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Woodstock Willie Predicts Early Spring: Midwestern Groundhog Disagrees With Punxsutawney Phil (VIDEO)

First Posted: 02/ 2/2012 1:25 pm Updated: 02/ 2/2012 1:25 pm

After last year's festivities were canceled and moved to a different day because of the massive snowstorm that blitzed the Chicago area with over 20 inches of snow, Woodstock Willie returned Thursday and had some good news for Midwesterners.

As Fox Chicago reports, Woodstock Willie (Punxsutawney Phil's Illinois competitor) did not see his shadow early Thursday during a ceremony in Woodstock, Ill., the site where, 20 years ago, the Bill Murray and Andie MacDowell-starring "Groundhog Day" was filmed.

County singer Bryan White delivered the good news to a crowd of some 500 people, the largest gathering in the celebration's two decade-long history in Woodstock, the Daily Herald reports.

Because Willie did not see his shadow, the legend goes, an early spring is on the way -- at least in the Midwest.

Wannabe-meteorologist groundhogs were not in agreement in their winter predictions. Punxsutawney Phil did see his shadow Thursday morning on Gobbler's Knob in western Pennsylvania and thus predicted six more weeks of winter lie ahead.

Weighing in on the tradition, WGN meteorologist Tim McGill called Punxsutawney Phil "a punk when it comes to weather forecasting," the Chicago Tribune reports. McGill points out that the groundhog has been found to be incorrect markedly more than half the time.

As Huntley Patch reports, the northern Illinois town continues to cherish their memories of their experience in Hollywood's spotlight. The town hosts a weeklong celebration around Groundhog Day each year, including not only the official 7.a.m. prognostication each Feb. 2, but also a Groundhog Day breakfast, a walking tour of film sites, a chili cook-off and a "Groundhog Tales" reading by local storyteller Jim May.

The festivities attract revelers from throughout the country, including Brian Glass, a Minneapolis man who drove to the city because he has been a fan of the film since it was released two decades ago.

"I thought, if I ever have to relive one day of my life for the rest of my life, it's going to be the day I retire," Glass told CBS Chicago. "So I just retired yesterday, and I'm here for Groundhog Day."

Pam Moorhouse, chairwoman of the town's Groundhog Days Committee, told the Tribune the film "has meant a lot to people."

"People watch the movie and can envision themselves in those roles as they walk around," Moorhouse told the Tribune. "We are what we are for most of the year, but for a week in February, Woodstock is in the limelight. It's something that we are all very proud of."

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Filed by Joseph Erbentraut  |