Illinois Town Celebrates Groundhog Day Heritage

Brett Blume
February 02, 2018 - 8:11 am
a groundhog comes up from his snowy den

Brian Kushner | Dreamstime.com

Categories: 

ST. LOUIS (KMOX) - Today is Groundhog Day and plenty of St. Louisans will be paying attention to what that furry prognosticator -- Punxsutawney Phil -- has to say about the weather over the next 6 weeks.

But north of here this is a very big day.

You may or may not know that the self-described "charming and quaint" town of Woodstock Illinois stood in for Phil's hometown in the movie Groundhog Day -- which is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year.

Woodstock Mayor Brian Sager was actually on the City Council back when director Harold Ramis was directing the movie, and he was appointed liaison to the production crew.

He says a lot of movies released a quarter century ago or even since then have been completely forgotten, but Groundhog Day lives on as a widespread favorite that's still having a big impact on his town.

"The number of individuals that come from other states here in the United States and ever internationally, we have people all the time coming from Europe, last year we had somebody, a couple, that came from Australia. It's kind of amazing the far-reaching approach this movie has had," he says.

Woodstock has done its share to keep the memory of the Bill Murray flick alive.

"Especially on Groundhog Day we have guides that take people around the walking tour, we have several of the scene venues that are plaqued so it's kind of interesting to see people, for example, pretending that they're Ned Ryerson and coming around the Ned Ryerson corner by the plaque there," Sager says.

The mayor was asked after all this time, why does Groundhog Day continue to have such a wide appeal?.

"I think there's really two things: I think the first thing is it's just a strong family comedy. I think people enjoy comedy. When they go to the movies, when they go to the theater, they want to be entertained and they want to be able to leave feeling kind of refreshed and uplifted many times, if you will, and I think this is that kind of movie," he says.

Today a direct descendant of the Groundhog that co-starred with Bill Murray -- Woodstock Willie the 7th -- will make an appearance to provide his prediction for the next 6 weeks.

If you'd like to see his ancestor in action and relive a movie about reliving a day in your life til you get it right, make sure to rent Groundhog Day.