DES MOINES — Nothing brings in Christmas cheer and joy more than a 14-foot lawn ornament. Tom Gross of West Des Moines will be the first say as much.
Inspired by the 1983 holiday classic A Christmas Story, this is the second year that Gross, 60, has planted the popular leg lamp from the film out in the front yard of his home. He and his wife moved from Illinois to Iowa three years ago.
Gross says he just likes "decorating weird stuff."
"If you can see it, you can make it," he said. "That's just the way art goes."
For those not familiar with the film or the prop, Ralphie Parker — the narrator and main character — and family are greeted with the "major award" his father, referred to throughout as "The Old Man," won in a contest.
"Aaah! Fra-GEE-leh," Mr. Parker reads aloud, admiring the large crate. "It must be Italian!"
"Uh, I think that says FRAGILE, honey," his wife, Mrs. Parker, quips back.
After busting open the crate moments later, Mr. Parker scours the box for his prize.
Shortly thereafter, out comes the lamp's stem: A female leg, adorned with a thigh-high fishnet stocking. Mr. Parker then discovers a large golden bell shade with black fringe and places it on top of the stem.
You can watch one leg lamp scene from A Christmas Story here:
And if you're so inclined, you can also purchase your very own leg lamp here, courtesy of the Christmas Story House and Museum's gift shop (yes, there really is one.)
Gross works as an upholster who called the creation process for the lamp "fairly simple."
"It doesn't take long," he said. "Once I get the idea in my head, I can sort of knock it
A 14-foot kayak frame makes up the stem of the leg, which is wired with LED lights and connected with ribs. Gross stretched fabric to make up the lampshade and used bungee chords to keep the decoration upright.
That was the hardest part, though: "Getting it to stand up in 40 mile per hour winds," he said.
The Grosses erected the lawn decoration on Nov. 30 — the first night of neighboring Historic Valley Junctions' annual "Jingle in the Junction" event. Gross thought it'd fit well with the celebration.
Here's a nighttime view of the leg:
Just like in A Christmas Story, the ornament has attracted dozens to Gross' front yard, he said. The "fragile" crate even rests on his porch, creating the perfect atmosphere for nostalgia.
"People have actually been stopping and taking their picture with it," he said. "That makes me feel good."
And as Mr. Parker says: "What a great lamp."
Follow Aaron Young on Twitter: @AaYoung15