Janette Perry, 9, was not convinced.
“They say if the groundhog sees its shadow and gets scared, then it’s six more weeks of winter,” the McHenry girl said just before Woodstock’s Groundhog Day prognostication. “I don’t believe that.”
If she’s right, the self-professed hater of cold weather has nothing to fear. But if Woodstock Willie’s powers of prediction Feb. 2 were anything to go on, Janette is bound to be disappointed. During a ceremony in the Park in the Square, the celebrated marmot saw his shadow, which by tradition portends a month-and-a-half of wintry weather to come.
“On Feb. 2 at 7:07 a.m., Woodstock Willie, the Seer of Seers, Prognosticator of Prognosticators, emerged reluctantly, but alertly, in Woodstock, Ill., and stated in Groundhogese, ‘I definitely see my shadow,'” said Bob Hudgins, the location manager for the 1993 movie “Groundhog Day,” which was filmed in Woodstock.
The prediction was met with boos from several hundred chilly revelers who gathered from throughout the region and beyond to watch Woodstock Willie emerge (or rather, be pulled) from a hand-crafted tree stump bearing his name. He appeared chagrined by the intrusion.
“Woodstock Willie is a little feisty this morning,” Mayor Brian Sager said.
Actor Richard Henzel, who voiced one half of the film’s familiar “OK, campers, rise and shine” radio segment, was on hand, performing that scene just prior to Woodstock Willie’s appearance. Acclaimed blues musician Corky Siegel sang and played harmonica early in the morning. He was followed by a polka band that led the crowd in Groundhog Day songs.
Despite the mock unrest over Woodstock Willie’s prediction, Sager told those in attendance — some of whom were outfitted for the 11-degree weather in groundhog-themed hats, mittens and scarves — they were in for “a wonderful, wonderful six more weeks of winter.”
Woodstock residents Debbie and Dennis Leeser said they’ve come to every Groundhog Day prognostication in Woodstock except for one — the 2011 event, which was canceled anyway due to a blizzard. Woodstock has hosted a prognostication since 1997.
“You’ve gotta see if Woodstock Willie sees his shadow,” Debbie Leeser said. “There’s probably not a lot of value to it at all, but it’s fun.”
The prognostication is part of Woodstock’s annual Groundhog Days celebration, which includes walking tours of filming sites, screenings of the movie, a pub crawl and more. For information on other events, visit www.woodstockgroundhog.org.