Pop Culture


Furry forecaster Punxsutawney Phil woke up this morning and saw his shadow, supposedly meaning six more weeks of winter. It's now been 20 years since actor Bill Murray woke up to Sonny and Cher's "I've Got You Babe."


CHER: (Singing) They say we're young and we don't know. We won't find out until we grow.

CORNISH: For the Illinois town where much of that movie was filmed, reliving "Groundhog Day" again and again isn't such a bad thing.

Jenna Dooley of member station WNIJ reports.


RICHARD HENZEL: (as D.J.) That's right, woodchuck-chuckers, it's Groundhog Day. Get up and...

JENNA DOOLEY, BYLINE: "Groundhog Day" wasn't an Oscar darling, but it did make $70 million at the box office and gave new meaning to the term bing. The lovable but goofy film stars Bill Murray as egotistical Phil Connors, a burned-out meteorologist doomed to relive the same day over and over until he has a change of heart. It takes an untold number of attempts to finally make it to February 3rd, but while Murray desperately tries to make it to the next day, people here in Woodstock, Illinois, are pretty much choosing not to.

Chicago native director Harold Ramis was drawn to Woodstock's quaint town square, where many of the scenes were shot in 1992. The bustling town of about 20,000 people is a friendly place with a coffee shop, a bookstore and an iconic opera house on the square. You might think you were in Mayberry if it weren't for cartoon groundhogs posted on nearly every corner. John Scharres is the managing director of the Woodstock Opera House. In the movie, it's transformed into the Pennsylvania Hotel, but it's someplace entirely different each February.

JOHN SCHARRES: I use it a lot as a reference point when I'm talking to, you know, agents and people, as far as work here booking acts for the Opera House. I'll tell them, well, you've seen Woodstock. You just didn't know it.

DOOLEY: In 1995, a group of locals got together to reminisce about the town's role in the movie. They decided to meet again, same time, every year. From there, the Woodstock Groundhog Days were born. Co-chair Pam Moorhouse says one highlight is when the town's own groundhog, Woodstock Willie, predicts the weather. And there are all sorts of souvenirs in the square. Willie even has his own wake-up hot sauce.

PAM MOORHOUSE: For about four or five days every year, we just kind of go back to the recreation of the film and want to relive it because it was such a positive experience for our community.

DOOLEY: There is also a walking tour of film locations. That includes Ned's Corner, where Bill Murray's character runs into the pesky insurance agent Ned Ryerson.


STEPHEN TOBOLOWSKY: (as Ned Ryerson) Now, don't you tell me you don't remember me, because I sure as heckfire remember you.

BILL MURRAY: (as Phil Connors) Not a chance.


DOOLEY: Actor Stephen Tobolowsky played Needlenose Ned. He remembers Woodstock fondly and has taken part in the festivities.

TOBOLOWSKY: And I've done lots and lots of movies, and I've never had a film in a community have that kind of bonding experience like "Groundhog Day."

DOOLEY: Movie extra and local Rick Bellairs remembers spending months on the set patiently waiting for his 15 minutes of fame.

RICK BELLAIRS: There's one scene where I can readily spot myself and point but don't blink or I'm gone.

DOOLEY: For an extra in a film that relives the same day, it meant no costume change.

BELLAIRS: I've got, you know, an old gray jacket and sweatpants and a hat with the fold-down earmuffs.

DOOLEY: Bellairs and other local extras say they'll keep meeting here every year for Groundhog Day. Opera house director John Scharres admits, in this case, life is trying to imitate art.

SCHARRES: We live the movie here. I keep wondering what I have to do to redeem myself to get out of the loop, because every day is like some Groundhog Day here.

DOOLEY: Here in Woodstock, organizers expect around a thousand people to take part in the festivities, which continue through Sunday. For NPR News, I'm Jenna Dooley.


CHER: (Singing) I got you babe.

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