the true excitement of a large squirrel predicting the weather

The ceremony took place in the gazebo, not on a separate stage like in the movie. A polka band filed up, including a guy in lederhosen with bare knees. A guy in a groundhog costume followed with a police escort. The band played (poorly) the Pennsylvania Polka, the song that was playing in the movie, then the band leader and the mayor sang a duet of Take Me Out of the Tree Stump.

Richard Henzel, one of the actors who did the D.J. voices heard on the radio every morning in the movie, greeted everybody and read his lines (and the lines of the other D.J.):

First D.J.: Okay, campers, rise and shine, and don’t forget your booties ’cause it’s cooooold out there today.
Second D.J.: It’s coooold out there every day. What is this, Miami Beach?
First D.J.: Not hardly. And you know, you can expect hazardous travel later today with that, you know, that, uh, that blizzard thing.
Second D.J.: [mockingly] That blizzard – thing. That blizzard – thing. Oh, well, here’s the report! The National Weather Service is calling for a “big blizzard thing!”
First D.J.: Yessss, they are. But you know, there’s another reason why today is especially exciting.
Second D.J.: Especially cold!
First D.J.: Especially cold, okay, but the big question on everybody’s lips …
Second D.J.: On their chapped lips …
First D.J.: On their chapped lips, right: Do ya think Phil is gonna come out and see his shadow?
Second D.J.: Punxsutawney Phil!
First D.J.: Thats right, woodchuck-chuckers – it’s
[in unison]

The mayor of Woodstock took the mike while the groundhog wrangler brought Willie out of his stump. He held the critter up to the mayor’s cheek. The mayor stepped back to confer with the other officials, then announced Willie’s verdict (using the same script as in the movie).

When we arrived in town an hour earlier, the moon was out and there wasn’t a cloud in sight. Just before the moment of truth, the sky clouded over. A few minutes later, the clouds were gone and the sky was clear again. But Willie called it as he saw it — no shadow and an early spring. The band played a few more numbers while the crowd filed out of the square, many of them to the Groundhog Days breakfast in the Old Court House.

The photo below is from the Northwest Herald, taken by a photographer on the gazebo. I can be seen on the left in a blue coat, a gray hood and with my camera in front of my face. Sally was just to my right and out of the photo. Here’s the article.

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