Fun Faculty Fact Friday: Mr. Travis’ father-in-law is in the Inner Circle

Thomas Dunkel, aka Shingle Shaker, sits at his desk at Dunkel Roofing in Punxsutawney.

Thomas Dunkel, aka Shingle Shaker, sits at his desk at Dunkel Roofing in Punxsutawney.

Juliana Carbone, Staff Writer

It’s been a month since Phil saw his shadow, marking six more weeks of winter.

On February 2, a man in a black tux and top hat pulled the groundhog out of his humble abode and raised him high up into the air like a trophy. This man is part of a group of local dignitaries, collectively known as the Inner Circle, who are responsible for carrying on the tradition of Groundhog Day every year.

There are 15 men that are a part of this group and one of them happens to be English teacher Justin Travis’ father-in-law.

Tom Dunkel, also known as “Shingle Shaker,” has been a part of the Inner Circle for six years. His primary role is to promote celebration of the holiday. This includes going to different events all throughout the year. Mr. Dunkel will travel all throughout the state of Pennsylvania with Phil and other members of the Inner Circle in order to advertise Groundhog  Day. He also is in charge of tending to Gobbler’s Knob, where Punxsutawney Phil lives.

Groundhog Day came from the German Christians who selected a groundhog to predict the weather. They brought this tradition with them when they came over from Germany and settled in Punxsutawney. However, since hedgehogs were not commonly found in the area, they had to change their weather predicting animal to a groundhog. The celebration began on February 2, 1887 when local Clymer Freas convinced the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club to carry out the idea.

When Phil isn’t in the spotlight, he enjoys spending time with his wife, Phyllis. He also enjoys his time in the town library. Phil loves to travel to different places and meet new people, such as Oprah. The Inner Circle speak to the groundhog in a language known as Groundhogese. This allows him to tell the president of the club whether it is going to be an early spring or six more weeks of winter.

So next Groundhog Day, make sure you look for Mr. Dunkel. He’ll be right beside his right-hand groundhog, Phil. If you have any questions about how the special day and the festivities work, go visit Mr. Travis and he’ll tell you all about it.