1″It’s really cool,” said Siedlecki, 29, a 1997 Brunswick High School and 2002 Baldwin-Wallace College graduate. “I was mainly looking for something to put on my resume to say, ‘Yeah, this is what I did.’ I never expected to run the place. Now that I am, it’s like the little things you do in life you never how they may come about. It was a simple e-mail and this is what came about.”
He added, “The more I think about it, the more I’m glad I sent that e-mail.”
That simple e-mail was sent to fellow “A Christmas Story” enthusiast Brian Jones, who purchased the actual house, located at 3159 W. 11th St. in the Cleveland West Side neighborhood, used in the filming of the movie. Opened in 2006, A Christmas Story House & Museum, along with an annual convention, has proven to be more of a success than the two men ever dreamed.
“When Brian and I first started this, and we were talking about how things are going to go, we expected it to be busy, but we weren’t sure how quickly it would take off,” Siedlecki said. “Now it’s definitely taken off quicker than we ever would have imagined. Over the past couple of weeks, we’ve surpassed 70,000 people since we opened. It’s something that more and more people get turned on to every year. We’ve seen our attendance going up each year, so it’s definitely grown in popularity and it isn’t something you’ll see dying off anytime soon.”
Considering this year marks a quarter of a century since the movie’s release, Siedlecki created the “A Christmas Story 25th Anniversary Celebration & Convention,” which takes place today and Saturday at the Renaissance Cleveland Hotel.
Among the highlights are appearances by eight original cast members — Ian Petrella (Randy), Scott Schwartz (Flick), Tedde Moore (Miss Shields), Zack Ward (Scut Farkus), Yano Anaya (Grover Dill), Dwayne McLean (Black Bart), Patty Johnson (Head Elf) and Drew Hocevar (Male Elf) — as well as the premiere of three “A Christmas Story”-based documentaries — “ClarkWORLD,” “Shooting Your Eye Out: The Untold ‘Christmas Story'” and “Roadtrip for Ralphie” — and rides in the original fire truck used in the movie during Flick’s famous tongue-on-the-flagpole scene.
There will also be a preview of the upcoming “A Christmas Story — The Musical” production, which appears to be headed for a Broadway run.
In the spirit of the Red Ryder BB gun, a BB gun range — weather permitting— will be set up at the museum. (Please, don’t shoot your eye out.)
Even though actor-producer-director Peter Billingsley has yet to appear at this annual holiday event, Siedlecki said that won’t keep fans from attending. In fact, this year he expects roughly 3,000 people from all over the country to visit the museum and the convention.
“We see people come through the doors every day, and it’s not just one particular demographic that loves the movie,” Siedlecki said. “We see people coming in with their grandparents, their kids and themselves. We see three generations of people that can relate to the movie. It’s people who grew up in the 1940s, people who were around when the movie came out in 1983 and then you have the ones who are turning their kids onto it.
“So there are three different generations that are coming here and all see something different about the movie that they may relate to.
I don’t see things changing in the future because all of the people who come here turn their kids onto it, and it’s just a cycle that will keep on going.”
A Christmas Story House & Museum is located about five minutes from downtown Cleveland at 3159 W. 11th St. in the Tremont neighborhood.
It is open year-round on Thursday, Friday and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday from noon to 5 p.m. Through Dec. 31, the house is also open Wednesdays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Tours of the house run every 30 minutes.
Regular admission tickets are $7.50 for adults, $6.50 for seniors, $5.50 for children (ages 7 to 12) and free for children ages 6 and under.
For more information or for directions, visit www.AChristmasStoryHouse.com or call (216) 298-4919.