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Go see the groundhog see his shadow (or not) where it's a celebration: Woodstock, Illinois, site of '93 Bill Murray movie, hosts Groundhog Days

Go see the groundhog see his shadow (or not) where it's a celebration: Woodstock, Illinois, site of '93 Bill Murray movie, hosts Groundhog Days

Feb. 2 is Groundhog Day.

To some, it means the crucial moment of looking to a furry woodchuck to anticipate how much longer the winter weather will drag on.

To others, it’s equated with the 1993 Bill Murray flick about a weather man who keeps re-living the same day over and over.

That movie was filmed almost entirely in Woodstock, Illinois, where Groundhog Day is not a small thing. It actually is celebrated annually with a four-day festival — Groundhog Days — a four-day festival that includes a celebration in the town square where scenes of the movie were filmed.

You also can take a walk around town to follow the footsteps of Murray and see some of the other points where filming occurred. Last year marked 25 years since the movie’s release, and if you spend a little time in town you’ll notice quite a few familiar spots.

You can even stay in the Victorian Bed and Breakfast where Murray’s character stayed. Now called the Cherry Tree Inn Bed and Breakfast (344 Fremont St.), the home has four guest rooms with an inviting front porch that you can linger on, and you’ll be served an early morning feast prepared by award-winning cooks.

The Groundhog Days Committee created a map and walking tour that takes you to 15 filming sites that were part of the movie. Many of the sites are marked with engraved metal plaques. During the festival weekend, guided tours are available on Saturdays at 1:30 p.m. and Sundays at 12:30 p.m.

The celebration begins on Jan. 31, a Thursday, with a Drink to World Peace, following the movie scene, at the Public House of Woodstock at 101 N. Johnson St. The festival continues with groundhog story time, Groundhog Day trivia, a Groundhog Day dinner dance, a viewing of the movie and more.

The Groundhog Day Prognostication is the highlight of the festivities and takes place 7:07 a.m. on Feb. 2, a Saturday, to see if Woodstock Willie sees his shadow (complete with polka band) as part of the movie re-encatment.

Also on Saturday, you’ll have an opportunity to meet Stephen Tolowsky, who played Woodstock’s favorite insurance agent, Ned Ryerson, from 3 to 4 p.m. for a donation at the Woodstock Opera House. A Groundhog Day Pub Crawl begins at 6 that evening for $20 that will get you food and drink specials at each place and an entry into drawing for gift certificates and other prizes.

Other weekend fun will include a chili cook-off, opera house tours, Groundhog Day bingo and the D200 Ground Dinner/Auction.

If you aren’t able to visit during Groundhog Days, keep Woodstock in mind for a visit later in the year when you can explore the town while it’s a little warmer and a little less crowded.

There are some historical gems in the area — the old courthouse, the Public House, the Woodstock Opera House and others. The Woodstock Square is surrounded by independent shops and eateries, and just off the square is a cool mural depicting some famous Woodstock scenes and faces.

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