PUNXSUTAWNEY — Despite being born in the Philadelphia area, Gov. Tom Corbett insists he is a western Pennsylvania man by heart who has observed Groundhog Day since he was a child.
"When I was young, we had only three TV stations, and one of them we couldn't get — not in North Hills," said Corbett, the second sitting Pennsylvania governor to attend Groundhog Day. "We always hope for more winter and snow so we could play outside."
He also had a message for Inner Circle President Bill Deeley, who receives Punxsutawney Phil's prognostication in "groundhogese" and translates it for the crowd: "Don't screw up winter. After flooding this past year, I like not having to salt the roads this year."
In introducing Corbett, state House Speaker Sam Smith, of Punxsutawney, described the Inner Circle as "a well-oiled machine, as long as that machine is oiled with beer," to which Corbett ordered to both Smith and state Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati, "'A well-oiled machine. Get the beer."
"I'm not here to talk politics," Corbett said. "So relax."
Corbett and his wife, Susan, reside in the Governor's Mansion in Harrisburg, but maintain a home in Shaler Township.
Throughout his travels in the Keystone State, Corbett said he is always happy to return to western Pennsylvania, because "I know I'm back in Steelers Country."
He recalled moving into the Governor's Mansion after it was occupied by his predecessor, Gov. Ed. Rendell, who attended Groundhog Day in 2003 and was a "huge Eagles" fan.
Corbett described a breakfast event in the state dining room at the mansion, when he eyed two large candelabra from which he tried to sign a huge "You're in Steelers Country" banner given to him by his nephew. He also recalled the looks his wife and staff gave him as he tried it.
"Even though the governor resides in the mansion, it's her mansion, too," he said.
Corbett praised Punxsy's residents for taking a tradition such as Groundhog Day and helping it find a new audience, building "a genuine and vibrant" attraction for guests in Pennsylvania.
"Thank God for Phil, because he can get people to talk about Punxsutawney who maybe would not look here," he said.
Only Punxsy can boast that it hosts the one event in Pennsylvania that causes its population to double and triple, "except for maybe deer season," Corbett said.
Most of all, people come to Punxsy for its uniqueness — of its people and Groundhog Day.
"You've got to be unique when your high school mascot is the Chucks," Corbett said. "I don't know of any other place where people consult with any animal — let alone a groundhog — but it works because it's the unique nature of you."
Pick up a copy of the Thursday, Feb. 2, 2012 edition of The Ridgway Record for more.