February 2, 2013 • 07:51:12 p.m.

Celebrate 20 years of ‘Groundhog Day’ at festival (SCHEDULE)

By JAMI KUNZER – jkunzer@shawmedia.com

In the 20 years since the film "Groundhog Day" was released, fans have watched it over and over and over again.

Many of those fans will return to Woodstock, where the movie was filmed, for a celebration they've also repeated over and over and over again.

"There are a group of people who absolutely love this movie," said Maggie Crane, a member of the volunteer committee that organizes Woodstock's annual Groundhog Days celebration.

"It's a cult movie," she said. "We will go on the walking tour (of film sites). It can be freezing cold, raining, lots of things, and you'll find people who've seen the movie 46 times. And I'm not exaggerating."

The walking tours are just some of the events planned from Sunday, Jan. 27, through Sunday Feb. 3, to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the release of the movie. The events raise money for various charities, including the Woodstock Food Pantry.

"Many of them are returning because of course we do them over and over again until we get it right," Crane said.

The biggest draw by far? Woodstock Willie, of course.

As in years past, the resident groundhog will make his prognostication at Gobbler's Knob, otherwise known as the Woodstock Square. He'll emerge from his tree trunk home to predict the coming of spring, just as he did during the film. If he sees his shadow, it's six more weeks of winter, or so the folklore goes. If not, spring will come early.

Last year, at least 400 people filled the Square on a cold, early morning. This year's event takes place at 7 a.m. Saturday, Feb. 2.

A breakfast afterward at the Woodstock VFW already has sold out, Crane said.

Other events include a first annual bowling event, including bowling and food specials, Saturday, Feb. 2, at Wayne's Lanes, 109 E. Church St., which was featured in the movie. Also new is a Saturday, Feb. 2, Bags Tournament at Ormann's Red Iron Tavern, 101 E. Church St.

Organizers have tried to add more events on Saturday to draw in those who come for the early morning prognostication, Crane said.

The celebration not only remains popular because the film's still a favorite, but also because there's not many other things to do this time of year, she said.

"We don't have any competition, and people like to get out and about this time of year," she said.

"The third reason it's fun. It's goofy," she said. "The reason we're all members of the committee is because it's fun."

And it wouldn't be a Groundhog Days article without a mention of Bill Murray, one of the stars of the film, and whether he'll ever return to Woodstock. Murray typically golfs in the National Pro-Am tournament in Pebble Beach, Calif., at the time the celebration takes place.

"Once in awhile, he'll say he'd like to come back," Crane said. "It's something we try. We'll never give up, but it's not something we really expect."


THE SCHEDULE

Groundhog Days Celebrates 20th anniversary of the release of the movie “Groundhog Day” with the following events:

Groundhog Days are coming to Woodstock Jan. 27 through Feb. 3. What better way is there to break up a long, cold winter than to gather with friends for a week of midwinter lunacy in Woodstock? Shadow or no shadow, one thing is for sure – you will have a good time in Woodstock during Groundhog Days. For information, visit www.woodstockgroundhog.org or call the Groundhog Days Hotline at 815-334-2620.

Welcoming of the Groundhog: 6 to 6:02 p.m. Jan. 31 on the roof of the Woodstock Opera House, 121 E. Van Buren St., Woodstock. Welcome Woodstock Willie, the resident groundhog, as he makes his explosive appearance. Then, join other movie fans for a trivia contest with prizes at Stage Left Cafe. To celebrate the 20th anniversary of the release of the movie, all “extras” especially are invited to attend.

Shake Off the Winter Blues Charity Dinner Dance: 6 p.m. to midnight Feb. 1, Woodstock Moose Lodge and Family Center. The Dinner Dance and Bachelor Auction scenes were filmed in the lodge in 1992. An Italian buffet dinner from 6 to 7:30 p.m. followed by live music and a silent auction. This year’s entertainment is the band “Rumor Hazit.” Tickets cost $15 and are available at the Lodge, Woodstock Public Library, Home State Bank, BMO Harris Bank and Woodstock Chamber of Commerce.

Groundhog Day Prognostication: 7 to 7:30 a.m. Feb. 2, Wodstcock Square Park. Celebrate Groundhog Day at Gobbler's Knob, otherwise known as the Woodstock Square. Brave the weather and gather on the Woodstock Square to see Woodstock Willie emerge from his tree trunk home just as he did during the Groundhog Day movie filmed in Woodstock in 1992.

