"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 one of the Inner Square Committee members. 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.
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.