Woodstock Willie says we're going to have 6 more weeks of winter
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A cloudless sky at sunrise Friday meant Woodstock Willie had no choice but to see his shadow and with it, six more weeks of winter rather than an early spring.
Hundreds of spectators shivered in the single-digit temperature on Woodstock's town square to see the plucky rodent's forecast and enjoy the atmosphere of the annual Groundhog Day event.
A 7:07 a.m., Willie was gingerly removed from the ceremonial tree stump on the bandstand and Mayor Brian Sager translated his observation from groundhogese.
"I definitely see my shadow," said Willie, the seer of seers and prognosticator of prognosticators. The crowd groaned, but Sager was philosophical.
"Oh well, we don't care," he said. "We're here for a good time."
At least it was a dry cold Friday morning. The forecast calls for periods of snow during the next several days. Willie's six-week prediction sets the start of spring at March 16 -- 15 days after the March 1 meteorological spring but four days before the traditional astronomical spring, March 20.
Former Woodstock resident Bennett Baker was prepared for the moment, carrying a homemade sign with a clever message: "Make America Spring Again." Given the bitter cold, he knew that was wishful thinking.
"I don't feel real lucky (about) spring coming early," he said. His friend, Brandon Stice, who still lives in town, was more on the mark with his "Winter is Coming" sign.
"I don't take Woodstock Willie at his word. It's just a lot of fun," reasoned Rick Bellairs, a Groundhog Days Committee member.
Groundhog Day 2018 marked the 25th anniversary of the release of the film (Feb. 12, 1993) of the same name starring Bill Murray and Andie MacDowell. Scenes were shot for six weeks in the square and other locations in Woodstock. The community has made the most of it with a variety of activities over several days, including a walking tour of 15 locales seen in the film.
"It's such a big event and it's so fun. Goofy fun," said Deborah Webster of Huntley.