Official Groundhog Day Breakfast (SOLD OUT): 7:30 to 8:30 a.m. Feb. 2, Woodstock VFW, 240 N. Throop St. Tickets are $15 and should be purchased in advance. Along with the buffet breakfast entertainment will be provided. Seating is limited. This event is always a sellout. Tickets are available at Woodstock Public Library, Woodstock Chamber of Commerce, Home State Bank, and BMO Harris Bank.

First Annual Groundhog Day Bowling Event: 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Feb. 2, Wayne's Lanes (the bowling alley used in the filming of the movie), 109 E. Church St., Woodstock. Two games of bowling, shoes, scones/juice/coffee/hot chocolate (7:30 to 11 a.m.), slice of pizza and soft drink (11 a.m. to 4 p.m.) at a cost of $10. Additional pizza for $2 a slice, $9 for a whole pizza (from Napoli's). Bowling pin and other raffles with net profits going to the Woodstock North High School Bowling Teams.

Movie showing: 10 to 11:45 a.m. Feb. 2, Classic Cinemas Woodstock Theater, 209 Main St. Columbia Pictures filmed most of "Groundhog Day" starring Bill Murray in Woodstock in 1992. Classic Cinemas sponsors a free showing of the movie at the theater, which was featured as "Alpine Theater" in the movie. Seating is limited, so arrive early.

Groundhog Tales: 10 to 11 a.m. Feb. 2, Home State Bank, 124 Johnson St.. Jim May is an Emmy Award-winning storyteller and writer. Come and bring the family to listen to his stories about groundhogs and their prognostications.

Bags Tournament, noon check-in Feb. 2, Ormann's Red Iron Tavern, 101 E. Church St., Woodstock. First round starts at 1 p.m. Tournament to raise money for a freezer for the new Woodstock Food Pantry location. First place $320; second place $150; third place $60. Entry fee is $30 per team (two players), pre-registered by Jan. 30; $40 day of tournament. Double elimination. Standard Baggo rules apply.Sign up at Dorr Township Office or Woodstock Chamber Office or mail team names and check (payable to Rotary Club of Woodstock) and phone number to Lisa Kelly, 607 Lawndale Ave., Woodstock. For more information call Lisa Kelly at 815-334-9020 or Joe Starzynski at 815-245-4954.

Chili Cook-Off: 12 to 1 p.m. Feb 2, Woodstock Opera House. Contestants vie for the coveted "Chili Pot," and the public is invited to taste all the entries and vote for the People's Choice Award. Potential contestants, see www.woodstockgroundhog.org for further details on how to enter.

Walking Tour of the Filming Sites: 1:30 p.m. and 3 p.m. Feb 2. Gather at Stage Left Café for a fun and informative tour of the “Groundhog Day” filming sites. Bob Hudgins, who was the location manager for the film, leads the walk around Woodstock. The bandstand on the Square will receive a plaque as the location of the “First Snowfall Dance” location during the tour. Dress warmly and wear comfortable shoes.

Movie Symposium: 3:30 to 4:30 p.m. Feb. 2, Stage Left Cafe. Join host Dr. Mitchell Olson, who is an educator and film enthusiast. Learn something new, see plenty of clips from the movie, and take part in the interesting, lively, and probing discussion. This year's discussion includes a reader’s theatre reading of Danny Rubin’s original script.

Take 19, Lights, Camera, Auction: 5:30 to 11 p.m. Feb. 2, Donley's Banquet Hall, 8512 Union Road, Union. District 200 Education Foundation was first organized using funds from auctioning props from the movie that were donated by Columbia Pictures. This year’s event includes live and silent auctions, a reverse raffle and entertainment. Tickets available at the District 200 Administration Office, 217 W. Judd St., or by calling 815-337-5406.

Movie showing: 10 to 11:45 a.m. Feb. 3, Woodstock Theater. Columbia Pictures filmed most of "Groundhog Day" starring Bill Murray in Woodstock in 1992. Classic Cinemas sponsors a free showing of the movie during the Groundhog Days celebration at the theater, which was featured as "Alpine Theater" in the movie. Seating is limited, so arrive early.

Walking Tour of Filming Sites: noon Feb. 2. Gather at Stage Left Café for a fun and informative tour of the “Groundhog Day” filming sites. Bob Hudgins, who was the location manager for the film, leads the walk around Woodstock. Dress warmly and wear comfortable shoes.


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