Woodstock Willie, Chicagoland’s most famous weather prognosticator, saw his shadow today in Woodstock and predicted six more weeks of winter. 🙁 The ceremony on Woodstock Square took place this morning shortly after 7am, after several days of events including a tour of the filming sites. Willie emerged from his tree stump (after we saw his handler put him in 15 minutes earlier, and the groundhog almost escaped!) and gave the bad news to Woodstock Mayor Brian Sager.
We had left home around 5am to witness this important event and arrived in Woodstock at around 6:30am. There were already a few people there including a news van of Channel 9 news (not Channel 9 Pittsburgh 😉 but WGN9 of Chicago).
It was quite cold at 18oF / -8oC as people started to arrive and fill up the square.
At around 6:45 the groundhog’s handler came out to put him in the tree stump (Hey! He’s supposed to come out after the long cold winter!). Willie was in a large cat carrier and the man put it down on the floor next to the tree stump. Then he tried to get the groundhog out, but Willie was acting feisty and a struggle ensued. The handler couldn’t control him and all of a sudden Willie escaped and ran around the gazebo! The handler ran after him and after about 10 seconds he jumped on him and Willie was caught. We were a little sad for the groundhog, but he was okay. Only about 20 people witnessed this suspenseful moment. If Willie had escaped it would for sure been a big news story.
At 7am several hundred people had gathered in the square and all the inner circle of Groundhog Day officials came out with their funny black hats on, including the mayor of Woodstock. A polka band with men in shorts (that’s crazy!) came out and played the Pennsylvania Polka, which was fun:
Then came out celebrity Richard Henzel who was one of the DJs in the movie (“Rise and shine campers!”) and he did the whole segment that Phil Connors hears on the radio every time he wakes up (listen to it here), which was great!
At 7:09am groundhog Willie was taken out of the tree stump and mayor Brian Sager asked him if he saw his shadow. Groundhog Day is an annual holiday celebrated on February 2nd in the United States and Canada on which folklore tells if a groundhog emerges from its burrow and fails to see its shadow because the weather is cloudy, winter will soon end. If on the other hand, it is sunny and the groundhog sees its shadow, the groundhog will supposedly retreat into its burrow, and winter will continue for six more weeks.
It was a sunny morning, so Willie saw his shadow and predicted six more weeks of winter! 🙁
Before the event they went around and handed out to everybody a piece of paper with some groundhog songs. The mayor made everyone sing three of these songs, including Take Me Out to the Tree Stump:
The lyrics are:
The most famous groundhog of all, Punxsutawney Phil in Pennsylvania, also saw his shadow this morning. This was covered on national news. Here’s a clip of Fox News, who reported that 40,000 people were in Punxsutawney today to see Phil come out of his burrow.