‘I definitely see a shadow’: Woodstock Willie predicts six more weeks of winter

Woodstock kicked off a weekend of Groundhog Day festivities to celebrate 30-year release of movie filmed in town

Woodstock Willie is held by handler Mark Szafran as Willie makes his prognostication of six more weeks of winter on Thursday, Feb. 2, 2023, as Danny Rubin, the screenwriter of the “Groundhog Day” movie filmed in Woodstock, announces Willie’s findings during the annual Groundhog Day Prognostication on the Woodstock Square.

Groans from the gathered crowd greeted Woodstock Willie seeing his shadow Thursday morning, signaling six more weeks of winter.

“Woodstock Willie, the seer of seers, prognosticator of prognosticators, emerged reluctantly but alertly in Woodstock, Illinois, to wish his faithful followers a happy Groundhog Day,” announced Danny Rubin, one of the movies screenplay writers. “Willie looked skyward to the east, and then behind to the ground, and stated clearly, in ‘Groundhogese,’ ‘I definitely see a shadow.’”

Woodstock this weekend is celebrating 30 years of the release of the movie, “Groundhog Day,” which starred Bill Murray and was filmed in town in 1992.

The movie was released the following year, which gave Woodstock the opportunity to keep with the theme of the movie – a man waking up and reliving the same day – by celebrating a 30-year anniversary two years in a row.

Though, not everything is the same. The prognostication is different from last year when Willie predicted spring was coming soon.

Hundreds came out to witness this year’s prognostication and take part in the festivities planned for the day despite the weather, which sat below 20 degrees and saw Woodstock’s Historic Square covered in snow.

“It’s a lot warmer than it was last year,” Roselle resident Carlene Danca said ahead of Thursday morning’s prognostication ceremony. Danca and her husband, Phil, have been coming out to celebrate Groundhog Day for about a decade.

McHenry resident John Sode said he lived in Woodstock during the filming of the movie. Despite this, it was only last year when he made his first trip out to celebrate the movie’s filming.

One memory he has of it was his wife went out one night to see if she could see anybody from the movie, but was locked out of their apartment as a result.

“The year the movie was filmed was when we got married,” he said. “So there’s a lot of memories.”

The ceremony Thursday morning included brief speeches from Rubin, Woodstock Groundhog Days Chairman Rick Bellairs and Mayor Mike Turner.

“Stay here for the day, the weekend and come visit us in the summer when it’s a little warmer,” Turner said. “We’re so happy that you’re here.”

Many in the audience traveled from out of state, with some coming from other countries as well.

This year’s festival, which started Wednesday and will run through Sunday, is expected to look similar to previous years, organizers have said.

Some of those events include recreations from the movie and visits to places where the movie was shot.

After the prognostication, people gathered on the patio of Public House at the Old Courthouse and Sheriff’s House to drink to world peace, as Bill Murray and Andie MacDowell do in the movie.

Woodstock resident Amanda Weller was one of those taking a shot Thursday morning. Having lived in Woodstock for roughly 40 years, the movie was made just after she graduated high school.

“I saw Bill Murray and met him at El Niagara, the restaurant,” she said.

Throughout the weekend, visitors will be able to see multiple showings of the movie, and take tours throughout Woodstock’s historic Square to visit sites from the movie. Bingo and a sack toss contest, as well as a pub crawl, will be part of the festivities too.

While Woodstock Willie makes his prediction every year, he’s not the only one. Punxsutawney Phil in Pennsylvania, where the movie “Groundhog Day” takes place, predicted six more weeks of winter on Thursday morning too.

New York City’s Staten Island Chuck differed, though, and predicted an early spring.

Antioch resident Kathleen Maki and Woodstock resident Elesha Werhane said after the prognostication they expected six more weeks of winter.

“It’s a fun day to come out,” Werhane said. “Whether it’s six more weeks of winter or an early spring.”

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