Emily Pugh is a huge fan of the movie The Shawshank Redemption and traveled from Texas to experience last year’s Shawshank 20-Year Reunion in Mansfield, Ohio. She shared her memories from that visit and explained how it was one of her best weekends ever. Needless to say, she’s excited to come back this year for the Shawshank 20th Anniversary.
I remember watching The Shawshank Redemption for the first time. I had got it in my mind to watch all the films off the American Film Institute top 100 list. I always saw it as a “guy flick” that I wouldn’t care for. But as the beautifully composed “So Was Red” by Thomas Newman swelled up from the narration of Red hoping, “the Pacific is as blue as it has been in [his] dreams”, l had tears in my eyes. The concluding beach scene did me in, and I knew I would never be the same.
I had the pleasure of traveling to Mansfield for the first time in 2013 for the 20-year filming anniversary of The Shawshank Redemption. It was magical to see all the locations from what had become my favorite film ever. As I stood in wonder, I couldn’t help but appreciate how I stumbled upon the Shawshank Trail, the website that provided me with all the information that had lead me to this moment. I was visiting my sister when my dad asked me where it was filmed. We weren’t close enough to Mansfield then to drive, but I did stumble upon the trail page with all the locations listed, and was completely blown away. I was there for the first rumblings of a reunion in 2013. As soon as I saw that the warden himself, Bob Gunton, would be there, I knew I had to attend.
I was surprised that all the locations looked exactly the same as they do in the movie. It was like stepping into the film. No time had passed. I walked where Red walked. I sat where Brooks sat. I stood at the “Zihuatanejo Wall” where Andy gave me the greatest advice of my life- “get busy livin’”. I have video of me screaming like a maniac upon seeing the reformatory for the first time. Seeing the oak tree was magical. Once I laid eyes on it, it was as if all the themes of the movie were attached like an aura- Faith, Courage, Hope.
The trail was like a treasure map- I got to discover and explore each location at my leisure, just like the cast and crew of the film did 20 years prior. It made me feel like an insider since only a handful of people in the world truly know where these places are, and what the scenery looks like, sounds like, feels like, and even smells like! Every sense comes alive.
Being around individuals that adore Shawshank as much as I do was very moving. It takes a special type of person to be so touched by a film that portrays human emotions so brilliantly and truthfully. It was an emotional experience to see the movie at the theater where it premiered with a packed house of fellow fans.
Seeing the actors in the locations they appeared in the film was amazing. Word got around that I came from Texas and I was somewhat of a celebrity in Mansfield due to my obsession with the film. (Case in point, I went into the Squirrel’s Den and was asked immediately, “are you Emily?”).
Traveling the Shawshank Trail is an experience that I cherish daily. When I think back on that weekend, truthfully the best of my life, I grin from ear to ear. I hope everyone gets to experience what I did. I hope I can return often. I hope I will remember the friends I’ve made for years to come. I hope.
BOOK TICKETS NOW FOR THE SHAWSHANK 20TH ANNIVERSARY
AUGUST 29-31, 2014
Some events have limited seating or availability.