HAMMOND | Flick getting his tongue stuck on a freezing metal flag pole at Warren G. Harding Elementary School remains a symbol of growing up in Northwest Indiana thanks to the 1983 movie “A Christmas Story."
On Tuesday, that “triple dog dare” moment became a permanent exhibit outside the Indiana Welcome Center at 7770 Corrine Drive, which also houses the South Shore Convention & Visitors Authority.
Actor Scott Schwartz, who played Flick in the movie based on the short stories of Hammond native Jean Shepherd, joined tourism advocates and fans for the unveiling of a bronze statue of Flick with his tongue perpetually attached to a flag pole outside the center.
A large wooden shipping crate marked “This End Up” and “Fragile” concealed the statue, which was commissioned in January by the South Shore Convention & Visitors Association to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the film and the 30th anniversary of the SSCVA.
Armed with crowbars, Speros Batistatos, SSCVA president/CEO, and Bill Wellman, who suggested the statue at a SSCVA board meeting, pried open the lid. The crowd oohed and aahed as the wooden sides fell, revealing the child-sized figure.
“Bill Wellman has drilled it into me — make it about show business,” Batistatos said in introducing the longtime hospitality advocate.
Wellman said he first suggested a bronze statue of Orville Redenbacher in Valparaiso about 18 months ago. The response to that statue caused him to recommend the Flick figure at the Indiana Welcome Center.
Sculptor Oscar Leon, of Timeless Creations–The Studio of Rotblatt-Amrany, created the Flick figure in partnership with Warner Bros. Consumer Products. Leon was on hand for the ceremonies Tuesday.
“We are very honored to be part of this project,” Leon told those gathered. “Flick is an American icon.”
This studio also created the Munster Veterans Memorial and the Michael Jordan statue in Chicago, and it soon will unveil a statue of actor Jackie Chan in Shanghai, he said.
Schwartz also was appreciative of the project.
“It’s one of those things in life. A kid from Jersey gets this chance,” Schwartz said as he bantered with Batistatos.
“Thanks, man,” the actor said as the crate sides fell away. “This is something.”
Funding for the statue that cost nearly $40,000 started with a $1,000 donation from Wellman, Batistatos said.
“We’ve received many donations in the gift shop,” he said. “We’re sure this is going to be a great attraction.”
Flick's Tongue and the triple dog dare is one of six auto-animatronic window scenes the SSCVA bought in 2008 that again will be on display inside the Wellman Exhibition Hall at the Indiana Welcome Center beginning Nov. 9 as part of “A Christmas Story” Comes Home. The activities continue through Jan. 5.