WOODSTOCK – The weekend’s storm may be over, but McHenry County residents still have a long way to go, according to Woodstock Willie, who reluctantly clambered out of his tree stump Monday morning only to see his dreaded shadow.
Despite the news that six more weeks of winter are yet to come, the people who gathered to watch the local tradition seemed to be having a good time. Minutes before Willie was set to emerge, residents and visitors shivered over to the Square in anticipation of his appearance.
One couple from Oak Lawn braved Sunday’s blizzard just to be there.
“Well, we booked it a week and a half ago,” Brett Glaser said.
Glaser’s girlfriend, Carla Trezzo, added they weren’t about to let the storm stop them from seeing in person what they only knew existed one year ago.
“We heard about it last year, and I just thought it was so funny,” Trezzo said. “And it was something different to do.”
That’s the great thing about the Woodstock tradition – it brings people from everywhere, said Rick Bellairs, a member of the Woodstock Groundhog Days Committee. He pointed out that people came from Los Angeles and Louisville. There was even a couple from Germany.
“Considering the weather, I think we had a good turnout,” Bellairs said, adding there were probably about 150 people.
He and other committee members repeatedly sang the praises of the city of Woodstock for its efforts to clear the streets overnight to allow the event to continue.
After the “seer of all seers” signaled an extended winter, the crowd dispersed to local restaurants and businesses to enjoy the last day of a weeklong celebration.
Bellairs said his interest in Groundhog Day stretches back more than a decade, since he was an extra in the movie that has made Woodstock the iconic Groundhog Day site it’s become. The holiday, he said, comes at a time when not much else is happening to bring a community together.
“It’s in the middle of winter, the holidays are over, so what else are you going to do?” Bellairs said. “It’s just something fun and most of our events are free. If there is a cost, the money raised goes to civic organizations and charities. It’s just a fun thing to do.”