Growing our own “A Christmas Story” traditions in 2011

2011-11-16T00:00:00Z Growing our own “A Christmas Story” traditions in 2011by Mallory Jindra TIMES HOLIDAY CONTRIBUTOR nwitimes.com
November 16, 2011 12:00 am  • 

Now, the events of Hammond's annual "A Christmas Story" celebration have become a vital part of many of our own family holiday traditions. Seeing the "A Christmas Story" Comes Home exhibit at the Indiana Welcome Center, hanging out downtown with friends and family during the Hammond Holiday Parade, and competing in the "Mommy's Little Piggy" mashed potatoes eating contest are now things we look forward to every year as the weather gets colder.

This year, Hammond's "A Christmas Story" traditions are alive and well. Some, like watching the classic 1983 movie together at the Indiana Welcome Center, never get old; others, like the updated "A Christmas Story" Comes Home exhibit, evolve through the years to become even better. Whatever your plans are for this holiday season, join Hammond in celebrating its history as the hometown of Jean Shepherd's classic interpretation of Christmas in 1940s in Northwest Indiana. In the pages ahead, you'll find events and activities through January 8th. Hope to see you there!

Visit the newly-updated ‘A Christmas Story' Comes Home exhibit

Since 2008, the Indiana Welcome Center's exhibit of six animatronic displays depicting scenes from "A Christmas Story" have delighted northwest Indiana residents during each holiday season. The iconic displays were first showcased in 2003 in the windows of Macy's flagship store in New York City in honor of the film's release 20 years before.

Higbee's Department Store Window, Flick's Tongue and the Triple Dog Dare, It's a Major Award, Santa's Mountain at Higbee's, The Bumpus Hounds, and The Parker Living Room have each given viewers a captivating peek into the film's story. Perhaps even more important, the exhibit and the film are both exciting studies of what life in Northwest Indiana was like in the 1940s.

This year, the exhibit was carefully updated by the staff at the Indiana Welcome Center. Each display will now more closely resemble the windows at Macy's.

"The displays were made to be in storefront windows, and they were never 100% finished off when we got them," South Shore Convention & Visitors Authority Executive Vice President Katie Holderby says. "Now, the scenes will transition better from one to the next, and the exhibit will look more like a street front. It really gives that feeling of walking down a street and looking into the windows of a store."

Mail your letters to Santa at South Shore's Largest Santa Mailbox

The one storyline in "A Christmas Story" that weaves itself into every other part of the unforgettable film is Ralphie's fixation on receiving a Red Ryder BB Gun from Santa for Christmas. Writing a letter to Santa is a tradition that runs deep in our nation and in "A Christmas Story."

Come to the Indiana Welcome Center to help your child mail their letter to Santa in the South Shore's Largest Santa Mailbox or create their own here at the Write a Letter to Santa Table at the exhibit. Everyone who writes a letter will be entered in a drawing for a chance to win the huge Christmas stocking filled with goodies on display by the mailbox.

Letters will be accepted until December 19 - just in time to mail them to the North Pole! Make sure to include your name, address, and phone number and drop it in the mailbox. If you can't make your way out to the Indiana Welcome Center, send your letter to Santa by email at Santa@aChristmasStoryComesHome.com.

Vote for the ugliest lamp at the Indiana Welcome Center's "Ugly Lamp Contest"

Perhaps the most iconic image to come from the 1983 "A Christmas Story" film is the horrifyingly ugly leg lamp Mr. Parker wins as a "major award" from a contest in the local newspaper. While Mr. Parker is ecstatic about his new prized possession, which he promptly displays in the family's front window for all passersby to see, Mrs. Parker is not so thrilled. Unfortunately, the leg lamp's life in the Parkers' front window is cut short when it's accidently broken by Mrs. Parker.

This year, the Ugly Lamp Contest will attempt to find the ugliest lamp since Mr. Parker's infamous leg lamp. Wondering where to look? Try your family's basement and local resale shops - you might be surprised by what you find.

Visitors to the Indiana Welcome Center before December 16 will vote on the ugliest lamp in each category to determine the winners, and the winners will be announced on December 19 at the Indiana Welcome Center. Stop in anytime during normal business hours, which are Monday through Sunday from 8a.m. to 5p.m. The contest winner will receive their own Leg Lamp desk lamp.

