"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.
In 2015, Sun Prairie received unfavorable national attention when their groundhog Jimmy BIT the Mayor’s ear when he was “listening” for the weather prediction. THEN, it was discovered that the new Jimmy caretakers Jeff and Ti Gauger didn’t have permits to own a groundhog. They do, however, own Beans n Cream Coffeehouse in Cannery Square. Jimmy was then released into the wild in May. Sun Prairie no longer had a groundhog and Groundhog Day 2016 was coming!
It was time to regroup and appeal to the citizens of Sun Prairie and get their ideas on what to do to save Groundhog Day. One idea is to have a groundhog “understudy”, either an animal or person to cast the shadow in place of Jimmy and have a lot of Groundhog Day spirit! The Sun Prairie Downtown BID (Business Improvement District) sponsored the contest. Facebook users submitted their ideas and all interested people were then able to vote for their favorite candidates.
On January 30, the winner was announced. Five-year-old Asher who also happens to be a human groundhog, meaning his birthday is February 2nd. He turned 5 today and was ready to assume his role as groundhog understudy. In addition, the proclamation by Jimmy would also be translated in Spanish and Hmong, The Mayor gave it in English first.
Photo collage by Sun Prairie BID
In addition, a groundhog costume was donated by CJs Huggables. Let’s watch this brand-new Prognostication ceremony, edited for Youtube time constraints. If you wish to hear the Hmong and Spanish translations, see the Sun Prairie BID video.
Jimmy predicted an early spring! Because of the fact it was snowing, he did not see his shadow.
After the ceremony, people got a closer look at the new Jimmy and took pictures with the new costumed mascot, including me 🙂
Because of what happened to the Mayor last year, the handler is no longer going to hold the live groundhog for a picture with you, only the costumed mascot. I am glad I got this picture in 2010.
The Market Street Diner across the street was hosting a groundhog brunch and a rep from the post office was also there. There is a special GH day cancellation each year (see top of page).
I had a real good time. Sun Prairie created some new traditions for Groundhog Day that appear like they will continue next year. Way to go Sun Prairie!
It appears Jimmy was right about an early spring. The snow is now gone, we have had temperatures near 70 already. Snowdrops were spotted growing at Olbrich Botanical Gardens. I saw them for myself on March 9. Happy Spring!
Woodstock, IL is in McHenry County in northern Illinois with a population of nearly 25,000 as of 2010. It was chosen as the county seat in 1843 and was originally called Centerville, due to being in the center of the county. In 1845 the town name was changed to Woodstock after resident Joel Johnson’s hometown of Woodstock, Vermont. It became a city in 1873, and a rail line soon arrived. It is still in use today, Metra trains come through also, taking passengers to Chicago 37 miles away.
Prior to 1992, Woodstock was not considered to be a destination for visitors. The movie Groundhog Day changed all of that. Since the movie’s release in 1993, people have been streaming in from all over the country (and world!) to see the city that the movie made famous. Al and I came into town to celebrate Groundhog Day in 2015 and 2017 and had the time of our lives! All the sites in the movie are marked with a plaque for a self-guided Walking Tour any time you come to visit. The city was re-vitalized by the movie and the money spent in town by visitors has allowed for many improvements and beautification projects to make the city a welcoming place for all. We stay at the Super 8 when we come to visit. Book early if you are coming for Groundhog Day, we reserved our room in early November. Or you can even stay at the Royal Victorian Manor, featured in the Groundhog Day movie as the Cherry Street Inn.
There is more to Woodstock then the groundhog though. They have preserved their beautiful historic Square and most storefronts are occupied with boutiques and restaurants. On our most recent visit in 2017, many buildings are now outlined in LED light and the trees in the inner square have white lights on them. Very beautiful!
Woodstock created a pdf map listing the historic buildings on or near the Square. Here are some of them. Let’s begin at the Opera House and go counter-clockwise.
Across the street on our left is the Phoenix Block.
At the end of this corner on 113 S. Benton is the majestic Church Block building (1899), named after Malachi Church, a county sheriff. In the corner is now a four-face city clock and the business Ethereal Confections Craft Chocolate and Dessert Bar. Also Material Things.
We round the corner to the BMO Harris building, housed in the Primm Block. The tan building is the Murphy Block.
At the end of Benton Street (across from Ned’s Corner) are these businesses.
Cass Street is next on the square.
On this street is the former Tip Top Cafe’ in the Groundhog Day movie. Now Taqueria La Placita, we enjoyed a great dinner there 2-1-17.
At the top of Cass St. we see the Old Courthouse and Jailhouse buildings, all occupied.
We enjoyed lunch at the Public House of Woodstock here, site of the Groundhog Day movie bar scene where they drink to world peace.
Across the street is the Woodstock Chamber of Commerce and Jaci’s Cookies, where we got a couple scones and a Groundhog cookie! They closed on 9-30-16.
We are back at the top again where we started. We saw other interesting buildings, these are on Main St. just off the Square. This is the Waverly house building, built in 1900. Next to it is the store Rare Rubbish, with a vintage Elgin Watch neon sign with clock. Cool! We saw the sign at night in 2017, one side still works!
Across the street is the Woodstock Theater, on this site around 100 years.
