance the participation,” Chynoweth said.
“By having it in Tire Hill, we should attract some of those Somerset County people who came to our first such celebration at Jim & Jimmies tavern back in the day.”
The event was originally held at the establishment along Route 985 for about 16 years before the bar closed in 2008.
In 2009, the festivities found a new home at Ace’s, and attracted about 220 people last year.
Chynoweth has been collecting groundhog memorabilia for nearly two decades and has purchased many of the items while visiting Gobbler’s Knob on Groundhog Day.
“I will set up my collection at both locations,” he said.
“I have puppets, artifacts and stuffed replicas of Punxsutawney Phil and other varmints."
A musician, Chynoweth said no celebration would be complete without the appropriate songs to mark the occasion.
The bands will play such hits as “Carve That Groundhog” “The Mule in the Mine” and “Ridin’ in the Car to Punxsutawney,” a parody on a tune composed by Arlo Guthrie.
One of Chynoweth’s friends will don a groundhog costume to portray Mr. Groundhog Man, who will party with the guests at each venue.
According to folklore, if it is cloudy when a groundhog emerges from its burrow on Groundhog Day, then spring will come early; if it is sunny, the groundhog will supposedly see its shadow and retreat back into its burrow, and the winter weather will continue for six more weeks.
“When Phil comes out of his stump, the first thing he needs is a haircut, so we will be giving certificates for a haircut to lucky patrons,” Chynoweth said.
“We also will give away bundles of firewood because it’s something everyone can use in February whether Phil sees his shadow or not.”
The admission at the Crow’s Nest is $5.
If you go ...
What: Groundhog Day Celebration Dinner Dance.
Where: Ace’s, 316 Chestnut St. in the Cambria City section of Johnstown.
When: 7 p.m. Feb. 2. Music begins at 8.
Tickets: $10 at the door, includes dinner.
What: Groundhog Day Celebration.
Where: Crow’s Nest, Tire Hill.
When: 8 p.m. Feb. 3.
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