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‘Groundhog Day’ town ready for annual celebration

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Updated: March 3, 2014 2:41PM



Ready for spring? Sunday is Groundhog Day, the day that the furry prognosticator is persuaded to leave his burrow to predict whether or not there will be a quick end to winter.

In Woodstock, Ill., their large, costumed festival mascot groundhog, Woodstock Willie, will get an early wakeup call this evening. He’ll make an appearance on the balcony of the town’s Opera House to kick off the annual Groundhog Days festivities, Woodstock’s celebration of being the location where much of the much loved 1993 classic comedy and philosophy movie “Groundhog Day,” starring Bill Murray, was filmed.

“This year we’re thrilled that Danny Rubin, the screenwriter for the film, will be here. He’ll be at the 10 a.m. showing on Saturday to talk to folks about writing the script and about his experiences with the movie,” said Pam Moorhouse, co-chair of the Groundhog Days Committee.

Following the film, for a donation, visitors can warm up at the chili cook-off, an annual competition at the Opera House that starts at noon with public tastings and voting for the People’s Choice award.

The walking tours, at 1:30 p.m. on Saturday and 12:30 p.m. on Sunday, are another highlight of Groundhog Days.

“Bob Hudgins, who was the location manager for the film, leads a tour of the sites used in filming. He’s a lot of fun and the tours always attract a big crowd. The tours take over an hour, and it’s usually pretty cold, so be sure to dress warm,” recommended Moorhouse.

She said that fans of the film come from all over to attend this event.

“A lot of people who come say that the movie has changed their lives. A lot of others like the movie and come because it sounds like a unique, fun event. There were some poor college students from Mississippi who decided on the spur of the moment that it’d be fun to come, but they didn’t come prepared for the weather. They were freezing. We were able to help them out with some provisions, but I try to remind everyone to come dressed for the weather.”

“Also, for people who are really into the movie, there is a symposium on at 3:30 on Saturday. It’s an informal event at the Main Street PourHouse. This year Danny Rubin will be there to talk more about writing the script and share his insights.”

Other Groundhog Days activities include: a bowling fundraiser; a bags tournament; and storytelling by Emmy Award-winning storyteller, Jim May.

The big event happens, snow or shine, at 7 a.m. on Sunday. In a re-enactment of the film scene, complete with polka band, people gather in the town square to watch the groundhog be coaxed from his tree trunk. If he sees his shadow, the prediction is for six more weeks of winter. No shadow forecasts an early spring.

Moorhouse said that tickets ($15) are going fast for the Sunday breakfast that immediately follows the prognostication ceremony. More than a breakfast, this event includes the polka band, plus photo opportunities with Woodstock Willie, and movie-based fun, including the actor whose voice fans of the film might recognize from Bill Murray’s clock radio.

For more information on Woodstock’s Groundhog Days, call the event hotline at (815) 334-2620, or go online to www.woodstockgroundhog.org for details, including driving directions. The driving time to Woodstock is about two hours from northwest Indiana.



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