On Groundhog Day, Woodstock Willie May See His Shadow in the Chicago Suburb Where the Iconic Movie Was Filmed – NBC Chicago
Marmots at early morning celebrations Thursday across the country will be hoisted up in observance of Groundhog Day — the day that, according to ancient European lore, marks approximately six weeks until spring.
And according to Punxsutawney Phil, it’s looking to be a long, cold six weeks.
But in the Chicago area, we’re still waiting for one local groundhog to awaken from his slumber and predict the weather from precisely the same McHenry county spot that, in 1993, Bill Murray did when he delivered the forecast as Phil Connors in the cult classic film ‘Groundhog Day.’
Move over, Gobbler’s Knob: Since Wednesday, Woodstock, Illinois, located about 60 miles northwest of Chicago, has been hosting the town’s annual multi-day ‘Groundhog Days’ festival, which celebrates the iconic 1993 movie that was filmed all throughout the town.
The festival features numerous events including showings of the film, a talk with screenwriter Danny Rubin, groundhog trivia, a pub crawl, “Groundhog Day” movie walking tours, and of course, Woodstock Willie’s official groundhog prognostication at 7 am
“If he sees his shadow, it means there will be 6 more weeks of winter,” organizers say. “And if he doesn’t see his shadow, it means we will have an early spring.”
To wake Woodstock Willie from his “winter nap,” the event will include a familiar sounding Polka band playing in a familiar looking square.
“This is our re-enactment of the Groundhog Day ceremony that as a weatherman, Bill Murray reported on; over and over again,” according to organizers. “That scene from the movie was filmed right here on the Woodstock Square.”
According to the NBC 5 Storm Team — which does not include a groundhog meteorologist — Thursday is predicted to be mostly sunny with a high temperature of around 31 degrees. But with a morning in the 20s, it will be much chillier, so “don’t forget your booties cause it’s coooooold out there!”
What Happens if the Groundhog Sees its Shadow?
Groundhog Day, on Feb. 2, is both a timing milestone — marking six weeks until spring — and a tale of folklore, which can be dated back to the fifth century, a post from the National Weather Service says.
Around that time, the NWS says, the “European Celts believed that animals had certain supernatural powers on special days that were halfway between the Winter Solstice and Spring Equinox.”
“Folklore from Germany and France indicated that when marmots and bears came out of their winter dens too early, they were frightened by their shadow and retreated back inside for four to six weeks,” the post continues. “This was adopted by the Romans as Hedgehog Day. When Christianity came into being, the formerly pagan observance also came to be called Candlemas.”
The earliest known American reference to Groundhog Day, the NWS says, was in a Morgantown, Pennsylvania shopkeeper’s journal entry dated Feb. 4, 1841.
“Last Tuesday, the 2nd, was Candlemas Day, the day on which, according to the Germans, the Groundhog peeps out of his winter quarters and if he sees his shadow he pops back for another six weeks nap,” the entry reads. “But if the day be cloudy he remains out, as the weather is to be moderate.”
The rest, as they say is history — both meteorological and on the big screen.