The Ugly Christmas Sweater Party Book Signing

The Ugly Christmas Sweater Party tradition is a social phenomenon that local company UglyChristmasSweaterParty.com has helped grow since 2009. Join them at the official launch and signing of their first book The Ugly Christmas Sweater Party Book at the Indiana Welcome Center on November 18 from 6pm to 8pm.

The Crown Point-based company is run by Northwest Indiana natives Brian Miller, Kevin Wool, and Adam Paulson, a.k.a. "Team Ugly." The online venture offers a huge inventory of ugly sweaters available for purchase, typically for $20-25 each. The three entrepreneurs have appeared on Fox & Friends and CBS's Sunday Morning, and released their first book on November 1.

"The book has seven chapters that explain things like how to throw your own Ugly Christmas Sweater Party and how to hold a contest," Adam Paulson says. "And then we included our Sweater Hall of Fame, where we picked the 100 ugliest sweaters we've ever seen and gave them titles and funny descriptions."

Paulson says he and his partners never expected the company to reach the success it did.

"I've enjoyed watching it grow from the first year out of my loft, then in Kevin's basement, and this year to a warehouse. We grew from $25,000 in sales our first year to over a quarter of a million this year."

At the book launch, you'll be able to meet the writers, buy a copy of the book, and even get it signed. Light refreshments will be served to guests. Feel free to sport your own ugliest ugly Christmas sweater.

The 4th annual Hammond Holiday Kick Off Celebration:

A tribute to "A Christmas Story" in downtown Hammond

In a tribute to the city's deep ties to "A Christmas Story," the Downtown Hammond Council will continue its growing winter traditions with the 4th Annual Hammond Holiday Kick Off Celebration on Saturday, November 19 from 10am to 5pm. The celebration will take place on Hohman Avenue between Sibley Street Muenich Court and event takes place on Rimbach Street and Fayette Street in downtown Hammond, and admission is free.

Four years ago, Downtown Hammond Council President Karen Maravilla imagined creating a celebration that would revive Hammond's active downtown scene and community Christmas traditions. The Downtown Hammond Council, a not-for-profit organization comprised of volunteers whose mission is to beautify, revitalize, and promote Hammond's downtown district, orchestrated a day-long, community-wide event for citizens to remember and enjoy their "A Christmas Story" heritage.

Now in its fourth year, Maravilla says the celebration has succeeded in uniting many Hammond citizens at a time of the year when people need a close-knit community the most.

"The first year we had it, it was inside the Towle Theater, and it was jam-packed with people - it was fabulous, just like in the old days," Maravilla says. "It was very gratifying to see people come back and share their own memories of downtown Hammond and see how excited they were. Many people in the area haven't been to downtown Hammond in a long, long time and don't understand how it's transformed."

Maravilla's own personal experiences growing up in Hammond, her love of the Christmas season, and her faith in the city's potential encouraged her to pursue the event.

"I have very strong and fond memories of my parents taking me shopping in downtown Hammond. The holidays were just a beautiful time, and I was really sad as an adult to see the downtown deteriorate."

When she first became President of the Downtown Hammond Council and came up with the idea, Maravilla says many people doubted a festival could thrive in the cold weather conditions. But she was inspired by the outdoor winter events in Chicago such as the German Christkindlmarket festival. And she credits the city and Mayor Thomas McDermott, Jr. for offering the support the event needed.

"The holiday season is just a beautiful time of year," Maravilla says. "You bundle up, you put on your scarf, you put on your mittens, and you get into the spirit. It's good for your soul, and the peacefulness comes through. It's taking everything that's important, and put it into one day."

Festival-goers are encouraged to explore the downtown during the event. Activities are both indoors and outdoors, so pick up a map when you arrive to see where certain activities are happening throughout the day. There will warming tents available. Look out for businesses who are serving hot chocolate; El Taco Real Restaurant of Hammond will be serving their Mexican hot chocolate at the event - Yummy. A free shuttle bus to the kick off celebration will pick people up at the Russell Street parking lot and drop them off downtown on Sibley Street.

Highlights for this year's celebration include:

- View the classic movie "A Christmas Story" with friends and family at The Towle Theater, 5205 Hohman Avenue. Screening times are 1:15pm and 3:30pm.

- Visit with Santa and His (Mean) Elves at 5243 Hohman Avenue (former Harris Bank & Mercantile Bank location) from 10am to 4pm.

