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Bureau brings 'A Christmas Story' home

Flick flails, his tongue frozen to an icy flagpole. He's stuck, stuck, stuck. His crony, Schwartz, gapes. and a firefighter pats his shoulder. The boys stand 26 inches high, the firefighter, 3 feet. Ralphie's still in a crate. The infamous Triple Dog Dare is one of six "Christmas Story" animatronic vignettes under wraps at the Indiana Welcome Center in Hammond. Billed as " 'A Christmas Story' Comes Home," the exhibit -- commissioned for Macy's holiday windows in 2003 -- goes on display Nov. 28 through Jan. 11 at the center, 7770 Corinne Drive. The show is free, a highlight of local events marking the 25th anniversary of the 1983 film based on writer Jean Shepherd's Hammond boyhood. The homespun saga of a boy's quest for a BB gun is a Yule chestnut. The Lake County Convention and Visitors Bureau paid $75,000 for the hand-painted figures and sets, bureau chief Speros Batistatos said Monday. He expects the scenes -- custom-built by Spaeth Design for Macy's New York flagship -- to triple winter attendance to 45,000 from 15,000. Ralphie and company will be an annual attraction "for the next 10 years, at least," he said. "I can't wait to get this opened up," Batistatos said, giving the media a peek at the flagpole scene. "It's been like Christmas around here." The sets arrived by truck last Friday in Major Award-sized crates. Fully assembled, the Triple Dog Dare scene will boast a half-dozen children (including a wide-eyed Ralphie, a ringer for actor Peter Billingsley) plus a firetruck. Other displays depict Higbee's Window, the Major Award, Santa's Mountain at Higbee's, the Bumpus Hounds and the Parker Living Room. The bureau hoped to raise Hammond's profile and "A Christmas Story" ties via a series of bronze statues, but each would have cost $75,000, Batistatos said. Special Events Manager Adrienne Binder proposed investing in Macy's replicas as an alternative. Vice President Katie Holderby tracked the sets down. Hammond -- which "Shep" dubbed Hohman in the film -- kicks off its holiday celebration Nov. 22 with a tree-lighting ceremony, a documentary, a Shoot-Your-Eye-Out popgun contest and more. Actor Scott Schwartz, who played Flick in the movie, will sign autographs and screen his documentary "Shooting Your Eye Out: The Untold Christmas Story" on Dec. 20 at the Welcome Center. Another attraction will be a replica of Santa's Mountain slide, complete with a jolly Santa. "No kicking," promised spokeswoman Erika Scheeringa. "No pushing with the boot." Shepherd, who died in 1999, based "A Christmas Story" on his 1966 book, "In God We Trust, All Others Pay Cash." He wrote the script with wife Leigh Brown and director Bob Clark. Since he made a cameo in the film, he pops up in the exhibit, too. Look for the figure of a grumpy bearded customer in line at Santa's Mountain.

Copyright: 2008 nwitimes.com

Links to Further Information:
• Original Article
3790 (20081111A)