You could check a newspaper or TV station for the weather forecast but if interested in whether spring will come early this year, the fun place to go if living in the Chicago area is Woodstock in McHenry County, IIlinois where groundhog Woodstock Willie will be awakened for his weather prediction Feb. 2.
Old farming tales have it that if the groundhog (or beaver in some European countries) see its shadow it will go back underground and winter will stay around for several more weeks.
So pray that Feb. 2 is cloudy.
Woodstock, a small town with a picturesque square anchored by a much photographed bandstand, was the main filming site for director/writer/actor Harold Ramis’ beloved “Groundhog Day” that came out in 1993.
Scouted by then Columbia location manager Bob Hudgins, the town was the stand-in for Punxsutawney, PA, because Ramis and lead Bill Murray lived in the Chicago’s suburbs.
Its tale of how second, third, fourth and more chances changed Murray who played an arrogant weather forecaster, continues to bring visitors to Woodstock where the movie was filmed in 1992.
But the main time to come is on Groundhog Day weekend for the town’s annual forecasting celebration. There will be tours of the movie’s sites and memorabilia and photos from the classic comedy on many movie goers favorite list will be on display.
“We had record numbers last year,” said Woodstock Chamber spokesperson Melissa McMahon who is also on the Groundhog Day Committee. She estimated the crowds numbered a few thousand in 2020.
“That’s because it was a Sunday and the weather cooperated. We do not expect nearly that this year because it’s on a Tuesday and because of COVID,” said McMahon. “But we are having it. We’re just asking people to social distance and wear masks,” she said
The Woodstock event featuring Woodstock Willie’s appearance is at 7 a.m. on Groundhog Day, Feb. 2. If you go, tour the Woodstock Opera House used as a hotel in the film. See the historic courthouse whose basement was used for the bar scenes and the spot where Ned Ryerson accosted Murray with the follow-up puddle incident.
For excellent behind the scenes insight, click on the location tour video with Hudgins at Woodstock/Groundhog Day.
Hudgins phrase for working with Woodstock people and sites, was “Magic in a bottle.”
To refresh the memory check out the trailer.
Written by Ramis and Danny Rubin, it stars Bill Murray who has to relive Feb. 2 until he gets enough right to capture the heart of his love interest played by Andie acDowell.
For more Woodstock celebration information visit Woodstock/groundhog.
If interested in what the Pennsylvania groundhog is forecasting visit Punxsutawney Club.
BTW, another version of the sunny skies forecasting version is that clear weather on the Christian festival of Candlemas forebodes a prolonged winter.
(Photos by Jodie Jacobs)