MANSFIELD -- "The Shawshank Redemption" turned the spotlight on Mansfield in the summer of 1993 and the city is gearing up for the 20th anniversary of the filming this weekend.
PHOTOS | Inside Mansfield Reformatory's haunted experience
Twenty years ago this summer, "The Shawshank Redemption," starring Tim Robbins and Morgan Freeman, was filmed throughout Mansfield and north central Ohio.
The 20th Shawshank Reunion is expected to draw plenty of fans to Mansfield.
More than 1,000 north central Ohioans snared roles as extras in the film, while another 75 landed speaking parts.
Ben Bissman, who owns the historic Bissman Building where the film's Brewer Hotel and Portland Daily Bugle scenes were filmed, said the film has "brought a sense of community and a sense of pride, something Mansfield desperately needs.
"I got to meet James Whitmore," Bissman said. "He was just a really cool guy."
Virginia Imhoff, a longtime board member of the Mansfield Reformatory Preservation Society, said the film has made Mansfield known all over the world.
She said she went to a dinner party in Dubai and a man came up to her and said, "Tell me about 'Shawshank.'"
She said visitors from Mansfield, England, always want to visit the Ohio State Reformatory, where much of the movie was filmed.
The reunion celebration will include actor appearances and tours showcasing locations used in the film in Mansfield, Lucas, Ashland and Upper Sandusky. Bob Gunton, who played Warden Norton, is expected to attend.
Featured locations include the Ohio State Reformatory, used as Shawshank State Prison; the film's bank; courtroom; and what's now known locally as the Shawshank Oak Tree, on private property across from Malabar Farm State Park.
The Ohio State Reformatory opened in 1896 and housed more than 155,000 inmates before it closed in 1990. The facility is visited by tens of thousands of visitors each year from around the world, and has served as a shooting location for a number of movies.
"As far as one of the things that gets Mansfield noticed, it's the reformatory," said Lee Tasseff, president of the Mansfield Richland Area Convention said Visitors Bureau.
Mansfield's Renaissance Theatre, 138 Park Avenue West, which hosted the film's 1994 premier, plans to restage the event tonight with a special screening. Tickets cost $10. Doors open at 6 p.m. The film starts at 7 p.m. Tickets will be available at the door and can be purchased online at mansfieldtickets.com/events/detail/277.
On Saturday, a special cocktail reception is scheduled in the prison's central guard room. The event is sold out.
Jodie Puster, of the Mansfield/Richland County Convention and Visitors Bureau, said the suggested dress for the cocktail reception is 1940s or '50s-themed apparel.
Gunton will make appearances at the Renaissance Theatre, the Shawshank Woodshop in Upper Sandusky and the reformatory.
Scott Mann, who portrayed the golf pro and Linda Dufresne's lover in the film, will set up at Malabar Farm State Park's Pugh Cabin, where the opening scene was filmed. Jim Kisicki, who portrayed the bank manager, will be at the Huntington National Bank in Ashland, which was Maine National Bank in the movie.
Reformatory tours for the public will run throughout the weekend beginning at 10 a.m. today. Tours cost $9 for adults and $7 for children ages 7 to 17, seniors and members of the military. Audio tours cost an additional $5.
Wagon tours at Malabar Farm State Park begin today, running 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily through Sunday. They will take participants to Pugh Cabin and will get close enough for photos at the oak tree, which must be taken from Malabar Farm State Park's property. The cost is $2. Also, extra Mark Jordan, the manager at Malabar's hostel, will share his experiences in the film from 2 to 3 p.m. today, Saturday and Sunday at the hostel. This event is free.
Self-guided tours of other sites are available from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. today through Sunday, some for a nominal fee. Sites open include the Bissman Building (the film's Brewer Hotel and Portland Daily Bugle); Huntington National Bank (film's Maine National Bank; closed Sunday); Revivals 2 thrift store (film's Trailways Bus Station); Wyandot County Courthouse (setting for Andy Dufresne's trial); and the prison woodshop, where re-enactments and tours are planned in Upper Sandusky.
Information is available online at ShawshankTrail.com for the self-guided Shawshank Trail sites or at the Mansfield/Richland Convention and Visitors Bureau. Visitors also can call the bureau at 419-525-1300 for a brochure. Bright orange Shawshank directional signs will be posted at all sites.
Also, two professors at Ashland University and their students will be in Mansfield this weekend to interview fans at the reunion and get their reactions about visiting the filming sites.
"We're interested in studying fan culture," said Maura Grady, assistant professor of English, who is doing research with Robby Roberson, assistant professor in the Hospitality Management Department.
By Lou Whitmire, Mansfield News Journal
Gannett / Mansfield News Journal