"Wisconsin-Happy Festival State", by Eve Phillips. My husband and I love to travel in the state of Wisconsin where we live and get great pictures on the way. My name is Laurie Kutil and photography has become a great passion of mine since 2010. One thing I have learned in researching each town before visiting it is that, "Every town has it's story". When I do uncover those stories by connecting with local residents, our experience becomes so much richer. In turn, sharing the stories with you brings me joy :)
Our last visit to Woodstock was for Groundhog Day in 2015, we looked forward to another great celebration! We arrived the night before, a beautiful clear evening with no snow on the ground. Two years ago we had a big snowstorm on Feb 1. After an easy ride down, we stopped for dinner at the Tip Top Cafe’, actually Taqueria La Placita Taco house.
The bright light in the window is the actual Tip Top sign in the Groundhog Day movie.
We sat in the same spot where Phil enjoyed that large breakfast in the movie.
Groundhog Day morning we headed to the Square (Gobbler’s Knob) to see the prognostication. The place was packed! We were entertained by Corky Siegel and Die Musikmeisters before the prediction. He predicted 6 more weeks of winter. We also sang Groundhog carols.
We were armed with a go pro-like camera mounted on a bike helmet to get over people’s heads and I took photos with my new Canon Rebel T6i camera. Watch it below!
Afterwards we headed to the Moose Lodge for the Groundhog Breakfast and entertainment. It was packed too, a sell-out crowd! We got treated to choral performances by the Woodstock High School Choir. Richard Henzel also reprised his clock radio voice from the movie. He also did it at the Prognostication, he does both voices now since his co-star has not returned in a long time.
I made a batch of groundhog cookies to contribute to the celebration and a cd for the Inner Square committee of GH Day 2006 when WGN came to cover the event. Watch it all below. The Groundhog picture is from the winner of the Woodstock Independent GH day poster contest. Cute!
After a wonderful breakfast, we joined the crowd for a Bob Hudgin’s-lead Groundhog Day Movie Walking Tour. Joining him was Rick Bellairs, our friend and the Inner Square Committee President. This tour was bittersweet as the Bob was going to retire from giving this tour after this year. Bob was in charge of organizing all of the places where the movie was going to be filmed. He had many anecdotes and told us about a couple of sites not on the guide. That was the tree the boy fell out of and the tunnel seen during the police chase after stealing the groundhog. He had been leading it since 2005 and it was time for someone else to pick up the mantle. Maybe Rick was his understudy too 🙂 I also recorded a video of this historic tour to share with all of you. Thanks Bob for keeping the movie alive 25 years later!
That was an incredible tour (and cold!) We headed to the Public House for lunch and toasted our sodas to World Peace.
We got some souvenirs at this delightful bookstore on the square, Read Between the Lynes. Their helpful staff can help you find the perfect gift or treat for yourself.
Our last stop was the Woodstock Public Library to see artifacts from the movie on display, my cookies were served there to the whole community, sweet!
Richard Henzel was there too, we chatted a bit and took a selfie too. Very nice man and a great conversationalist.
We had a perfect Groundhog Day in Woodstock, one we wish we could repeat.
Even though we had a snowstorm going on Sunday, we decided not to cancel our plans to come, since Woodstock did not cancel Groundhog Day there. The storm was over around midnight, we woke to a cold, clear morning of 4 degrees. We arrived downtown on the Square around 6:30 AM, it was beautifully lit with icicle lights and the fresh snow (9 inches) looked beautiful. The city crew worked hard all night to clear the square and the rest of the street after the storm, they did a great job!
The crowd was gathering at “Gobbler’s Knob”, bundled up against the cold, at least the strong winds from last night subsided. While waiting for sunrise, we sang some Groundhog carols. Woodstock Willie posed for pictures with the crowd too. Frank Jay and his Orchestra provided the musical accompaniment.
It was time for the prognostication, the Inner Circle assembled in the gazebo and rapped on the door on Woodstock Willie’s tree stump.
Mayor Dr. Brian Sager, who is fluent in Groundhogese, listens intently to Willie’s weather prognostication.
He got his answer, and tells the crowd “Six more weeks of winter.”
Despite the news, we are in good spirits since the storm is over and the sunrise was beautiful. Both groundhogs greet their admirers afterwards, posing for pictures.
Our next destination is the Moose Lodge, where the Groundhog breakfast and entertainment continued.
Frank Jay and his Orchestra played polkas while the Groundhog Day movie played silently on a TV screen. Roger Adler, who was one of the members of the band at the Groundhog dance in the film, sang “Weatherman” while playing guitar. They also had a raffle and a trivia contest.
