Nevermind the commercial appeal of the all-time great Christmas movies being set in the fictional Indiana town of Hohman.
The South Shore Convention and Visitors Authority's celebration of "A Christmas Story" comes down to civic pride.
And that's no more apparent as "A Christmas Story Comes Home" at the Indiana Welcome Center turns 10.
Located just off I-80/94 on Kennedy Avenue South, the center’s exhibit takes visitors to the streets of downtown Hohman, the town based on Hammond in the story by native son Jean Shepherd.
“The original idea was a group effort,” Erika Dahl, communications director for the SSCVA, said of the exhibit. “We were brainstorming ideas on what makes the South Shore unique. An exhibit about Jean’s wonderful tale was a great idea for the winter months. The story is our story, our niche.
“I can’t begin to count the number of people who comment to us about the effect the exhibit has on their family Christmas,” Dahl added. “Grandparents and parents bring the younger generation to the exhibit, and share what Christmas was like in the 1950s, '60s and '70s.”
The exhibit took form after members of the SSCVA team contacted Macy’s in New York to ask about the mechanical "Christmas Story" displays it had used in its windows in 2003.
“We sent a team to New York to check on the condition and discuss the possibility of transferring them back here,” Dahl said. “They needed a little work, but were in surprisingly good shape, given the amount of time they had been stored.”
The exhibit, which opened Nov. 11 and runs through Jan. 7, features six animated scenes from the holiday classic:
- Higbee’s Department Store window, shown in the opening of the movie
- Flick getting his tongue stuck to the flagpole after the dreaded the triple dog dare
- Santa’s mountain at Higbee’s, where even the Big Man told Ralphie he'd shoot his eye out with a BB gun
- The Bumpus hounds, the 785 smelly hounds owned by the neighbors next door
- A Hero’s Dream, depicting Ralphie's daydream of dispatching bad guys from his backyard with his trusty Red Ryder BB gun.
- It’s a Major Award, the prize The Old Man won in the many contests he entered
The SSCVA then contacted Warner Brothers Entertainment Inc., owners of the movie rights. It agreed to work with the SSCVA on the exhibit and continues to assist in the annual displays, contests, and activities.
“Everyone was, and still is, excited to share the heartwarming tale with visitors,” Dahl said. “The movie runs for 24 hours straight beginning Christmas Eve and continuing on Christmas Day on the TBS Network.”
The windows are on the perimeter of the Welcome Center, joining its annual Christmas tree display inside.
“Visitors will also be able to see the bronze statue of Flick with his tongue stuck to the flagpole in front of the Welcome Center,” Dahl said. The statue was added in 2013.
Over the years, the SSCVA team also has added contests and activities to keep the exhibit fresh. This year, they include photos with Santa, the Oh Fuuudge relay race, the Holiday Market, the Holiday for Hero’s appreciation event, train rides, showings of the movie, a scavenger hunt, letter writing to Santa, the Ugly Lamp contest, and the Mommy’s Little Piggy mashed potato eating contest.
“Families enjoy visiting the exhibit year after year, whether they come to see Santa or participate in our special weekend events,” said Danielle Sparavalo, special events manager for the SSCVA. “The exhibit has become as much of a tradition to families as watching the movie each holiday season."
"The exhibit provides an opportunity for us to tell our Midwestern holiday story to visitors that may be stopping to stretch their legs during their travels,” explained Speros A. Batistatos, president and CEO of the authority. “Many don't know the story originated in Hammond and the animated displays and special events provide that unique opportunity. The exhibit is a free family-friendly destination event that brings repeat visitors annually."