Phil – and Willie! – Both Saw Their Shadows
No matter which groundhog you follow for your annual weather report, the news was equally bad!
Both Punxsutawney Phil and Woodstock Willie both saw their shadows at daybreak this morning.
I’ve obviously known about Punxsutawney Phil for years, but to be honest, I’ve never actually WATCHED the ceremonies held at Gobbler’s Knob. My six year old said he wanted to watch it, so I fired up the YouTube video of the live feed from the AP (you didn’t think I’d actually wake up before dawn, did you?!). It was quite entertaining, very ridiculous, but a lot of fun. People gather dark and early for music and fireworks before the Groundhog Club, or the “Inner Circle” awake old Phil and get on with it.
You obviously have to suspend your disbelief, but the 30,000-ish people in attendance in the small Pennsylvania town looked to be having a unique brand of silly fun, and that’s what it’s all about! Fun, and you know, boosting the local economy!
Punxsutawney Phil became a household name in 1993 thanks to the Bill Murray movie Groundhog Day. Funny enough, while the movie was set in Punxsutawney, PA, it was actually filmed here in Woodstock, Illinois! Why did they do that? Well, several reasons, as Wikipedia so accurately explains:
The production wanted to use a “quintessential American town” for location shooting, a place that did not look as if it was specific to any particular time period. The Pennsylvania Film Commission provided location scouting tapes of Punxsutawney, but it became obvious that attempting to film in Punxsutawney would present difficulties, as the town had few ideal filming locations for the scripted scenes. Punxsutawney was also too isolated from the necessary amenities. The rural town was nearly 80 miles (130 km) from the nearest large city, Pittsburgh, and did not offer sufficient accommodation for the cast and crew.
As a Chicago native, Ramis enjoyed filming in Illinois and knew the area could meet their needs. These included being closer to a major metropolitan area with access to highways, a winter aesthetic, and the ability to complete the production as quickly as possible. Ramis also wanted a main street like Punxsutawney’s. Location scout Bob Hudgins thought that Mineral Point, Wisconsin, could meet their requirements. During the scouting journey there, the team stopped in the city of Baraboo, Wisconsin, which happened to have a town square. The filmmakers could see the benefits of a town square over a main street. Ramis asked for something similar but in closer proximity to Chicago.
By the time they arrived in Woodstock, Illinois, over 60 towns had been scouted. Hudgins was aware of Woodstock—a small town of approximately 25,000 people—from his work on the 1987 comedy film Planes, Trains and Automobiles. Though relatively remote, it offered the timeless quality the filmmakers sought. After Hudgins arranged for Ramis and Albert to view the town from the bell tower of the Woodstock Opera House, the decision was made to film in Woodstock. The town even came with a large pothole for Phil to step in.
It’s funny, right? In 1993, Woodstock businesses hated the idea of a movie being shot there. Today, though? They organize a celebration around it! Funny what some success can do!
Since the movie, Woodstock has tried to capture the momentum the film created for it’s town and holds their own Groundhog Day celebrations each February 2nd. Woodstock’s version of the ceremony is very similar to the grandiose production of the Punxsutawney party. The gathering is a bit smaller and a bit less known worldwide, but being the backdrop of the movie does bring in respectable crowds, which business owners hope become respectable revenue!
Here’s the Woodstock festival from this morning for you to compare to the Punxsutawney version, which happened nearly simultaneously this morning.
At the end of the day, it’s about having some silly fun and breaking up the monotony of the Winter season a bit, and I’m all for that.