If there ever was a time machine for Regioners to go back and experience their childhood Christmas, this would be it.
This year marks the 10th anniversary of the “A Christmas Story” themed exhibition at the Indiana Welcome Center in Hammond, and Northwest Indiana’s biggest influencers gathered to celebrate its reception in full force Wednesday night at the reception.
The South Shore Convention and Visitors Authority took the evening to recognize the businesses and people who are building up The Region every year.
“This is one of the highlights of the year,” Speros Batistatos, CVA President and CEO, said. “It’s an opportunity for us to thank the people who make hospitality happen here. We can’t do it without them. We all share the same goal.”
Batistatos was proud to announce the 2016 Tourism Impact Study’s findings, revealing that there’s been $908.2 Million of tourism spending in Lake County Indiana last year- thanks to many of the people in the room.
“That’s a huge number, almost a billion,” Batistatos said. “My point is, we don’t do this alone. We have people here who join us in partnership, who move the destination ahead every day, and for that, we are eternally grateful.”
Among the recognized were: Off Square Brewing in Crown Point, Homewood Suites by Hilton in Munster, Hampton Inn & Suites by Hilton in Munster, Edge Adventures NW Indiana in Merrillville, the City of Whiting, Game Day USA in Naperville, Kaitlyn Hendricks of Three Floyds Brewing Co. in Munster, Steve Teibel of Teibel’s Family Restaurant in Schererville and The Honorable Ed Soliday, District 4, Indiana House of Representatives.
Stephen Teibel, owner of the iconic Teibel’s Family Restaurant in Schererville, won the Chester F. Dobis Lifetime Achievement Award.
“It’s an honor, coming from this gentleman,” Teibel said motioning to Batistatos. “We go way back. I think this is great for the community, I’m always thrilled to be here.”
The newcomer on the block, Off Square Brewing in Crown Point, won 2017 Best Restaurant of the Year.
Dave Hellwege, Off Square co-owner, was taken by surprise.
“It’s a great honor to have,” Hellwege said. “We are another great beer destination. We are right off of I-65 for easy access. It’s a great restaurant for food lovers, and it’s a great brewery for beer lovers.”
Before and after the awards, Regioners mingled among the exhibit’s decorations and displays.
The iconic film “A Christmas Story” was based off author Jean Shepherd’s accounts of growing up in Hammond in the 1940’s- when Goldblatt’s was a bustling Christmas metropolis and when- long before the days of iPads- a BB gun was on every kid’s wish list.
For a decade, The South Shore Convention and Visitors Authority and Warner Bros. Consumer Products have partnered to bring the movie’s most beloved snapshots into an animated exhibit of smiles and laughs.
“It’s great, just seeing families come in, the older generations telling children more about what it was like growing up in the Midwest at that time, and creating new memories,” Erika Dahl, director of communications at South Shore CVA, said. “It’s become a tradition.”
It began with the purchase of six “A Christmas Story” window displays that once adorned a New York Macy’s storefront. From there, it has grown into a gauntlet of festivities that stretch beyond the displays, and puts visitors into the characters’ shoes.
Kids can slide down Santa’s Mountain and see a life-size Flick forlornly stuck to an icy pole. Even more, events like the "Oh Fuuudge!" Tire Changing Relay, "Mommy's Little Piggy" Mashed Potato Eating Contest and the Ugly Lamp Contest literally bring the film to life.
This year, outside of the welcome center next to the statue of Flick, you can capture your own “A Christmas Story” moment and stream it online via their newly-installed giant camera.
“The Christmas Story is the biggest performing exhibit we have,” Batistatos said. “We have 30,000 to 35,000 people come to visit in the span of 30 to 35 days. The amount of people who come through and the amount of gifts we sell are just amazing. It’s become a part of families' traditions in Northwest Indiana.”
Come out and experience the fun for yourself! The exhibit will run until January 7th at the Indiana Welcome Center located at 7770 Corinne Drive, Hammond, IN 46323.
Check out their site for hours and the schedule: http://www.southshorecva.com/achristmasstory/
We double dog dare you!
Full List of 2017 South Shore CVA Winners:
Hampton Inn & Suites by Hilton, Munster and
Homewood Suites by Hilton, Munster
2017 Hotels of the Year
Off Square Brewing, Crown Point
2017 Restaurant of the Year
Edge Adventures NW Indiana – Deep River Park, Merrillville
2017 Attraction of the Year
City of Whiting, Special Events
2017 Festivals and Events of the Year
Game Day USA, Naperville, Illinois
2017 Sporting Event of the Year
Kaitlyn Hendricks, 3 Floyds Brewing Co., Munster
2017 Outstanding Individual Contribution
The Honorable Ed Soliday, Indiana House of Representatives, District 4
2017 Elected Official of the Year
Teibel’s Family Restaurant, Schererville
Chester F. Dobis – Lifetime Achievement Award