Thanks to the award-winning movie, “Groundhog Day,” the small Midwestern town of Woodstock has a lot to celebrate every February, having gained a worldwide reputation for being the primary location for the production of the classic film.
This year is the 30th anniversary of the release of the film starring Bill Murray, Andi MacDowell and Chris Elliott. To celebrate, many events are taking place Wednesday through Sunday, Feb. 1-5, mainly in the historic Woodstock Square, says Melissa McMahon, Woodstock Groundhog Day committee member and marketing manager for RealWoodstock.
“We want to celebrate where the film was made and what it did for our community,” she says. “At the time of the filming, it gave us great exposure, and since then it brings in visitors to shop, dine, tell stories and see places featured in the movie.”
While searching for the perfect place to shoot the 1993 film, producers considered hundreds of locations before choosing Woodstock.
“We were ‘eye candy’ to the producers because we are the idyllic hometown,” McMahon says. “I think what sealed the deal was the visual of our town square and the community’s cooperation and willingness to make it happen.”
One of the main attractions this year is a question-and-answer session at 2 p.m. on Feb. 2 with Danny Rubin, the author of the original story. Rubin wrote the story and worked with Screenwriter Harold Ramis. Twenty years later, Rubin worked with Tim Minchin for the Broadway stage production, “Groundhog Day, the Musical,” which was nominated for seven Tony awards in 2017. Rubin was in Woodstock during the making of the film in 1992 and has made return visits, McMahon says.
Wednesday’s event highlights include Groundhog Story Time, 5:15 p.m.; Welcoming of the Groundhog, 6 p.m.; Groundhog Trivia, 6:15 p.m.; and a 7 p.m. showing of the movie at Classic Cinemas, 209 Main St.
On Thursday, the day begins at 7 a.m. with the main event, the annual prognostication, when Woodstock Willie emerges from their tree trunk. If a shadow is seen, there will be six more weeks of winter, and if not, that means an early spring. Rubin will translate the outcome.
“What brings people back year after year is just the fun of hearing the story of whether or not the groundhog sees their shadow,” McMahon says. “It’s so ridiculous, it’s fun – depending on a rodent to predict the weather that is far from predictable. From that point on, if you don’t like the weather, you can blame the groundhog. The movie resonates with people for different reasons because it is a story filled with redemption, comedy, drama, and love.”
The news of the day is followed by Drink to World Peace, at 7:30 a.m., on the patio of the same bar used in the film, and the “official” Groundhog Day Breakfast from 7:30 to 9:30 a.m. at the Woodstock Moose Lodge, 406 Clay St. Breakfast includes eggs, pancakes, potatoes, toast, bacon, sausage, juice and coffee. Woodstock Willie will be available for pictures and Die Musikmeisters will entertain. A walking tour of the filming sites begins at 10 a.m. at the Woodstock Opera House, 121 W. Van Buren, and ends with a tour of the Cherry Tree Inn Bed and Breakfast where Murray woke up each morning. Hot Cider will be served. The movie will be shown again at noon, followed by the 2 p.m. question-and-answer session with Danny Rubin at the Woodstock Opera House. The day ends with Wine with Willie from 5 to 8 p.m. at Stage Left Café, 125 W. Calhoun St. Tickets for the event include samples of three white and three red wines and cheeses that pair with each selection.
On Friday, Groundhog Day movie memorabilia will be on display for the public to view from 3 to 5 p.m. at the Woodstock Public Library, 414 W. Judd St. A dinner dance at 6 p.m. at the Woodstock Moose takes people back to where the bachelor auction and dance scenes took place in the movie. Raffles and silent auctions will be held all night to benefit Moose Charities.
Another showing of the movie will begin at 10 a.m. Saturday, followed by a bags tournament at noon, walking tour at 1 p.m., Groundhog Day bingo at 4 p.m. and a pub crawl from 6 to 10 p.m. Sunday features a pancake breakfast at 8 a.m. at the Moose Lodge, followed by a showing of the movie at 10 a.m., and a final guided walking tour at 1 p.m.
For more information, visit woodstockgroundhog.org. and to find the walking tour video, visit realwoodstock.com. ❚