On our way out of town, we saw the Purple Heart Memorial.
This wraps up our tour of Woodstock. Check these resources for more information about this city and McHenry County. A great place to visit any time of the year. We always feel welcome here, as we do when we visit my home state. We also found this great historical marker just outside of Woodstock at a small wayside.
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.
Sun Prairie is a growing city of over 30,000 just northeast of Madison. The history of how it got its name is quite interesting. In 1837, President Martin Van Buren commissioned a party of 45 men to build a capitol building for the territory of Wisconsin. They left from Milwaukee on May 26, 1837. They traveled many days in the rain to scout out the area near Madison. On June 9, they emerged at the end of a prairie and the sun came out for the first time at that moment. They carved the words “Sun Prairie” into a tree and the name stuck. We were able to find the site of where that famous tree was. Take Highway 19 out-of-town about two miles, heading toward Marshall. On Skala Road to the left, the tree was located between the railroad tracks and 19. A farm is here.
Charles Bird was the first settler. Bird Street in the city was named after him.The town of Sun Prairie was created on Feb 2, 1846 (Groundhog Day!). The city, which grew out of the town, was incorporated in 1858.
Some of the city’s historical buildings remain and their downtown is quite active with many festivals throughout the year. Let’s explore the local history. A good place to begin is the Sun Prairie Historical Museum. They have displays that change yearly and seasonally, and with an appointment you can make use of the research room with a docent who can help you find historical information. The museum was built on the site of the home of the first settler, Charles Bird. A street is named after him.
The museum also has received historical records from the Town of Burke, a town that being dissolved by 2026. We live in Burke. The first Burke Town Hall strangely enough, is in Sun Prairie, still in use. It is behind McGovern’s Club and Restaurant.
McGovern’s itself has been a mainstay of Sun Prairie since 1935. Visitors can stay at the hotel for a night or an extended stay.
Sun Prairie also has the distinction of being the first city in Wisconsin to implement free rural mail delivery, you will find the marker at the Post Office.
Downtown you will find the former City Hall building.
Across on the left you will find Ski’s Saloon, open from 2011 to 2016. In the fall of 2016 it has new owners Cory and Abby Barr reopening it as The Barr House. The building was a tobacco shed originally.
July 10, 2018-The Barr House building exploded, possible natural gas. The building is now gone.
We now come upon Cannery Square, the heart of downtown and the current site of Jimmy the Groundhog’s annual prognostication on Feb 2nd. We have attended many of these since 2002. This used to be where the factories in Sun Prairie were in the 19th and early 20th centuries were. Renovation was complete in 2004 and it’s now a mixed living and retail center. In the square proudly stands a wood carving of Jimmy. You can see it on the right side of this picture of the square. Many festivals now take place here, this is the annual Fall Festival in October.
Famous artist Georgia O’Keeffe was also born in Sun Prairie and a marker can be found on Main St. across Cannery Square. The city has a festival every year to celebrate her contributions to the world of art.
The performing arts also have a strong foothold here. The Sun Prairie Civic Theater puts on four performances each year. This is “The Barn”, where the stage parts and props are stored. They always need more people to come join the fun!
Just opened Fall 2013 is The Nitty Gritty, located in the nearby historic Fuhremann Canning Factory, built in 1900. it was a place for farmers to sell their produce. Now it is mixed retail. The Nitty Gritty is on the right.
The Dr. Charles D. Crosse House is another museum in town. They also are a part of many of the city’s festivals throughout the year. He was the city’s doctor early in the city’s history and helped establish the first high school. He later served as a state legislator also.
This concludes our visit to the historic downtown Sun Prairie. It is expanding way beyond this area, with many businesses on the edges of the city in all directions. It’s called Prairie Lakes and is still growing. Sun Prairie is your destination for fun events and shopping. To learn more, stop at the Chamber of Commerce downtown on Main, next to the Historical Museum.
Cottage Grove is a community of 3,700 sixteen miles from Madison. Not only does my brother and his wife live here, they have many fun events we enjoy going to. It also has an active Historical Society located in Flynn Hall, a historic building adjacent to Fireman’s Park. Its main function was Town Hall, it was built in 1900 and in 2010 celebrated its 110th Anniversary. The building now houses the Cottage Grove Lions Club and the Cottage Grove Historical Society.
For appointments to see the historical society room and its contents, call her at 839-4470.
The Granger Movement also had a foothold here, a political group that formed after the Civil War.
One of Cottage Grove’s big events is the Hog Day Breakfast in Flynn Hall on or close to Groundhog Day. It’s a fundraiser for the Lions Club. A black pig named Sir Arthurpredicts spring’s arrival. A yummy breakfast is also served.
A couple friends of ours in the Lion’s club, Tod and Darlene Bernarde, act as the VIP’s at this event and take Sir Arthur outside to see if he sees his shadow. We posed for a picture together too that showed up in a newspaper article about this fun event.
Photo by Herald-Independent
In the early summer, the Fireman’s Festival is a big draw. It kicks off with the Hot 2 Trot Run/Walk to raise money for the volunteer fire department. We ran in 2012 and Photographer Mindy ? took our picture near the finish line (gave permission to use). Then a big parade was next. Here is the parade from 2013.