- Children can enjoy games and art activities at 5243 Hohman Avenue (former Harris Bank & Mercantile Bank location) from 10am to 5pm. Play Pepsi Ring Toss, Basketball Toss, Bean Bag Toss, and more. The price for games is 25 cents per game or 5 for $1. A special Pick-a-Prize" event costs $1 for each chance to win great prizes valued from $1 to $100.

- Create your own artwork in the special "A Christmas Story" art project at the South Shore Arts Substation No. 9, 435 Fayette Street from 10am to 5pm. This free art project changes every year...it's a surprise!

- Don your chef's hat and compete in the "Holiday Cookie Baking Contest" at the Hammond INnovation Center, 5209 Hohman Avenue. Drop off your cookies and register from 10am to 1:30pm. Judging is from 1:30pm to 2:30pm. Winners will be announced at 2:45pm on the Main Stage on Hohman Avenue. Sign up ahead of time online for this event.

- Compete in "The Parker Family or your Favorite Character from the Movie Look-a-Like Contest" (character options include Ralphie, Randy, The Old Man, Flick, The Villains, etc.). Registration and picture-taking is from 10am to 4pm at the Hammond Innovation Center, 5209 Hohman Avenue. Judging is from 4pm to 4:30pm. Contest winners will be announced at 4:45pm on the Main Stage on Hohman Avenue.

- Compete in the "Shoot your Eye Out Contest" at 5243 Hohman Avenue (former Harris Bank & Mercantile Bank location) from 10am to 5pm. In this comical game of skill, contestants will attempt to shoot a ball from a foam gun through the cut-out eye of a big photo of Ralphie's face. Winners will receive a fun pop gun from Cabela's Outfitters.

- Join in a hilarious new event called Turkey Bowling located outside on Hohman Avenue and Fayette Street from 10am to 5pm Contestants will use frozen turkeys to bowl down a lane set up with actual bowling pins. Play all day to accumulate points and win prizes such as "A Christmas Story" items and gift certificates for local businesses. This event is sponsored by Stardust Bowl.

- Use your handy skills in the "Tire Changing Contest" located outside on Hohman Avenue and Fayette Street from 10am to 5pm. Contestants will compete to change a tire the fastest. Winners will receive prizes. This event is sponsored by T & C Auto.

- Relax in Mrs. Shield's Classroom for Reading for Ralphie and Letters to Santa at the Hammond INnovation Center, 5209 Hohman Avenue, from 10am to 5pm. Children can come listen to Christmas stories being read aloud, write their letter to Santa, and pick out a free book for themselves to keep. The books are provided by a not-for-profit organization called The Reading Tree, which collects and donates books to kids all across the nation to promote literacy.

- Join in the "Pink Bunny" (not White Elephant) Gift Exchange." Drop off your wrapped gift at the Information Tent between 10am and 3:45pm. Each gift should have about a $20 value and should either be new or one you received that you don't want to keep. Numbers will be given out to participants to determine what order you are able to select your gift and Santa will help distribute the gifts. The exchange will begin at 4pm on the Main Stage on Hohman Avenue.

- Belt out your favorite Christmas song at the adult and children "Sing-along Contest" on the Main Stage on Hohman Avenue. Each individual or group may sing one song without musical accompaniment. Participants are welcome (but not required) to show off their holiday spirit by dressing to impress.

- Tour downtown Hammond the old-fashioned way in a horse-drawn carriage ride for an exciting, magical experience. Rides will be available from 10am to 5pm. Each ride is $3 for adults and $2 for children, and there will be a set location where you can get in line for a ride.

- Looking for a furry friend? Adopt a "Bumpus Hound" from the Humane Society right during the festivities. The Humane Society will be showing dogs outside in a heated tent on Hohman Avenue from 10am to 5pm. All proceeds from the adoption benefit the Humane Society of the Calumet area.

- Enjoy Carolers and Holiday Music at various locations throughout the festivities from 10am to 5pm. See map for details.

- Satisfy your hunger with the help of delicious food vendors. Food vendors will be outdoors from 10am to 5pm.

- Browse and purchase gifts from various arts and crafts vendors indoors at First Midwest Bank, 5231 Hohman Avenue, from 10am to 5pm.

- Check out the antique vendors at the Parker Family "Cellar," in First Midwest Bank, 5231 Hohman Avenue, from 10am to 5pm. You'll find antiques, collectibles, and other vintage items.

