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Hammond’s ‘A Christmas Story Comes Home’ exhibit returns

Hammond native’s holiday tale inspires popular annual exhibit

By Carrie Steinweg

HAMMOND, Ind. (December 14, 2022) – It’s a classic — each holiday season, people all over the world tune in to A Christmas Story to watch the story of a boy growing up in the Midwest in the 1930s and 40s yearning for a Red Ryder Carbine Action 200-shot Range Model Air Rifle as his one wish from Santa that year.

The 1983 film is based on a 1966 book titled In God We Trust: All Others Pay Cash by humorist, writer and radio/TV personality Jean Shepherd and other stories with elements of his childhood growing up in the Hessville neighborhood of Hammond, Indiana. The fictional town of Hohman in the movie is loosely based on the city of Hammond and events that he experienced in his upbringing.

Photo provided

Celebrating the region

This is the 15th season of the South Shore Convention & Visitors Authority’s seasonal exhibit celebrating this holiday movie with roots in Northwest Indiana called “A Christmas Story Comes Home.”

The exhibit opened November 12 at the Indiana Welcome Center, located at 7770 Corrine Drive in Hammond, and continues through December 30, giving visitors a glimpse into the magic of the movie and an opportunity to reminisce about their own childhood memories of Santa and that long-sought-after Christmas present.

“Just about everyone you meet has seen this movie so to be able to walk through the exhibit and see some of the most memorable scenes in the movie has become a tradition for many families throughout the region,” said Heather Becerra, chief marketing officer for the South Shore CVA.

At the Indiana Welcome Center, you’ll see six separate displays depicting infamous scenes from the movie, including Higbee’s Department Store, Flick’s Tongue and the Triple Dog Dare, It’s a Major Award, Santa’s Mountain at Higbee’s, The Bumpus Hounds, and A Hero’s Dream. The animatronic window displays first appeared at Macy’s Department Store in New York. A seventh scene is located inside a storefront at 104 N. Main Street in Crown Point, Indiana, next to Square Roots restaurant.

Returning after COVID modifications

“Santa’s Mountain is back,” said Becerra.

After a couple years of modifications due to COVID, the exhibit has returned to a full calendar of events, one of the most popular being a visit to Santa. Visitors can once again share their wishes with Santa before making their way down the slide on Santa’s Mountain, similar to Ralphie Parker’s department store visit to Santa in the movie.

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Local groups and choirs are back to perform on weekends and some of the fun contests have returned, as well. Among the remaining events this season are the Mommy’s Little Piggy Eating Contest on December 17 and Wag Your Tail Wednesday on December 21 where Santa will be taking photos with cats and dogs from 4–7 p.m. and a local shelter will be accepting donations. Appointments for photos are $10 each and include one photo. Additional photos can be purchased for $6. Registration can be done online for the eating contest with four age groups (4-7, 8-12, 13-17, and 18+).

Mommy’s Little Piggy Eating Contest returns this year on December 17, one of many events that nods back to the original film. (Photo provided)

Drawing big numbers

About 30,000 people are expected to make their way through the exhibit by the end of the year and many are repeat visitors who make the exhibit part of their yearly tradition. The South Shore CVA aims to draw in families from surrounding communities this season and also tourists from outside the area.

“We’ll be doing advertising in not just Northwest Indiana, but surrounding states,” said David Uran, president at CEO of South Shore CVA. “Everyone knows the movie. We’re taking the story of Shepherd growing up in our backyard of Hammond and making it come to real life. To see that come together – bigger and better – is a great way to kick-off and be part of the holiday season. It has evolved and has a life of its own.”

Special events

All of the below events are held at the Indiana Welcome Center in Hammond and registration is available online at www.AChristmasStoryComesHome.com. Remaining events for this season include:

Holiday for Heroes

  • First responders and retired and active military are invited to view the exhibit, take part in activities and get their photo taken with Santa during this special event on December 15 from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.

“Mommy’s Little Piggy” Mashed Potato Eating Contest

  • This popular event featuring plates mounded with mashed potatoes and contestants of different age groups showing how the piggies eat will be held on Saturday, December 17. Registration will start at 9:30 a.m., and the first wave of participants will begin at 10 a.m.

Santa’s Mountain returns

  • Santa’s Mountain is back for families to have their picture taken with Santa on top of Santa’s Mountain, a replica of the one featured in the movie. Photos with Santa on Santa’s Mountain are available every Saturday and Sunday between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. through December 18, as well as other special days leading into the holidays. Children have the opportunity to slide down a big red slide into a pillow of snow. The first photo is $10 and additional photos can be purchased for $6. Guests are encouraged to book an appointment online at www.AChristmasStoryComesHome.com.

Wag Your Tail Wednesdays

  • Pets can be photographed with Santa on Santa’s Mountain on December 21 from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. Photos are $10 each, and a portion of the proceeds from photo sales are donated to local animal rescues.

Holiday movie viewing

  • There will be a movie/pajama party December 22 and 23 at 5 p.m. and 7 p.m. for a holiday viewing. Hot chocolate and popcorn will be available.

Flick statue

  • Located outside the entrance is a bronzed recreation of one of the movie’s characters, Flick, with his tongue stuck to the flagpole. It’s another fun photo opportunity while visiting the Indiana Welcome Center.

The Indiana Welcome Center is located at 7770 Corrine Drive in Hammond, Indiana.

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Carrie Steinweg
Carrie Steinweg
Carrie Steinweg is a freelance writer, photographer, author, and food and travel blogger who has lived in Lansing for 27 years. She most enjoys writing about food, people, history, and baseball. Her favorite Lansing Journal articles that she has written are: "Lan Oak Lanes attracts film crew," "Why Millennials are choosing Lansing," "Curtis Granderson returns home to give back," "The Cubs, the World Series, fandom, and family," and "Lansing's One Trick Pony Brewery: a craft beer oasis."