History & Interactive Fun Come Together at the Punxsutawney Weather Discovery Center

PUNXSUTAWNEY, Pa. (EYT) – Although Punxsutawney may be best known for its weather-prognosticating groundhog, the town has much more to offer.

The Weather Discovery Center, located at 201 North Findley Street, brings interactive weather-related fun together with the ambiance of a historic building for an unforgettable experience.

It all began when the Punxsutawney Post Office, formerly located in the building, was relocated to the east end of town in 1998 to create better handicap accessibility.

The former post office building, which was originally built in 1914 during a time of economic growth, then sat empty for two years before being purchased to create the Weather Discovery Center.

According to Amanda Hornack, Director of Education and Programming at the center, former Mayor John Hallman, who was the postmaster at the building back when it was owned by the U.S. Postal Service, was particularly instrumental in the creation of the Weather Discovery Center.

“He never liked referring to it as a museum, though,” Hornack noted. “He wanted it to be educational and interactive, not just somewhere you come to look at things.”

First, a board for the center, which was formed as a not-for-profit entity, was created.

Then, the organization took steps to remodel the building; this included restoring the lobby to as close to its original state as possible.

“They wanted to maintain the history, but structurally, there were some things that had to be taken care of before adding exhibits,” Hornack said.

There were some items and exhibits that were donated those first few years, but following a grant from the Pennsylvania Historical & Museum Commission, as well as a number private donations, the center was then able to begin installing permanent exhibits.

“It has been a work in progress ever since. We try to expand on something every year to make it a little different for the people who enjoy returning,” Hornack said.

The center still applies regularly for grants and accepts donations, as they continue to expand and add or change exhibits on a regular basis.

Most recently, they added the Precipitation Puzzler exhibit in February. This interactive exhibit challenges participants to put together four precipitation-related shapes in less than 60 seconds. Once that minute is up, air begins to blow through the surface of the exhibit, blowing the pieces away.

“It’s a good time. We worked with the Carnegie Science Center on this one,” Hornack noted.

According to Hornack, she and Director Marlene Lellock were a little concerned the new exhibit might be a bit too easy until they attempted it themselves, after the installation.

“Neither of us could do it on the first, or even the second try,” she admitted.

The Precipitation Puzzler is just one of the many interactive exhibits currently available at the Weather Discovery Center. Other exhibits include the Thunderdrums, the Twist & Shout, the Daily Forecast, Phil’s Burrow, and the Weather Wizard, which show everything from how tornados work and how to stock a storm shelter to how animals can predict the weather.

There are also more exhibits planned for the future.

According to Hornack, another new exhibit will be coming to the Weather Discovery Center sometime later this month. While they aren’t ready to announce the new exhibit yet, the possibilities for more interactive fun are intriguing.

Among the exhibits, one permanent exhibit gets new additions each year. Around Groundhog Day each year, a new face is added to the Weather Discovery Center Hall of Fame. Hornack noted that within the board of directors, a Hall of Fame committee, who accept suggestions the public, research individuals who have advanced the knowledge of weather science, climatology, and meteorology, and decide who to invite to join the Hall of Fame.

Recent inductees include Jen Carfagno, who was inducted this year, Joe Murgo, who was inducted in 2018, and Janice Dean, who was inducted in 2017

Hall of Fame members Jen Carfagno and Janice Dean at Groundhog Day 2019.

The Weather Discovery Center has also formed positive relationships with AccuWeather and the Weather Channel, and some individuals from each of those organizations have become Hall of Fame inductees.

Along with individuals and families visiting the center, they also offer special opportunities for school and group field trips, have a number of programs for scouting groups to earn badges and achievements, and also host children’s birthday parties.

The staff at the Weather Discovery Center is small, consisting only of Lellock, Hornack, and two docents. They rely heavily on volunteers to help keep the center running.

“We’re always looking for more volunteers, too,” Hornack noted.

Their regular hours, from January through March, are Monday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Their hours in April through May are Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. in June through August, they are open Monday through Saturday from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., and in September through December they are open Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.

Regular admission is $7.00 for adults or children – and kids ages two and under are admitted for free. They also offer a dollar off to all active duty military personnel and their accompanying family members upon presentation of military ID card.

For more information, check out the Punxsutawney Weather Discovery Center website or visit their Facebook page.

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