Witnessing the crowds gathered in historic Woodstock Square on Wednesday morning despite the snow, Woodstock Willie the groundhog didn’t see his shadow.
“This February 2, at 7:07 a.m., Woodstock Willie, the seer of seers, tipster of tipsters, reluctantly but alertly emerged in Woodstock, Illinois to wish his loyal followers Happy Groundhog Day,” said said Mayor Mike Turner. “Willie looked up to the sky to the east, then down to the ground and said in a very clear groundhog, ‘I definitely don’t see my shadow. “”
This Groundhog Day marks the 30th anniversary of filming the classic “Groundhog Day” in Woodstock, which starred Illinois native Bill Murray and was released the following year in 1993.
The prediction featured the return of Richard Henzel, the voice of the DJ on the film’s clock radio.
Groundhog Days Committee Chairman Rick Bellairs noted that many of those in the crowd at the Groundhog Day scene in the film were regular residents of Woodstock.
“I had a lot of fun listening to the songs they were singing,” said McHenry County resident Amy Yore. “The movie was really cool. I arrived very early, so I watched everyone settle in. It was cool to see how the community came together.
Turnout for the event was higher than expected despite the snow storm that hit parts of suburban Chicago and higher than the previous year, when the lower turnout was attributed to the pandemic.
“I would have expected more people, but the weather kept people from Chicago and down south from coming because of all the snow,” Bellairs said. “Given the weather, given the middle of the week, the crowd was there.”
People from all over the country came to watch the event and even some from abroad were among the crowd.
Welcoming newcomers, Turner, who was marking his first Groundhog Day as mayor, encouraged them to come “again and again and again and spend money at Woodstock.”
Wednesday morning’s prognosis was the star event of a week of activities that included screenings of the film, chili cooking, breakfast, dancing and a tour of filming sites.
Among the newbies were Elizabeth Deardoff and Susan Garanzuay, two Dallas-area residents.
“We thought about coming [to Woodstock] for many years, and we’ve been busy with life, raising kids and working,” Deardoff said. “We are sisters and we came for his birthday. He’s just a generous person to me and my family, so I wanted to give back to him.
The two made the trip in the midst of inclement weather, but it was all the more worth it considering the company they shared.
“She’s the only person I would really want to come with because we both love the movie and love the message of the movie,” Deardoff said. “It’s a bit difficult to get here with the snow. We don’t ride in the snow in Texas.
The two of them have seen the film more than 10 times, they said.
Immediately following the event, many event attendees made their way from the spot to the breakfast held at Woodstock Moose Lodge 1329, just a few blocks north.
Breakfast had a good turnout given the situation, Craig Krandel said. Breakfast pulled out all the stops including trivia and a polka band. The trivia host was Krandel, who said the event has included trivia for 10 years. The competition consisted of filling in the blanks of quotes from the film.
It’s not the only version of trivia used at breakfast, Krandel said. He uses many different formats for anecdotes, but this year he said he chose to end the quote.
“I have a whole set of questions that I use,” Krandel said. “I’m going to watch the movie and pick up some trivia and pull some online.”
Trivia was originally called “Groundhog Lighting,” Krandel said, but was changed due to the connotation invoked by the title.
“People thought it looked mean, like we were going to set it on fire,” Krandel said. [as opposed to a holiday lights event]. …”We changed it to awakening.”
Groundhog Day Beyond Woodstock
Aside from its prominence in Woodstock, the Groundhog Day tradition began in North America as early as the 1700s by German immigrants. It was not until 1887 that the practice became a public holiday.
Confused by what the groundhog’s actions mean? If the groundhog sees its shadow, sunlight permitting, winter weather should last another six weeks, but if the groundhog does not see its shadow, spring weather is approaching.
Punxsutawney Phil, who is making a separate prognosis in a community about 65 miles northeast of Pittsburgh, predicted six more weeks of winter, the Associated Press reported.
According to records dating back to 1887, Phil predicted winter more than 100 times, according to the AP. Ten years were lost because no records were kept, organizers said.
Staten Island Chuck of New York is also expecting an early spring, the AP said, citing Staten Island District Attorney Michael McMahon, who presided over a ceremony there.