Woodstock celebrates 30 years of 'Groundhog Day' film with familiar festival
"Groundhog Day" hit the big screen 30 years ago this year, a year after the iconic comedy was filmed in Woodstock. In keeping with the movie's plot, the city hopes this year's festival looks similar to previous ones.
Like the movie, which features a weather forecaster stuck in a loop reliving the same day, those involved in the festival try to keep a similar feel, said Woodstock Groundhog Days Chairman Rick Bellairs.
"It changes, fluctuates a little bit," Bellairs said. "Most of it repeats every year."
The festivities, for example, often include visits from people who were part of making the movie and story. This year that will be Danny Rubin, who co-wrote the screenplay with Harold Ramis, according to the Groundhog Days website, woodstockgroundhog.org.
Woodstock created a yearly tradition of celebrating Groundhog Day on Feb. 2, with a weekend of festivities, following the 1992 filming of "Groundhog Day," said Bellairs, who also appeared as an extra in the film.
The yearly tradition began slowly, as only a few people originally celebrated, Bellairs said. But, over the years, the celebration has grown into a full festival with almost two dozen events over the course of five days.
Some of those developments have included getting a mascot, Woodstock Willie, and having a real groundhog at the prognostication ceremony.
Today, people visit Woodstock just to see where the movie was filmed, Bellairs said.
"When they made the movie, we had no idea it would have this lasting effect," Bellairs said. "It's more popular than when it came out and has a cult following."
Being in Woodstock also brought some advantages for the movie. For one, at the time, those involved with the film wanted it to be based in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, which is home to a famous Groundhog Day celebration, but didn't feel it was as picturesque.
Filming in a different location granted the filmmakers some creative license, Bellairs said. It also allowed lead actor Bill Murray and director Harold Ramis to be closer to home, as both were from the Chicago area.
"Harold Ramis was brought to Woodstock, and they went up into the bell tower of the Opera House," Bellairs said. "They looked down on the square, and Ramis said, 'Yes, this will work.'"
One of the more popular events during the weekend are the several walking tours, which take people through the city to important sites from the movie. The most popular of those sites is the puddle Bill Murray steps in several times.
The movie will also be showing multiple times throughout the weekend, Bellairs said.
Groundhog Days schedule
Woodstock is celebrating 30 years of the release of the film "Groundhog Day," which was filmed primarily in the city and the Historic Woodstock Square.
This year's slate of events, keeping with the spirit of the film, will look similar to previous ones. Festivities will begin the evening of Wednesday, Feb. 1, and continue through to the afternoon of Sunday, Feb. 5.
On Thursday, Feb. 2, which is officially Groundhog Day, the city will have its groundhog prognostication to determine whether six more weeks of winter are afoot.
Below is the full list of this year's events. Visit woodstockgroundhog.org for details.
Wednesday, Feb. 15:15 p.m.: Groundhog Storytime at the Woodstock Opera House, 121 W. Van Buren St.
6 p.m.: Welcoming of the Groundhog at the Opera House
6:15 p.m.: Groundhog Trivia at the Opera House
7 p.m.: Showing of "Groundhog Day" movie in the Harold Ramis Auditorium at Woodstock Theatre, 209 Main St.
Thursday, Feb. 2: Groundhog Day7 a.m.: Groundhog Day Prognostication on the historic Woodstock Square
7:30 a.m.: Drink to World Peace at Public House of Woodstock, 101 N. Johnson St.
7:30 a.m. to 9:30 a.m.: "Official" Groundhog Day Breakfast at the Woodstock Moose Lodge 1329, 406 Clay St.
10 a.m.: Walking tour of filming sites starting at the Woodstock Opera House
Noon: Showing of "Groundhog Day" movie in the Harold Ramis Auditorium at Woodstock Theatre
2 p.m.: Meet "Groundhog Day" writer Danny Rubin at the Woodstock Opera House
5 to 8 p.m.: Wine with Willie at Stage Left Cafe, 125 W. Calhoun St.
Friday, Feb. 33 to 5 p.m.: Groundhog Day Movie Memorabilia and Memories at Woodstock Public Library, 414 W. Judd St.
5 to 9 p.m.: Groundhog Days Pop-Up Bar at Stage Left Cafe
6 p.m.: Groundhog Day Dinner Dance at the Woodstock Moose Lodge 1329
Saturday, Feb. 410 a.m.: Showing of "Groundhog Day" movie in the Harold Ramis Auditorium at Woodstock Theatre
Noon: Groundhog Day bags tournament at Ortmann's Red Iron Tavern, 101 E. Church St.
1 p.m.: Walking tour of filming sites, starting at Woodstock Opera House
4 p.m.: Groundhog Day Bingo at the Woodstock Moose Lodge 1329
6 to 10 p.m.: Groundhog Day Pub Crawl on the historic Woodstock Square
Sunday, Feb. 58 to 8:30 a.m.: Groundhog Day Pancake Breakfast at the Woodstock Moose Lodge 1329
10 a.m.: Showing of "Groundhog Day" movie in the Harold Ramis Auditorium at Woodstock Theatre
1 p.m.: Walking tour of filming sites at the Woodstock Opera House