- Be sure to enjoy the decorated windows of downtown business who compete in the "Downtown Hammond Council Window Decorating Contest." Participating businesses create "A Christmas story" themed window displays for all to see.

- Attend the Tree Lighting Ceremony, led by Hammond Mayor Thomas M. McDermott, Jr., at 5pm on the Main Stage on Hohman Avenue.

Opening night of "A Fabulous `50's Christmas" at Towle Theater

The Towle Theater's 9th Annual "A Fabulous `50's Christmas" is known as "Hammond's Own Holiday Tradition." This special holiday show pays homage to the Perry Como and Andy William's Christmas specials of the 1950s and 1960s, complete with original vocal arrangements and commercials from the era.

"The 1950s were Hammond's heyday," Towle Theater Managing Director Jeff Casey says. "The music, the set pieces, the hairstyles - everything in the show predates 1959. All of the costumes are authentic vintage clothing, too."

The performance will follow a variety show format that even reenacts 1950s commercials and treats the attendees as if they were a real studio audience. Casey notes that although this is the ninth presentation of the show, each year's performance is unique because the cast experiments with different songs, arrangements, and commercials for the content of the show.

"We have two beautiful a cappella pieces planned because the cast is really strong this year," Casey says. "Those pieces are really going to stand out."

Another amazing highlight to look forward to this year is the group coral work that all eight cast members will participate in.

"This is the ninth year of putting on the show, and for many people, it's the ninth year their going to see it," Casey says. "We've really made this show a great tradition in Hammond. We really feel strongly about providing affordable family entertainment that's local, too."

Tickets for the "A Fabulous `50's Christmas" are $15. The show will run from November 25th to the 27th and December 2nd through the 4th, December 9th through the 11th, and December 16th through 18th. The shows will take place Fridays and Saturdays at 8pm and Sundays at 2pm. The December 4th performance will begin at 3pm. Towle Theater is located at 5205 Hohman Avenue in Hammond. For more information, call (219)-937-8780 or visit www.towletheater.org.

Santa visits the Indiana Welcome Center

The trip Ralphie and Randy Parker make up Santa's Mountain to tell Santa what they would like for Christmas in "A Christmas Story" is horrifyingly funny. Snapping a photo with Santa is a tried-and-true tradition that you can easily fulfill at the Indiana Welcome Center. Have your photo taken with Santa atop a replica "Santa's Mountain" and then slide down a big red slide into a pillow of snow, just like in the movie.

Photos with Santa on Santa's Mountain are $5 each. Santa will be ready to visit the Welcome Center from November 26th to December 18th on Saturdays and Sundays from 11:30am to 4:30pm. During Christmas week (Monday, December 19th through Saturday, December 24th), you can visit Santa every day from 11am to 2pm. You will be able to pay with cash, Visa, Mastercard, American Express, and Discover cards.

Holiday for Heroes: A special evening of appreciation for our region's heroes

The Indiana Welcome Center is hosting a special holiday event on December 1st from 5pm to 8pm in honor of the people in our communities who are keeping us safe. This night of fun activities is open exclusively to police, fire, military forces and Hoosier Helpers and their families.

Light refreshments and cookies will be served, and attendees may take a free photo with Santa. There will be a station available to sit down and write a letter to or color a picture for the military troops overseas. Attendees will also be able to decorate a Leg Lamp cookie for $2.

"Many of these individuals don't get a lot of time around the holidays to spend with their families, especially those who work weekends," SSCVA Special Events Manager Raquel Perez says. "We wanted to do something special for our heroes in the area."

Please bring your police, firefighter, military, or Hoosier helper ID to the event.

Hammond Holiday Parade

While numerous festivals and parades in Northwest Indiana take place in the warmer months of summer, Hammond's Holiday Parade has a long-standing history of ruling the winter parade circuit. The parade keeps alive the tradition of a cherry holiday activity for people to get all bundled up and join in the fun of spreading holiday cheer and seeing old friends.

The City of Hammond and Mayor Thomas M. McDermott, Jr. will host the 2011 Hammond Holiday Parade on Saturday, December 3 at 10a.m. Highlights this year include a sure-to-be dazzling performance by the New Generation Fancy Drill Team from Chicago and area high school marching bands. Also marching in the parade this year are Those Funny Little People, a group of hilarious-looking mobile puppet characters who can get the crowd laughing with their comedy and dance routines.

