Road Trip! Destination: 'Shawshank Redemption' 20th anniversary, Mansfield, Ohio
If you've turned on a television sometime in the past 20 years, you've probably seen at least part of “The Shawshank Redemption.” It wasn't a hit in theaters when it was released in 1994. Well, at first. But the prison-escape drama about the friendship of Andy Dufresne (Tim Robbins) and Red (Morgan Freeman), based on a novella by Stephen King, has become one of the most beloved titles of the past two decades — first on video, then repeated screenings on television and DVD.
Although it was set in northern New England, “Shawshank” was actually shot in northcentral Ohio, in Mansfield, Ashland and Upper Sandusky. To celebrate the 20th anniversary of the film, the region is hosting a bunch of “Shawshank”-related events from Aug. 29 to 31, and has even designed a “Shawshank Trail,” a self-guided tour of 14 key locations in the movie that can be taken anytime.
This part of Ohio also is fairly interesting on its own. (Though, to be fair, Mansfield's nicknames, “The Fun Center of Ohio” and “Little Detroit,” need some work).
Whether we want to admit it or not, we have a lot in common with our flatland cousins to the west, even without Cleveland. The main industry of northcentral Ohio was once Westinghouse and steel, but now seems to be mostly football and prisons. The Isaly Dairy Co., along with their products like the Klondike Bar, skyscraper cone and chipped-chopped ham, began in Mansfield. Stewart's Fountain Classics, the family of nostalgic soda-pop concoctions, also began in Mansfield at a chain of root-beer stands bearing the same name.
Phoenix Brewing Co.
What better way to get the true flavor of a place than to try its beers?
Mansfield has a new brewery, in a former funeral home. One of its beers is billed Shawshank IPA, and is served in tiny caskets. And who can resist that?
They've also got a brew called Rooftop Bohemian Style Lager — referencing the beers Andy finagled for his friends during a rooftop work-release gig — available for a short time during the anniversary celebrations.
And the funeral home, which dates to the early 1900s, is supposed to be haunted. Details: 419-522-2552 or on Facebook
The Ohio State Reformatory
This is it — “Shawshank State Prison” — the big house where most of the movie's action goes down.
Opened in 1896 and closed in 1990, it's a giant, intimidating fortress of a building, built in a mishmash of Richardsonian Romanesque, Victorian Gothic and Queen Anne styles.
Andy's escape tunnel is still there — the sewer pipe was filled with sawdust, water and chocolate syrup for the stomach-churning scene.
The building is supposed to be haunted, of course, and has been featured on the show “Ghost Hunters.” There's a “Shawshank” cocktail party at the Reformatory on Aug. 30. Details: 412-522-2644 or www.mrps.org
A number of “Shawshank” supporting players will be on hand, at various locations, for meet-and-greet and autograph sessions with fans. This includes Bob Gunton (who played Warden Norton), James Kisicki (bank manager), Scott Mann (the golf pro who was Andy's wife's lover), Renee Blaine (Andy's unfaithful wife) and Frank Medrano (one of the hapless prisoners). Visit mansfieldtourism.com for exact times and locations.
This Main Street storefront played the part of a pawnshop in “Shawshank.” Specifically, it's where Red looked at the compass that would help him find the Oak Tree. It's now an antique shop in Mansfield's Historic Downtown District. Details: 419-522-0230 or www.carrouselantiques.com
Brooks (James Whitmore), a prison lifer and friend of Andy and Red's, sits at this bench after he's released. He hopes to see his pet crow, Jake, but never does. This bench is just west of the gazebo in Central Park, a two-acre green space in downtown Mansfield. It's a green bench with a bronze plaque.
Malabar Farm State Park
A large, pastoral parkland with regular tours, the park includes the Pugh cabin, where Andy's wife and her lover were killed in the opening scene, and the 32-room mansion of conservation pioneer and Pulitzer Prize-winning author Louis Bromfield.
This is also the best place to view the towering “Shawshank Oak Tree,” where Red walked along a stone wall and found the gift that Andy left him. It's on the property of a working farm, however, and the owners have requested that visitors view it from a distance.
Details: 419-892-2784 or www.malabarfarm.org
Mansfield's top candy shop makes its own fudge, 21 flavors of popcorn, and cinnamon-frosted pecans and almonds. The shop also created homemade “prison candy bars,” “rock wall candy” and have re-created several scenes from the movie entirely in chocolate.
Richland Carrousel Park
Not a “Shawshank” destination, but one of Mansfield's claims to fame — old-fashioned, small-town Americana. Just about the only place in the world where they still make classic one-of-a-kind wooden merry-go-rounds is in Mansfield. You can take a ride atop a bear, ostrich, zebra or any other hand-carved beast in the menagerie at the Richland Carrousel Park.
Details: 419-522-4223 or www.richlandcarrousel.com
Michael Machosky is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at email@example.com or 412-320-7901.