WOODSTOCK – Woodstock Willie reluctantly clambered out of his tree stump and saw his shadow Thursday, in the process predicting six more weeks of winter.
"On Feb. 2 at 7:07 a.m. the seer of seers, prognosticator of prognosticators, emerged reluctantly but alertly in Woodstock, Illinois, and stated in 'groundhogese,' 'I definitely see my shadow,'" “Groundhog Day” location manager Bob Hudgins said to the crowd among loud boos at the announcement.
A large crowd ranging in all ages braved the winter chill and traveled to the Woodstock Square just before sunrise to take part in the day's festivities. The event brings together people from Northern Illinois and elsewhere.
Legend has it that if Woodstock Willie sees his shadow Feb. 2, winter will last six more weeks. But if he doesn't see his shadow, spring will come early.
Despite the "news" that six more weeks of winter are yet to come, the people who gathered to watch the local tradition seemed to enjoy themselves. Minutes before Willie was set to emerge, residents and visitors sang Groundhog Day-themed songs in anticipation of his appearance.
Marc Kleinfelter of Maple Park brought his five young children to the event for the first time. Kleinfelter said he came out to Woodstock while he was in college to see a few scenes of "Groundhog Day" being filmed.
"I just wanted to be able to show the kids some of what I saw then," he said.
Deb Fulton of Barrington Hills also attended for the first time, donning a Groundhog-like hat she bought at Walt Disney World.
"They have such a wonderful celebration each year," Fulton said.
Woodstock Willie wasn't the only one to see his shadow, as his pal, Punxsutawney Phil, saw the same in Pennsylvania.
Woodstock's annual Groundhog Days celebration, commemorating the 25th anniversary of the film, will continue with events throughout the weekend that include a pub crawl, free screenings of the Harold Ramis-directed movie, a chili cook-off, the Blue Jeans & Black Tie District 200 Groundhog Dinner/Auction and walking tours of the film sites, among others.