Groundhog Days Returns
Groundhog Days celebrates the eponymous movie filmed in Woodstock more than 25 years ago.
No town celebrates Groundhog Day like Woodstock – not even Punxsutawney, Pa., the original home of the holiday.
February 2, the official holiday, is celebrated here with a traditional prognostication event on the town square that gets lots of attention from Chicagoland news outlets. But there’s more: Groundhog Days is a series of events and engagements over four days around the square (schedule here).
“The activities are either free or a very minimal cost,” said Rick Bellairs, longtime Groundhog Days volunteer and committee member. “Kids of all ages enjoy seeing the mayor interpret whether the furry little groundhog — Woodstock Willie — sees his shadow or not,” he said. “It’s a nice time to get out of the house and do something fun.”
So why Groundhog Day? And why Woodstock?
Rewind to 1992 when Harold Ramis, the late, acclaimed actor-director picked Woodstock for the location of the movie “Groundhog Day” starring Bill Murray and Andie MacDowell. “We wanted a town that looked perfect,” he said.
The positive experience the community enjoyed during the filming inspired a traditional groundhog prognostication event a year later. Fast forward 24 years and Groundhog Days has grown into a multi-day festival attracting not only locals, but people attending from as far away as Europe.
Events include a walking tour of film locations, a dinner dance, movie showings, pub crawl, games, family activities and more.
Rain, snow or shine, crowds come out for the walking tour of the film’s sites, many which have been plaqued.
A favorite is the exquisitely restored Cherry Tree Inn Bed & Breakfast, portrayed in the movie as the Cherry Street Inn, the boarding house where Murray woke up over and over and over again. You, too, can wake up over and over again in the 1894 “painted lady.”
The movie showings, which take place at the historic Woodstock Theatre, are always filled to capacity, Bellairs said. “You will find newbies and people who’ve seen the movie dozens of times. It’s a fun gathering.”
‘Exciting’ Time Remembered
Bellairs, an agent at Berkshire Hathaway Home Services in Woodstock, fondly remembers when Hollywood came to Woodstock for a few months to film the movie.
“I was an extra,” he recalled. “I was walking and driving in the background. I was standing on the square while Bill Murray’s weatherman character was reporting from the Gobbler’s Knobb.
“People turned out in crowds to watch the filming. It was an exciting time to be in Woodstock.”
He encourages all to recapture the magic during Groundhog Days.