No, the title of this blog does not have typos. The “Phantastic Phils” of Punxsutawney are a series of 32 plump, six-foot-tall, larger-than-life, friendly, colorful, creative, whimsical, artistic statues of the groundhog, Punxsutawney Phil, the World’s Most Famous Weatherman. An outdoor public art project of the Punxsutawney Area Chamber of Commerce, these statues that decorate the streets and landscapes of Punxsutawney took two and a half years to complete. The “Phantastic Phils” are not only considered “members” of the community, but they are “scattered around the community greeting residents on a daily basis and delighting visitors who eagerly search them out.” Such as my husband and me, who during our three phun-philled days on Groundhog’s Day weekend were on a quest to find as many of these “Phantastic Phils” as possible. Phantastic phun!
Each with its own unique name, artist, and sponsorship, the first “Phantastic Phil” we discovered was this beautiful “Get Your Phil of Roses,” made with thousands of pieces of glass. A stained glass groundhog! Artist Brenda Nicklas said this sculpture took 200 hours to complete! Amazingly it survived a severe thunderstorm the night of its unveiling where “lightening struck the brick building across the street sending brick fragments flying in all directions narrowly missing the new Phantastic Phil.”
Since Punxsutawney, PA is the Weather Capital of the World, and Punxsutawney Phil is the Weather Predictor Extraordinaire, it is only appropriate that this, “The Wizard of the Weather” statue, is located next to the Punxsutawney Weather Discovery Center. Decorated with a weather vane, snow, a snow shovel, butterflies, lightening, a working thermometer, and other weather-related items, all four seasons are illustrated on the front and back of this “Phantastic Phil.”
“Presby MacPhil” is located near the Punxsutawney Presbyterian Church, and represents the Scottish beginnings of the church. Complete with wearing a kilt and playing the bagpipes, when this sculpture was unveiled, a true bagpiper entertained the crowd.
“Fireman Phil” was sponsored by the Depp family, “not only to honor their beloved father and grandfather, the late Leroy ‘Cookie’ Depp, a longtime fireman, but also to pay tribute to all volunteer firefighters in the community.”
Modeled after the Statue of Liberty, “Freedom Phil” was sponsored by the committee that hosts Punxsutawney’s annual Groundhog Festival during the week of the Fourth of July. Interestingly, the copper paint used on this sculpture will age to give it the look of “verdigris,” the green pigment that is similar to that used on the real Statue of Liberty.
Did you know that the origin of the name of Punxsutawney comes from the Native Delaware Indians, the Lenni Lenape, who called it the “Town of the “Ponkies?” Ponkies are gnats or sand flies, or maybe even mosquitoes. The Lenni Lenape also have their own legend about the groundhog, which they refer to as the “Oijak or Wojak,” similar to the name woodchuck. This “Punksutenink Phil” statue is filled with wonderful historical information.
“There’s Work to be Done” is located across the street from a hardware store. This “Phantastic Phil” statue contains all kinds of tools, including a pair of safety goggles on its head, a pencil behind an ear, an extension cord in one hand, and a rake in the other hand.
At this point I will mention that there is a great brochure presented by The Punxsutawney Groundhog Club and Northwest Pennsylvania’s Great Outdoors Visitors Bureau, which has small photos of all the “Phantastic Phils,” and a great map of the town showing you where they are all located. We used this map during our quest to find them, both by walking to many, and driving to a few. The first day we were in Punxsutawney, we even took a free, guided, 45-minute “Phantastic Phil Walking Tour” to several of the sculptures. Our tour guide, Michele Neal, the Executive Director of the Punxsutawney Area Chamber of Commerce, provided us with information about the project of creating the statues, trivia about them, and other “insider” tidbits.
“The Spirit of Punxsutawney” represents the community’s newspaper, made by co-artists Rick Weiss who “put his design on paper and artist Sandy Zambory who created the old-time newspaper reporter, complete with an authentic Brownie camera around his neck.” In fact, all of the Phantastic Phil statues resemble a caricature that Mr. Weiss, a popular Pittsburgh-area artist, previously developed for this local newspaper.
Of course the collection of “Phantastic Phils” statues would not be complete without “Phillage,” Punxsutawney Phil himself, the first statue created, making its debut on Groundhog’s Day 2004, sponsored by the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club. It shows Phil dressed in the traditional tuxedo and top hat, making this sculpture actually seven feet tall, which are worn by the members of the Inner Circle, the caretakers of the real Punxsutawney Phil. A collage of images from the community’s famous holiday is on the back of this statue, including scenes from the festivities at Gobbler’s Knob on February 2nd, where Phil makes his weather prediction.
Our favorite statue however is the “Phil’d with Love” Phantastic Phil, the first picture of this blog above. It is the only sculpture with both arms in the air, as if giving a hug to all. Located near, and sponsored by, Mulberry Square Elder Care and Rehabilitation, its message “I heart Punsxy” is simple, yet meaningful.
There are many other statues that my husband and I found on our quest, and others that we were not able to see on this trip, that are not represented in this blog. Just some of the other Phantastic Phil statues include names like, “It’s a WonderPhil World,” “Postcards from Phil,” “It’s Springtime for Phantastic Phyllis,” and “Oh the Places Phil Will Go.” As I have said, phantastic phun!
Please note that much of the information for this blog, including the quotes, was obtained by the brochure mentioned above, and a great 68-page booklet, “The Phantastic Phils! of Punxsutawney,” published by the Punxsutawney Area Chamber of Commerce. I bought this booklet as a great souvenir of our quest of the “Phantastic Phils” of Punxsutawney!
Sweet (and phun) Travels!