Bob Hudgins was also there, thanking the people of Woodstock and fans of the movie for continuing to welcome them back every year to help celebrate Groundhog Day. Also for the dedication of the new Harold Ramis Auditorium at the Woodstock Theater. He was the director of the movie. He passed away in 2014 at age 69.
We also chatted with members of the Inner Circle, including Rick Bellairs, head of the committee responsible for planning and running this festival. We will never forget the best Groundhog Day we ever had and the hospitality of the citizens of Woodstock.
Be sure to enjoy the Walking Tour when you are in town, you can do that anytime you visit the city. The city is quite beautiful any time of the year.
The Groundhog Day Walking Tour is the highlight of any visit to Woodstock. Following the map, any visitor can take this tour year ’round. One week out of a year, the tour is guided during Groundhog Days. This time we got it on video, especially important since Bob Hudgins (Location Manager) was retiring from conducting the tours. The tour lasted almost 2 hours (bundle up!) and he had many back stories to tell about each scene. He has done this since 2005 gratis, just because he enjoyed doing it. Thanks Bob! Join us on the tour below! It’s edited length is 1 hr-6 min.
Here is a map of most of the sites, print a pdf version here as well as more info about what is going on each day.
Bob is ready! Let’s examine the sites one by one.
1. Pennsylvania Hotel
The historic Woodstock Opera House. The place where the dance scene takes place in the movie and bar scene preceding the dance.
2 & 3. Gobbler’s Knob and Bandstand Dance – The large gazebo in Woodstock Square Park.
Phil always hears “Pennsylvania Polka” when he arrives at Gobblers Knob. In fact, there are speakers throughout the park and we heard this and other music from the movie soundtrack during the tour. It is performed by Frankie Yankovic. A classic!
The Gobbler’s Knob plaque is flat on the ground. Saw it for the first time in 2017 since there was no snow.
This was the bar as portrayed as being inside the Pennsylvania Hotel, just outside of the dance hall where the Groundhog dance was near the end of the movie. Also where Phil shared a Sweet Vermouth on the Rocks (with a twist) with Rita. We enjoyed a delicious lunch there and made a toast to world peace. The plaque is inside by the bar.
The jail scene was also filmed here, a former large cell is part of the dining area. Al pretending to be locked up.
5. Bill Murray’s Puddle
Six cobblestones were actually taken out of the street to create the hole for the puddle, as told by Bob Hudgins. He had to put them back in at the end of the day. Al stood in for Bill on our first visit to Woodstock in 2003.
6. Tip-Top Cafe
Where Phil and Rita had breakfast before trying to leave Punxatawney. Also where Phil learned everything about all the patrons in the restaurant. At the time of filming it was an empty storefront, now it is a real restaurant called Taqueria La Placita. We enjoyed a great dinner there in 2017. We sat in the area where Phil’s table was in the movie. They also had the original Tip Top Cafe lit sign in the window too.
Where Phil was drinking with two other guys who all then proceeded to leave and drove drunk with the police hot on their tail on a high-speed chase through town.
They did not actually actually drive on the train track here, just the view of them turning onto the track was here. The actual track driving was done at the Illinois Railway Museum in Union, Il. The bowling alley is across the street to the left of this view.
10. The Dance
In the movie it’s in the Pennsylvania Hotel, in reality it’s the inside of the Moose Lodge. This is where the tour began after the Groundhog Breakfast in 2017. The breakfast was here too. They made no changes inside, still the same interior as in the movie.
11. Old Man’s Alley
In front of the movie theater, where Phil finds a homeless man and tries to help him.
View from the other side.
12. Ned’s Corner
Phil’s high school classmate Ned Ryerson, now insurance agent meets Phil here while he is walking to Gobbler’s Knob.
13. The Chase and Crash
Takes place after the aforementioned Bowling Alley scene. Here you see the movie scene super-imposed over the photo I took.
After knocking over the groundhog…This once was a vacant lot, now there is a building on this site with a plaque on it.
The building there now in the former vacant lot.
We are now on our way to the Piano Teacher’s House and Cherry Street Inn (Royal Victorian Manor) and encounter another movie site not on the printed guide. The tunnel where Phil drove the red truck when he stole the groundhog. It actually is for the Metra train that stops in Woodstock. It was built in 1897.
Coordinates: N 42° 18.772 W 088° 26.625
14. Piano Teacher’s House
Phil learned how to expertly play the piano in one day here.
Continue past the house to find the tree that the boy fell out of that Phil caught.