CLEVELAND (AP) - Even after three decades, the triple-dog dare doesn't get old.
"It becomes part of your fabric for your whole life," said
In the film, starring
The plot follows his determined gift-begging, his encounters with bullies and his family's daily hopes and dreams - including a lamp in the form of a shapely leg.
The Cleveland house where Ralphie's film family lived will highlight the anniversary Friday and Saturday with appearances by original cast members and a BB gun range in the backyard.
The movie wasn't widely acclaimed when it debuted, with favorable reviews barely outnumbering bad mentions like the one that grumped, "Bah, humbug" in the headline. But its quirky humor and love-in-family message struck a chord with audiences.
Like any holiday favorite, a sense of wonder is needed forA Christmas Storyand 8-year-old Colin Wheeler thinks he has one to match Ralphie's.
"We both have really big imaginations," boasted Colin, who plays Ralphie inA Christmas Storymusical at Cleveland's Near West Theater.
It's not easy playing Ralphie in that ill-fitting pink bunny suit, Colin said.
"I'll tell you one thing that's hard: it's really hard not to laugh" while wearing that suit, Colin said.
Across town, the Cleveland Play House production ofA Christmas Storyattracts multigenerational audiences of children, parents and grandparents, Moore said.
The appeal in Ralphie's blue-collar hometown is simple, Moore said. "It's just a really quirky and yet incredibly sweet story and that resonates with Cleveland," he said.
Sheryl Peet, emerging from the casino, said she appreciates the movie and its humor, without regard to its Cleveland connections. "I like it. It's got comedy, fun, Ralphie," she said.
Judy and Michael Paulson, from Plano, Texas, view Ralphie's room on Nov. 21, 2013, in the Cleveland house where the 1983 movie 'A Christmas Story' was filmed. Interest in tours of the house, as well as the adjacent museum, is expected to increase during the 30th anniversary of the quirky holiday film.(Photo: Mark Duncan, AP)
AtA Christmas Storyhouse overlooking humming steel mills, visitors can re-enact movie scenes including ducking under the 1940s-style kitchen sink or looking out the back door where Ralphie trudged through the faux snow.
The movie "snow" was actually mostly firefighting foam, pressed into service amid a cold but rare snowless stretch during filming in winter-hardy Cleveland.
Jim Moralevitz, now 73, lives down the street fromA Christmas Storyhouse and landed a cameo role in the film helping deliver the crate carrying the leg lamp.
The entrepreneur who developed the house as a tourist attraction, Brian Jones, gave Moralevitz a leg lamp seven years ago and it's mounted in a 6-foot outdoor Plexiglas box near the peak of the front roof. People sometimes mistake it forA Christmas Storyhouse and stop to visit.
In the neighborhood, "I'm known for the most drive-by shootings (filming)," said Moralevitz, a retired tour guide stepping back into his old role for comic effect.
Like many of the best holiday classics, the risky business turns cheerful at the end. Now families get together at holiday gatherings to watch the movie or crowd theater performances.
"It fills up the seats because it's a family experience," Moore said.
The anniversary of the movie will be marked beyond Cleveland, with versions on stage from
A new bronze statue of the "triple-dog dare" tongue-grabbing flagpole scene is on display in time for the holidays in Hammond, Ind., hometown of
But mimicking Hollywood might be risky, according to Nicki Mackowski with the tourist agency in Hammond.
"We're working on putting up signs as the cold weather gets here. You know: 'Lick at your own risk' kind of thing," she said.