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Well-known woodchuck welcomed in Woodstock


It’s the time of the year where one creature predicts the fate of winter. A northern Illinois city is celebrating the making of a movie that derived from this phenomenon.

It’s been 30 years since the movie “Groundhog Day” debuted. It was filmed in Woodstock, Illinois.

Rick Bellairs was an extra in the movie. He is now the chairman of Woodstock Groundhog Days.

He said those who attend the celebration should expect to see the same thing that they see in the movie.

“We have walking tours around town to take the fans of the movie to places that are familiar, he said,” the puddle that Bill Murray steps in over and over again, and tours of the bed and breakfast where he wakes up day after day.”

Bellairs said a key contributor to the movie will attend the festivities.

“Danny Rubin wrote the original story for Groundhog Day,” Bellairs explained. “Then worked with Harold Ramis to work on the script. And then years later, worked with Tim Minchin to make it a Broadway musical.”

Rubin will tell stories about the movie at the Woodstock Opera House on the holiday. Bellairs said the last time Rubin attended the Groundhog Days Festival was in 2014.

Bellairs said people come from all over the world to celebrate this day in Woodstock.

“People think of Groundhog Day and think of Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania,” he said. “But the image in their mind is Woodstock, Illinois.”

Punxsutawney is where the first official celebration of Groundhog Day took place.

The welcoming of the groundhog takes place on Wednesday Feb. 1. Woodstock Willie will determine the fate of winter at the town’s square. Rubin will speak at 2 p.m. Thursday at the Woodstock Opera House. The movie will also be shown at the theater. The celebration will continue through Sunday Feb 4.

  • Yvonne Boose is a current corps member for Report for America, an initiative of the GroundTruth Project. It's a national service program that places talented journalists in local newsrooms like WNIJ. You can learn more about Report for America at wnij.org.
Yvonne covers artistic, cultural, and spiritual expressions in the COVID-19 era. This could include how members of community cultural groups are finding creative and innovative ways to enrich their personal lives through these expressions individually and within the context of their larger communities. Boose is a recent graduate of the Illinois Media School and returns to journalism after a career in the corporate world.