“If you build it they will come” may be a line most remember from Kevin Costner’s character in Field of Dreams.
But the line from the 1989 movie is also working for Hattiesburgers Abby and Brandon Thaxton with the vignettes they are building and showcasing at their downtown business, The Lucky Rabbit. This time they’ve gone over the top and blown the budget to allow their fans to enjoy a completely immersive experience in the living room of Clark and Ellen Griswold of National Lampoon’s “Christmas Vacation.”
During the past year the Thaxtons have debuted monthly and seasonal scenes as you walk through the double front doors. It may have been a football scoreboard, the back of an actual yellow school bus or even a car, which makes for great photos, but more recently they’ve expanded into rooms.
A “set” from Stranger Things, an American science fiction horror television show, was the first.
Abby said they wanted to do it for the show’s first season, but are just now getting around to it.
“We don’t know why we did it,” she said. “It was just a vintage show that was relative right now and we thought it would be really cool to tackle it.”
Brandon has the skill for building the set while Abby has the know-how for tracking things down to put in the set.
“We both have a common vision, so that’s what makes it so easy working together,” she said. “His vision is my vision and we bring different skills to the table.”
After the rooms are constructed she said they sit in them and pick them apart, making changes and suggestions to one another, which builds into other ideas.
The latest idea is the living room from National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation starring Chevy Chase as Clark Griswold. You may know the Griswold family from other National Lampoon series . In the back left corner at The Lucky Rabbit, you’ll find the front of the house from the movie, complete with house numbers and an overloaded electrical socket.
When you step inside, it’s like you’ve stepped back 30 years to when the movie was released. The squirrel is in the tree, the dog on black velvet painting hangs in the corner while the stockings are hung by the chimney with care. There’s a Griswold family portrait, reindeer mugs for libations and other props you’ll notice from the movie. The family station wagon is located parked outside on the north side of the building, complete with the Christmas tree securely strapped on top.
But that’s not all. There is also wardrobe that goes along with the room. You can create your own Christmas card – Griswold style wearing any of a number of the pieces at your disposal.
Abby said the couple is always overwhelmed by the feedback they get from people and helps them keep going.
“We sometimes spend 80 to 90 hours a week and two weeks without any days off plus the four days The Lucky Rabbit is open to get one of these sets ready for their customers and fans,” she said. “We hope the people love them as much as we love them,” she said. “And when we do, it doesn’t even matter if it’s just one person, it makes it worth it. It’s like, ‘You get what we were trying to do. You get it!”
She’s quick to say that she tells people all the time that the couple flies by the seat of our pants a lot more than people think they do.
“We just work with an opportunity, so if a particular piece become available that we can build something around, we’ll roll with that. We want to work with the project.”
“Christmas Vacation” is a movie that Brandon’s family has loved and watched every year so it was a clear choice for that to be the first Christmas set.
“The first Christmas I spent at his family’s house, with watch the movie with his mom and dad,” Abby said. “It’s kind of nostalgic for us and them and it takes place in 1989, which is right up our alley with the vintage sets, which we try and stick to as much as possible we can. Vintage set, plus opportunity plus the love for the movie spurred this on.”
For the Griswold set, the Thaxtons blew their budget out of the water.
“When doing something with a strict time constraint, you end up overpaying for a lot of stuff and a lot of stuff is pricey,” Abbey said. “We didn’t want to, but we wanted to impress people.”
They shopped online forums, Facebook Marketplace, asked their vendors to look for things whey they were out shopping. And then there were Facebook posts to friends and followers of The Lucky Rabbit when the duo is in search of bigger ticket items.
“Our customers and fan always come through with those tricky things we need,” she said.
Will there be more of these vignettes down the road?
If people continue to support it, buying the T-shirts, then yes.
“We need people to support us by buying the T-shirts and if they keep doing that, coming out in numbers, loving it, commenting and supporting us on social media, we will keep delivering, but that just depends on the fans,” Abby said. And they are always open to suggestions along the cult classic, vintage materials line.
Also throughout the two-story structure you’ll find a Harry Potter area where a lot of antique and vintage materials were used.
The Whoville set, directly inside the front door, was more of an upcycle, crafting project.
Something Abby really wanted to do, she crafted the Wizard of Oz set, which was recently used, around upcycling or recycling it into Whoville, complete with the Grinch.
“We try to reuse materials as much as we can because we’re all about vintage – reduce, reuse recycle. We’re about making old things relevant so they don’t get trashed,” she said.
The Lucky Rabbit will be open Black Friday, Nov. 29, and Saturday, Nov. 30, which is Small Business Saturday and then again the first weekend in December, Dec. 5-8. And that will probably be it for the year. They don’t think they will reopen again prior to Christmas.
They will be selling T-shirts online for those who may have missed them.
According to Brandon, even when The Lucky Rabbit is closed, for those who have an interest in brining family, friends or coworkers to take photos in the Christmas Vacation Griswold room, they can do that by booking online at theluckyrabbit.com.
“All of the details are there,” Brandon said. “They can set a time to come and take photos.”
“Nowadays everyone is looking for that photo to take to put on their social media page – whether here, there, in front of this or that and that’s what we’re trying to offer. You don’t have to drive to Dallas, Atlanta or New Orleans for these great photo opportunities. We’re trying to do cool new things here in downtown Hattiesburg every month for people to come and enjoy locally.”