"It's the biggest parade in the area for that time of year," City of Hammond Special Events Coordinator Donna Muta says. "The number one thing people enjoy are the marching bands, which are really awesome."

The parade route will begin at Gavit High School, 1670 - 175th Street, head east to Indianapolis. Blvd., turn north on Indianapolis. Blvd., and end at 169th Street.

Grab hot chocolate downtown at Dunkin' Donuts or at Harris Bank on the corner of 173rd Street and Indianapolis Boulevard. Enjoy breakfast before, during, or after the parade at The Wheel Family Restaurant, which offers an excellent view of the festivities.

You can also eat Breakfast with Santa at Gavit Elementary School's cafeteria. This special occasion, hosted by the Woodmar/Hammond Kiwanis, includes a breakfast of waffles, sausage, a drink, and a photo with Santa. The cost is $5 for adults and $3 for children (elementary and middle school). Santa leaves at 10am to be in the parade, so come early for a photo. Coffee, hot chocolate, and doughnuts will also be available a la carte for $1 each. The parade floats will be using the Gavit lot for parking, so there will be no public parking available at or near the school the day of the parade. It is recommended for residents to walk up to the school.

If your business or organization wishes to enter a float, vehicle or walking group in the parade, download your participation form at www.gohammond.com, click on Document Central and scroll down to Parks & Recreation, or call (219)-853-6378 for more information.

"A Major Event" at the Indiana Welcome Center

The sky is the limit at "A Major Event," which follows the Hammond Holiday Parade on December 3rd, at the Indiana Welcome Center. Look forward to an afternoon filled with fun Christmas events and activities and delicious treats for kids, adults, and families.

At this event, which runs from 11am to 3pm, you'll be able to write a letter to Santa and put it in the giant Santa mailbox, play Flick Bingo for prizes, and purchase a $1 craft for kids to make at the craft table or color Christmas-themed coloring pages. Kids and adults can ride a train throughout the property, taste a fudge puppy made however they like for $2, and search for items in a scavenger hunt. During the scavenger hunt, participants will walk around and look at the exhibit for answers to a list of fun questions about the film, exhibit, and more. The first 250 children to arrive will receive a goodie bag.

This event will also kick off the start to decorating your very own Leg Lamp Cookie. For just $2, you can decorate your cookie with sprinkles and icing at the cookie decorating station. Leg Lamp Cookie decorating will continue on Saturdays and Sundays December 3rd to December 18th and every day during Christmas week (Monday, December 19th through Saturday, December 24th). The delicious treat will also gain national recognition when the leg lamp cookie decorating at the Indiana Welcome Center will be featured in Food Network Magazine during the holidays - watch for it!

You'll be able to view the movie "A Christmas Story" on the big screen for free in the Indiana Welcome Center's 110-seat theater at noon and 2pm. Additional screenings of the film will take place on Saturday, December 10th and Saturday, December 17th at 1pm and 3pm.

Also on tap is the first ever Ugly Sweater Contest, where contestants will sport their most outrageously ugly Christmas-themed sweaters during the festivities at "A Major Event." If you'd like to participate, in this event, wear your sweater to "A Major Event" and you can register and get a number at the Ugly Sweater Desk. There is no cost and no limit to participants. Officials from the Crown Point-based company UglyChristmasSweaterParty.com will judge the contestants and announce a winner at a designated time.

The ‘A Christmas Story' Comes Home exhibit will also be open, where you can check out the animated window displays of six memorable scenes from the film, which originally debuted in the windows of Macy's flagship store in New York City.

Little Red Schoolhouse for ornament-making.

If you're looking for a fun way to use your creativity to spread some holiday cheer, the staff at The Little Red Schoolhouse at 7205 Kennedy Ave. invites you to come make ornaments at the historic site on December 4th. Make a trip with your friends and family to the Little Red Schoolhouse for ornament making on Sunday, December 4th from 1pm to 4pm. This free event is open to children 12 and under.

Children will have the chance to make ornaments the old-fashioned way from scratch using pine cones, construction paper, oranges, apples, cloves. One favorite project is garland made by stringing popcorn and cranberries together.

