(credit: mortonarb.org/)

by Greg Wahl

Groundhog Days Festival

Woodstock, IL
Hotline: 815.334.2620

The celebration of Groundhog Day is a folksy custom that originated long ago among German immigrants in Pennsylvania. According to legend, if it is cloudy when the groundhog emerges from its burrow, spring will arrive sooner rather than later. If it is sunny, the groundhog will see its shadow and promptly return to its burrow, signifying six more weeks of winter. While this winter has had a fair number of spring-like days already, we all know how quickly and drastically weather can go in either direction. To consult the oracle of the groundhog, and have a bit of fun doing so, consider a trip to Groundhog Day central, Woodstock, IL.

Since 1993, the Groundhog Day holiday has enjoyed renewed interest due to the namesake cult film starring the very excellent Bill Murray as weatherman Phil Connors. While Punxsatawney, PA gets most the national attention on the day itself, the actual location of the filming of Groundhog Day is our very own Woodstock, IL. Murray was the star, but the town itself plays a major role, and Woodstock’s newfound claim to pop culture fame is now the focus of an annual week-long celebration, “Groundhog Days.” This year, the town celebrates the 20th anniversary of the filming.

(credit: woodstockgroundhog.org)

If you can’t get out of work on Groundhog Day (Thursday, February 2) to make the road trip northwest, not to worry. The festival runs through Sunday, February 5. Most events are free, including multiple screenings of Groundhog Day at the Woodstock Theatre (which appears in the film as The Alpine). Here’s a guide to this year’s Groundhog Day festival and events.

Wednesday, February 1
6:00 p.m.: Welcoming of the Groundhog, Woodstock Opera House

Thursday, February 2
7:00 a.m.: Groundhog Day Prognostication, Woodstock Square
7:30 a.m.: Official Breakfast, Pirro’s Restaurante
5:00 p.m.: Groundhog Day the Movie Showing, Classic Cinemas Woodstock Theater

Friday, February 3
6:00 p.m. – 12:00 midnight: Shake off the Winter Blues Dinner Dance, Woodstock Moose Lodge

Saturday, February 4
10:00 a.m.: Groundhog Day the Movie Showing, Classic Cinemas Woodstock Theater
10:00 a.m.: Groundhog Tales Storytelling, Home State Bank
12:00 noon – 1:15 p.m.: Chili Cook-Off, Stage Left Café & Opera House Community Room
1:30 p.m.: Walking Tour of filming sites, begins at Stage Left Café
3:00 – 4:00 p.m.: Groundhog Day Movie Symposium, Stage Left Café
5:30 – 11:00 p.m.: “Take 17 – Lights, Camera, Auction” live & silent auctions and raffle, D’Andrea Banquets

Sunday, February 5
10:00 a.m.: Groundhog Day the Movie Showing, Classic Cinemas Woodstock Theater
12:00 noon: Walking Tour of filming sites, begins at Stage Left Café

If the travel distance is a bit much for your Groundhog Day fix, consider taking part in the celebration at the Brookfield Zoo (czs.org) on Thursday, February 2. Brookfield’s “furry meteorologist” Tumbleweed will emerge hibernation to give her forecast, and a parade will follow. The Morton Arboretum (mortonarb.org) in Lisle will also host children’s Groundhog Day activities, from 9:30 to 11:00 a.m. at its Thornhill Education Center.

Greg Wahl is a Chicagoan and a firm believer in the long-range weather forecasting talents of burrowing marmots.
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