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It’s Groundhog Day…Again

February 4, 2014
I thoroughly enjoyed another pilgrimage to the Groundhog Day festivities up in Woodstock, IL, this year.  It was my first overnight experience of Groundhog Days.  It was my third such excursion to Woodstock for the Groundhog Days events…and the best.   (You can read about my prior Ground Days experiences in my blog posts Groundhog Day and It’s Groundhog Time!

We braved the snow Saturday morning, February 1st, and arrived at the Woodstock Classic Cinemas theatre, the one behind the box office shown in the movie, just in time to get a group of seats together for the free showing of the Groundhog Day movie at 10am.  We arrived just in time.  The theatre was full moments after we took our seats.

At the Woodstock Classic Cinemas movie theatre: Me, Leslie Thomas, Canyon and Tess

At the Woodstock Classic Cinemas movie theatre: Me, Leslie Thomas, Canyon and Tess

Before the movie started a theatre official announced that they had a special guest for the festivities. Danny Rubin, author of the original screenplay for the Groundhog Day movie, was in the theatre with us.  Danny was introduced, shared a few reflections with the audience, and then opened himself up to questions from the audience. When they announced they had time for one more question, I raised my hand. I couldn’t pass up the opportunity.  They selected someone else, but when their question was not a serious one, they opened up to yet another question, and this time they chose me!  I asked Danny where he be got the original idea for the story. He said he had several ideas for stories including one surrounding immortality that evolved into the story that became the Groundhog Day movie that we have come to know. It was exciting to dialogue with the person who authored one of my all-time favorite movies.

Here we pose in front of the Groundhog Day movie sign at the Woodstock Classic Cinemas movie theatre. Leslie Thomas, Canyon, Tess and I.

Here we pose in front of the Groundhog Day movie sign at the Woodstock Classic Cinemas movie theatre. Leslie Thomas, Canyon, Tess and I.

Next we went to the chili cook-off contest, and cast our votes for our favorites, in the building that was the Pennsylvania Hotel in the movie.  Outside the building we got a photo with our favorite groundhog…Woodstock Willie.
Me, Leslie Thomas, Woodstock Willie, Canyon and Tess

Me, Leslie Thomas, Woodstock Willie, Canyon and Tess

Next we went to lunch in a Mexican restaurant in the square.  That restaurant was once the Tip Top cafe shown repeatedly in the Groundhog Day movie.  There I asked my kids what they thought the moral of the movie story was.  Tess immediately said, “Carpe dium” (ie. “seize the day”), and shared her reflections about seeing scenes from the movie Dead Poets Society in school.  I was so proud thinking that my kids ‘get it’.  As Bill Murray’s character, Phil Connors, did in the movie, every day is a gift, and only you can determine what to do with that gift.  You can feel sorry for yourself, feel depressed, be destructive, or, hopefully, live it to the fullest with love in your heart and lots of loving acts to care for those around you – the secret to breaking the spell and finding true happiness.

Next we went bowling at Wayne’s Lanes bowling alley – the bowling alley shown in the movie – and were joined by a very special visitor – Woodstock Willie himself!

At Wayne's Lanes Bowling Alley:  Me, Canyon, Woodstock Willie, Tess and Leslie Thomas

At Wayne’s Lanes Bowling Alley: Me, Canyon, Woodstock Willie, Tess and Leslie Thomas

Later, after dinner, we went for a stroll through the town square, danced and polka’d in the gazebo shown in the movie, and walked through the grounds where the Gobbler’s Knob groundhog prognostication scenes were filmed.

In the morning, we had to wake up early to attend the groundhog prognostication ceremonies.  In the movie, Bill Murray’s character is routinely woken up at 6:00 am sharp.  I set my alarm prior to that time, then at exactly 6:00 am I woke my kids, Tess and Canyon, to a serenade of the same Sonny and Cher song I’ve Got You Babe song repeated in the movie followed by the familiar “Okay, campers, rise and shine, and don’t forget your booties ’cause it’s cool out there today” DJ dialogue from the movie.  I imagine the kids thought they were waking up in their own personal experience of the Groundhog Day movie.
 As I left our room to head to the square for the prognostication, I encountered another person leaving for the groundhog ceremonies and asked, “Off to see the groundhog?”, just like the guy in the bed and breakfast says to Bill Murray’s character in the movie. She laughed.  She recognized the line from the movie and was amused to find herself living out the movie with me.  It felt great to be able to connect with a total stranger because of our common connection of love for the Groundhog Day movie.  She shared that she was from Minnesota and came in just for the Groundhog Day prognostication event. People were there from all over the country.  It was nice for us as the trip was only a couple hour drive away.

At the ceremony…well…why tell you what happened when you can watch much of it yourself thanks to my daughter Tess who braved the cold to video record it on her cell phone for us…here it is…just click on the video play button to watch it:

At the Groundhog Day prognostication event: Me, Leslie Thomas, Canyon and Tess

At the Groundhog Day prognostication event: Me, Leslie Thomas, Canyon and Tess

We later went to morning mass at the Catholic church in Woodstock.  At the end of mass the pastor made a surprising introduction of a special guest that was at mass to address the congregation….Fr. Guido Sarducci – yes, the priest who would gave humorous editorials on the Weekend Update segment of Saturday Night Live.  We were told he was there at mass sent there by the Vatican!  A man dressed as Fr. Guido who did a pretty good impersonation of him too, invited all to buy tickets for a dinner fundraiser the church was having.  But I most remember when he told the congregation, in his Italian accent,  “With the light ofa Jesus shining down on us all, how coulda the groundhog not see his shadow.”  And that’s just what the groundhog did today, so, 6 more weeks of winter.

I was glad I was able to enjoy the Groundhog Day event with my kids this year.  It may be the last chance I’ll get to do that with them, at least while they’re still kids.  I only get to be with my kids half the time, and Groundhog Day won’t fall on a weekend day again until 2019 – Canyon will be 17 years old then and Tess will be 21 – and that might not even be a weekend I have them. By then Tess may possibly be pursuing her own dream of being a movie actress in California.  Who knows…maybe she’ll be in a remake of Groundhog Day with her in a female lead.  I hope she can live out that dream, and all her dreams.  And, more importantly, I hope that she and Canyon both learn to ‘Carpe Dium’, and live their best and most loving day, with every new today.

For more information on the Woodstock Groundhog Days events:

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