"We believe it's important to get the community involved and for kids to know what an old-fashioned Christmas is all about," Little Red Schoolhouse volunteer member Rhonda Warren says. "Especially when they do the ornament-making, it gives them a little bit of history on their own terms."

Constructed in 1869, the Little Red Schoolhouse is one of the oldest buildings in Hammond and has an exciting, unique history. After being used as a school from 1869 to 1896, the building continued to exist as a gathering space for the community. In 1896, it served as headquarters for William Jennings Bryan's 1896 Presidential campaign. Through its many lives after that, it acted as a dancehall, a place of worship, a funeral parlor, a community meeting hall, and a private residence. In 1971, the Hessville Historical Society purchased the building for just one dollar, and the Little Red Schoolhouse reopened as a museum and community center.

The Little Red Schoolhouse is located at 7205 Kennedy Avenue, Hammond. For more information, call (219)-844-5666.

Santa arrives at The Little Red Schoolhouse

If you haven't visited Santa at the Indiana Welcome Center, he'll also be at the Little Red Schoolhouse Saturday, December 10 from 10am to 5pm and Sunday, December 11 from 12pm to 5pm. This free event is open to children 12 and under. While no professional photos will be available, feel free to bring your camera to snap a few photos of your own.

After visiting with Santa, children ages 3-12 are welcome to head downstairs to the workshop to buy gifts for their families. All of the gifts in the workshop are priced between 25 cents and $5. Parents are not allowed into the workshop, and children will be assisted by workshop helpers.

The Little Red Schoolhouse is located at 7205 Kennedy Avenue in Hammond. For more information, call (219)-844-5666.

"Oh Fuuudge!" Relay Race

This zany annual relay competition is a tribute to the infamous tire changing scene in "A Christmas Story," in which Ralphie accidently utters a horrible curse word in front of his father as they change a flat tire together.

Parents and kids team up to "change a tire" and race through an obstacle course while holding a hubcap filled with lug nuts steady, as poor Ralphie couldn't do in the movie.

"The contestants really enjoy the teamwork between each parent and kid," says SSCVA Executive Vice President Katie Holderby says. "And it's usually pretty cold outside, just like the scene in the movie."

The competition begins at 10:30am on Saturday, December 10th; registration begins at 10am. The race will take place outside at the Indiana Welcome Center on the south side of the building. There will be two age groups based on the child's age: 4-7 years old and 8-12 years old. There will be 15 spots in each category, which are available on a first-come, first-serve basis. Interested participants can find contest rules and sign up online.

In an effort to promote the spirit of giving this Christmas season, the Indiana Welcome Center asks that each participant bring in a canned food or non-perishable item as an entry fee. These contributions will go directly to the Northwest Indiana Food Bank.

Wag Your Tail Wednesday

December 14 is the first of two Wag Your Tail Wednesdays at the Indiana Welcome Center. You're welcome to bring in your dog or cat (if he/she is well-behaved!) to get their photo taken with Santa from 4pm to 7pm. The second Wag Your Tail Wednesday is on December 21 at the same time. Each photo is $5.

This unique and inexpensive opportunity to have fun with your pet and take part in the Christmas festivities is a great way to start one of your own holiday traditions in Hammond.

"We know many people are really fond of their pets, and they love to dress them up and bring them in," SSCVA Special Events Manager Raquel Perez says.

This event is also a great way to give back to those furry animals that are in need. For every pet photo purchased, $1 will go directly to I Want a Home Rescue, an organization which finds foster homes for abused, physically handicapped, aged, or homeless animals.

In addition, pet owners will have the opportunity to enter their pet's photo into a pet photo contest for $2. Photos will be judged in two categories: Best Dressed Pet Santa Photo and Funniest Pet Santa Photo. All of the money raised from the contest will go directly to I Want a Home Rescue. Contest winners will receive a pet basket of goodies.

To learn more about I Want a Home Rescue, visit their website online at www.iwannagohomerescue.org

"What I Want for Christmas" Write a Theme Contest.

The unforgettable experience of receiving the thing we so wanted for Christmas as a kid is a priceless feeling. In "A Christmas Story," Ralphie must write a theme in school about what he would like to receive for Christmas. He struggles to convince everyone how desperately he wants a Red Ryder BB gun, including his teacher, Miss Shields.

