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Woodstock Willie predicts an early spring
By Larissa Chinwah | Daily Herald Staff

Woodstock Mayor Brian Sager listens carefully as Woodstock Willie provides his annual prediction Tuesday morning on the square in Woodstock.

 

Christopher Hankins | Staff Photographer

Woodstock Willie takes a look at the hundreds of fans who have gathered to hear his prognositcation Tuesday during the annual groundhog day event at Woodstock Square.

 

Christopher Hankins | Staff Photographer

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Published: 2/2/2010 8:45 AM | Updated: 2/2/2010 2:55 PM

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The snow that fell Monday night into Tuesday makes the countdown to spring seem like an eternity. But according to the prognosticator of weather, Woodstock Willie, spring is upon us.

The groundhog charged with predicting spring's arrival did not see his shadow when he reluctantly emerged from his tree stump at 7:07 a.m. Tuesday in the Woodstock Town Square. Willie then spoke Groundhogese to Woodstock Mayor Brian Sager, who convened with the Inner Circle before announcing the good news to the 300-strong crowd gathered in the town square.

"I definitely do not see my shadow," Sager said.

The light snowfall that ushered in the annual Groundhog Day festivities added to the ambience of the occasion for residents and out-of-town visitors from Wisconsin and Indiana and as far away as South Carolina.

"I think that it is nice that it is snowing today; it adds to the vibe," said Jim Shine, 35, of Indianapolis, who made the trek with four friends for the occasion.

The group, all fans of the Bill Murray film, "Groundhog Day," which put Woodstock on the map, planned the trip for two years.

Shine said he and friend Travis Bell, 36, of Indianapolis, often travel to locations made famous in movies. On a particular trip in 2008, Shine and Bell discussed "Groundhog Day" and the town square seen in the film.

"We researched it when we got home ... and I said we ought to go and check it out one day," Shine said. "And (Travis) said if we do, we ought to do it on Groundhog Day. That was two years ago and we finally made it out here today."

A German tradition says if an animal comes out of hibernation and sees its shadow of Feb. 2, the Christian holiday of Candlemas, winter will last another six weeks. If the animal does not see its shadow, legend says, spring will arrive early.

Willie's prediction suggests spring will arrive earlier in the Midwest than the East Coast as earlier in the morning, the most famous groundhog, Punxsutawney Phil, saw his shadow, meaning six more weeks of winter.