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Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Living in Groundhog Day

If you've been here any amount of time, you know the Mr and I are movie buffs to the hilt.  Anytime we travel anywhere, we always see if there were any movies filmed there.  One of our favorite movie sites is Woodstock, IL which was used in the Bill Murray comedy, Groundhog Day(Affiliate link)  We've visited a few times and the town is basically exactly as it was when it was filmed just over 25 years ago.  One of our bucket list items was to actually attend Groundhog Day festivities and as we waited for the day to roll around on a weekend, this year was it!

We invited a friend of mine who lives not too far away to come along for the merriment so we all met up at a hotel in town to camp out at overnight and then went out to dinner.  At 6pm was the "awakening" of the groundhog where a costumed "Woodstock Willie" comes out on the balcony of the Opera House (one of Phil Connor's suicide scenes when he jumps) and fireworks go off, etc.  We headed over in the whipping wind and 10 degrees hoping to see some magic to get us rarin' for the next day.  The mayor was meeting and greeting people and said hello to us and was a very nice guy. 

Then the countdown began.  5...4...3...2...1.   Nothing.  Some dude popped open a window on the balcony but no groundhog.  It's okay, they do say he "reluctantly" emerges and I wouldn't be anxious to pop out in 4 degrees but in a furry costume he's way warmer than the rest of us.  We count down again...nothing.  Um, yeah.  Third time's a charm, right? 


There he is!

Sadly though, only one side of the balcony lit with fireworks.  The other side said, "nope, nope, nope."  Then some firecrackers went off late and it looked like he was getting shot or something.  We all cracked up at how comical it was and then got the hell outta there with the rest of the people.  You've never seen people split so fast!  We went to a local chocolate spot and got some hot chocolate to warm up and were glad to finally be able to feel our earlobes again. 

When we went to Read Between the Lynes bookstore, they were fully decked out for the festivities.

The cashier said they opened at 6am the next morning and expected huge crowds for the 25th anniversary and parking would be scarce so she advised getting there at 6am.  We all agreed later that might be overkill so we hung out at the hotel room gabbing until about 10:30pm until we came up with our plan for the next morning and that we'd leave at 6am-ish since we were a 3-minute drive from downtown.

We got up at 5am and I was awakened by the Mr playing this scene from Groundhog Day as my alarm.   We left just after 6am and we thought we'd go to the square to chance a space being available at 6:15am and there were quite a few.  I'd made some hot chocolate to take with us and we knew it would be ice cold by the time of the prognostication so we enjoyed it in the car. 

My hat suffered an unfortunate ice dam situation with a rogue open water bottle so we had to go back to the bookstore and buy a hat for my noggin.  Then we headed over to Swiss Maid Bakery (still there from the movie) and picked up our groundhog cookie which was actually delicious!

By the time we came out, the polka band was playing and the square was getting crowded. I led the charge and burrowed through the crowd to a pretty decent spot. 

We sang the Milwaukee polka, the EIEIO polka and listened to the others as the mayor led Groundhog Day specific polkas that we didn't have lyrics to.  I have to say though, we were both really disappointed they didn't play the Pennsylvania Polka from the movie just before the prognostication.  They may have played it while we were in the bakery but I don't know why you wouldn't play it in front of the biggest crowd so it could feel just like the movie.  It was a beautiful sunny day and the breeze was a little less so even at 4 degrees it felt a little better than the previous night. 

Richard Henzel, or DJ#1 in the movie, comes out yearly and does the whole scene doing both DJ's to get the crowd warmed up.

They rapped on the door of the stump...

... and Woodstock Willie emerged reluctantly from his weather shelter. 

He got close to the mayor's ear and whispered his weather report in Groundhogese.

The mayor read the prognostication declaring that Woodstock Willie saw his shadow and therefore there would be 6 more weeks of winter.  (You know like the calendar says.)

Everyone began booing and he didn't appreciate it so when he was being hoisted overhead, he basically told everyone to p*ss off by urinating. 

This too is becoming a tradition which is why I didn't need to get too close to the gazebo. 

Then it was off to breakfast and because we have a curse, we were the cut-off point in the line and began the wait.  So we took the opportunity to go see the newly completed mural on the right side of the movie theater.

I also loved the carving of the groundhog in the back of the alley and the inscription of Phil + Rita.

We got our text that the table was ready so we had breakfast then went back and checked out of the hotel so we could be back in time for the movie which the theater is kind enough to show at 10am free to the public during Groundhog Days. 

I have to say, it was awesome watching the movie with the locals!

It was nice to hear roaring applause at the first sight of the town square which looks almost exactly now as it did then.  It was great seeing it on the big screen after 25 years and all of us laughing at the same parts and applauding together at the end.

Back in the square, a local guy was cutting a new groundhog to replace one that had cracked with age.  It was cool to watch him work and kind of reminded me of the ice sculpting scene in the movie.

We stopped in another store that was closed earlier and then that about rounded out our time there.  Before we left, we drove past the B&B where Bill Murray stayed.

If you ever want to do it, visit their website and you can get all of the details.  I'd book the B&B now as they fill up early.

It was an awesome visit and even though we all froze our gonads off, I'd do it again.  I'm reminded of my favorite quote from the movie after having done this event..."When Chekhov saw the long winter, he saw a winter bleak and dark and bereft of hope. Yet we know that winter is just another step in the cycle of life. But standing here among the people of Punxsutawney (Woodstock) and basking in the warmth of their hearths and hearts, I couldn't imagine a better fate than a long and lustrous winter."

Amen to that.

Have you ever gone to Woodstock?  Have you ever attended a groundhog day event in your town?

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  1. It was a great trip and I had a blast. The Groundhog day festivities are a must-see at least once in your life because even if it's on the slightly corny side it's still so much fun to just do something like that. Plus watching the movie with a crowd again after 24 years was special. It was so nice to meet up with our friends there as well. So glad we got to do this!

  2. I am so impressed with how well Woodstock did up the Square (looked gorgeous at night with those lights everywhere) and how well they've preserved it over the past 25 years. And every single person was so nice! The employees in the different seemed all into it and everyone had such great attitudes. It felt a bit like stepping back in time. I really got a kick out of everyone huddling in the cold and laughing about just how ridiculously frigid it was, but the mood was still really high. And to hear the crowd go up in cheers at the start of the movie was just so cool and there was such awesome pride in that moment for the locals. It was a fabulous visit and a definite place to experience Ground Hog's Day at its finest.


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