"Get On Board" - When my middle daughter was roughly 11, I introduced her to the movie Groundhog Day starring Bill Murray. We have watched it together each year since and she is currently 22. That's right, each year on February 2nd, for 11 years, she and I have sat down to watch this silly, ridiculous film. Many times, watching it came under great protest. Once we even watched it while she was away at college, but on the phone together. For those of you who have not seen it, I encourage you to spend an evening doing just that. The basic plot is that Murray plays Phil Connors, an arrogant Pittsburgh TV weatherman covering the annual Groundhog Day event in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania. He finds himself in a time loop, repeating the same day again and again. After repeating the day numerous times, he begins to re-examine his life and priorities.
I have always loved this movie despite its many critics. Over the years, I have done in-depth research into the film and it rings true to me for many reasons. The most important reason I love it is the message of this movie. You can only succeed when you treat others with respect and dignity: do nice things for no other reason than because it's the right thing to do. I do my absolute best to live by this creed and I hope to instill it in my children. In fact, last year, I sat my youngest down to have her inaugural viewing.
This year, I decided to do some additional research regarding the "Groundhog Day" tradition. I decided to focus on the small town of Punxatawney, Pennsylvania. This is a town of approximately 6,000 residents - that is until early February each year. During that time, the population numbers explode with estimates that range from 20,000 to 45,000 people. In 2014 all 2,600 hotel rooms within 20 miles were booked solid. Some estimate that over five million dollars are spent during that 3-5 day span and that's likely on the low side. In addition, the town sees requests that are related to the groundhog throughout the year for information and tourists visit all summer long.
What makes this most interesting to me is that this kind of success does not happen naturally - it has to be a community effort. I browsed through this year's "program" on line (25 pages long) and was truly impressed by the fact that each restaurant and business was involved. Not just through sponsorship or ad placement, but everyone was offering something unique. There are breakfast specials, lunch deals, the Groundhog Ball, and every other offer under the sun. The community embraces this tradition.
It would be easy to think "the crowds are a bother and I should close my insurance agency during the commotion", but that is not happening there. EVERY BUSINESS seems to participate. This is how you support your community and create an attraction of this magnitude.
I am not shopping for a Kennebec Valley groundhog, but I did want to point out that we have MANY, MANY events run by the chamber, by downtown organizations and other nonprofits in our region. If you are not embracing these by making your business a part of the event, you are missing a great opportunity. Not only to increase your publicity and customer base, but also to support these events and help to grow our region. So, go find out what is happening this year near your office and get involved. As always, if you need our help, please call.
And by the way, Phil apparently didn't see his shadow so we are headed for an early spring (he's been right 78-90% of the time).