This year, it's your turn. Write a theme about what you would like to receive for Christmas. Essays should be more than 20 words but not exceed 250. The entries will be judged in three separate age groups: 9-years-and-younger, ages 10-through-18 and 19-and- older. Themes will not be judged against other entries, but as stand-alone entries. The contest winner will receive "A Christmas Story" gift basket.

Mail your entry to: Indiana Welcome Center, 7770 Corinne Drive, Hammond, IN 46323. Make sure to clearly label it with your name, address, day-time phone number, and age category. Entries will be accepted until December 16th.

"Mommy's Little Piggy" Eating Contest.

One of the most beloved scenes in "A Christmas Story" is when Randy Parker scarfs up his mashed potatoes at dinner like "Mommy's Little Piggy." It will be remembered forever because it epitomizes the sibling in every family who would rather play with their food than eat it. In Hammond, we remember Randy's character by recreating the scene in the "Mommy's Little Piggy" Eating Contest at the Indiana Welcome Center on Saturday, December 17th.

Arguably the most popular individual holiday activity at the Indiana Welcome Center, this hilarious, giggle-prone event is an exciting race to see who can eat the most mashed potatoes in the fastest time. Whether you're right in the middle of the action or just come by to witness the hilarity, make this one of your own traditions this holiday season - and bring a friend!

The contest begins at 10:30am and registration is at 10am. The contest will have four age categories (ages 4-7, 8-12, 13-17 and 18-and-over) where contestants can compete to win prizes valued at $50 - $100. Interested participants can find contest rules and sign up online, and there is a limit of 30 participants per age category.

In the 18-and-over age group, contestants will compete against each other to eat as many plates of mashed potatoes as possible within the allotted time of five minutes. An empty plate will be determined at the judge's discretion. In the ages 4-7, 8-12, and 13-17 age categories, contestants will race to finish one plate of mashed potatoes in the fastest time.

As an entry fee, please bring in a canned food or non-perishable item to contribute to the spirit of giving this Christmas season. All items collected will go to the Northwest Indiana Food Bank.

The Harlem Globetrotters celebrate the Hammond Civic Center's 75th anniversary

In a dazzling kick-off celebration to the 75th anniversary of the Hammond Civic Center, The Original Harlem Globetrotters will perform there on Tuesday, December 27 at 7p.m. If you're looking for an exciting time between Christmas and New Year's Eve, come hang out with the Globetrotters for a night of exciting family entertainment and excellent basketball prowess.

The historic 4,500-seat arena has served many local purposes over its 75 years. It's hosted local concerts, several different wrestling and fighting performances, and is the home arena for the Calumet College of St. Joseph's basketball and volleyball teams.

Perhaps the most notorious performance at the Civic Center was on Easter Sunday in 1986, when American rock act KISS came to play. Local church groups protested the entire event, and the band ended up blowing out half of the windows on the outside west wall during the show.

The popular Orak Shrine Circus's magical performances have drawn crowds of all ages to the Civic Center for several years. This year, the Circus will perform several shows for the public beginning on December 1st.

"It's been a place for families, it's been used as a warming center in the winter, a cooling center in the summer, and it's been a base for the Red Cross in emergencies," Hammond Civic Center Building Manager Sue Rzeszut says. "It's there for the community, and the community really does utilize it."

Rzeszut notes that although the records are fuzzy, they believe the Original Harlem Globetrotters visited the Hammond Civic Center back in the 1970s. The worldwide icon Globetrotters organization represents 86 years of breaking down barriers, acts of kindness, and a commitment to fans that goes well beyond the game. As the "Ambassadors of Goodwill"TM, they've reached over 134 million basketball fans worldwide, visiting 120 countries on six continents. Their captivating assortment of trick shots, high-flying dunks, and precise timing complement hilarious comedic performances.

The Globetrotters' 2012 World Tour won't disappoint; it will showcase even more incredible ball handling wizardry, fresh comedy, and amazing rim-rattling dunks.

"Our performance has really kept pace with the heightened speed of modern-day basketball," Harlem Globetrotters Marketing Director Frank Klaus says. "The game has picked up speed, size and energy. Now, it's a lot more high-flying, and they're playing above the rim a lot. There are a lot of spectacular dunks. But the entertainment value is really strong, too - very similar to back in the 70s."

The Hammond Civic Center is located at located at 5825 Sohl Avenue in Hammond. Tickets to the Globetrotters performance are on sale now at the Hammond Civic Center box office and on www.ticketmaster.com.

 

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