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Groundhog Day: Woodstock Willie predicts early spring

WOODSTOCK – Heavy jackets and winter hats will soon be a memory.

Woodstock Willie reluctantly lumbered out of his tree stump Tuesday morning underneath a cloudy sky to find his shadow was not there. The declaration that this year would bring an early Spring – despite the light precipitation that started to sprinkle after the annual prognostication – inspired cheers and applause from the crowd that descended on the Woodstock Square.

Sue Carolan, of Wonder Lake, flipped a flap of paper from the sign she's brought to the celebration for the past decade, revealing the phrase “I did not see my shadow” next to a drawing of a groundhog.

“This year was a great year,” Carolan said, groundhog earrings dangling above her shoulders. “The weather is beautiful. It's much better than last year when we had all the snow.”

Rick Bellairs, a member of the Woodstock Groundhog Day Committee, also remembered the inches of fresh snow that were still on the ground during last year's prognostication, when Willie predicted another six weeks of winter.

Donning a groundhog hat he purchased in Austria, Bellairs said before Willie was woken up by three knocks he did not want to guess what Tuesday's balmy 30 degree temperature would mean for the rest of the season.

“I'm not a groundhog or a weather man,” he chuckled.

The event brings more than 150 people together, drawn from across Northern Illinois and elsewhere. At least one family travelled from Arkansas to visit the “seer of all seers.”

Palatine residents Vernon and Judith Chapman attended the event with Lake in the Hills couple Forrest and Marilyn Roberts for the first time. They arrived early, before the sunrise, polka music and Corky Siegel had arrived.

“We're here to have a good time,” Vernon Chapman said “We don't take it seriously.”

Forrest Roberts interjected: “We'd like Spring tomorrow.”

Sisters 8-year-old Ava and 10-year-old Amber Dittmer, came to the event with their father Greg from Arlington Heights. He said he convinced his daughters to be part of the outing with him because he's a fan of Bill Murray movie that inspired the annual celebration.

The girls had some reasons of their own for agreeing.

“I've never seen him before and he looks cute,” Ava said.

After seeing Woodstock Willie, she shivered through a smile, hoping his prediction would come true.

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