I didn’t “have to look any further than my own backyard,” as Dorothy says in MGM’s film version of The Wizard of Oz. Our wonderful weekend in Wamego, Kansas, began on Friday, September 26, 2014. Yes, it’s been a while and please do forgive the blatant tardiness of this post, but I’m happy to share the details of this memorable event with you nonetheless.
Author Paul Miles Schneider and owner of the Oz Museum’s vast collection Johnpaul Cafiero. Wamego, Kansas, 2014.
First up was a sold-out, catered affair entitled Night at the Museum, featuring a beer and wine bar by the Tin Man’s cottage, a full buffet of savory delectables around the bend from the Haunted Forest, and a dessert table in the Emerald City! The museum’s usual mannequins of the major Oz characters had been replaced by costumed actors who struck their frozen poses and waited until a musical cue from a pianist stationed next to the little theatre at the far end of the museum “played” them to life! The evening was highlighted by Emmy-winning producer, author of several definitive books on Oz and Judy Garland, our host for the weekend, and for tonight’s lucky guests, singer and entertainer extraordinaire John Fricke, who performed a selection of songs made famous by the cast of the MGM Oz film!
Twin Glindas stop for a photo op, unaware that the Tin Man behind them is about to come to life! Night at the Museum, OZtoberFest 2014, Wamego, Kansas.
Eats and treats around every corner! Night at the Museum, OZtoberFest 2014, Wamego, Kansas.
The “living” Dorothy display. She was the first to spring to life for the event. Night at the Museum, OZtoberFest 2014, Wamego, Kansas.
A sold-out fundraiser made for guaranteed rubbing of elbows with fellow attendees as they ate, drank, and were entertained by the song stylings of special guest John Fricke. Night at the Museum, OZtoberFest 2014, Wamego, Kansas.
Still my favorite display, because these little rubber creatures with their bits of wire rigging terrorized me as a child, watching them descend upon Judy Garland and her fellow cast members in MGM’s Wizard of Oz. Two are featured here, including the only surviving one with both wings! Night at the Museum, OZtoberFest 2014, Wamego, Kansas.
The Scarecrow springs to life and leaves his post in the cornfield while joining Dorothy for “Night at the Musuem,” the festival’s kickoff fundraiser. OZtoberFest 2014, Wamego, Kansas.
Honoring Donna, a wonderful volunteer at the museum. You can see her any Friday (other days as well) if you visit the Oz Museum. She wouldn’t miss it for the world, and this was a very touching moment seeing her receive this plaque of appreciation. Night at the Museum, OZtoberFest 2014, Wamego, Kansas.
The multitalented John Fricke entertains guests with songs made famous by the cast of the MGM Oz film, and he did two shows that night as well! John brings vast knowledge, a warm presence, a celebratory, energetic mood, and an air of genuine class to each and every Oz event he attends. He alone is worth the trip for visitors to a festival, and I’m pleased and proud to call him my friend. Night at the Museum, OZtoberFest 2014, Wamego, Kansas.
Saturday was a full day of book signings, presentations, contests, a vintage car show, vendor booths, food, music, and absolutely gorgeous weather. I couldn’t help noticing how well the events inside the Oz Museum and outside on the main street meshed together seamlessly this year. This festival is truly coming into its own as a combination “Wamego town pride” fair plus a celebration of its unique Oz offerings. What a great combo!
The best part for me is always seeing the people who travel locally and from all over the country to attend “an Oz festival in Kansas.” Their smiles and enthusiasm are infectious. Many of them dress in full costume, devoted fans and parents with their kids, staying in nearby hotels, making a weekend “adventure” out of it.
Seeing this charming town come together with a unified vision to welcome visitors with open arms is just as rewarding to me.
I think signing books for smiling, eager kids may be my favorite part of any festival. The young and the young at heart are why I do what I do. OZtoberFest 2014, Wamego, Kansas.
This Dorothy brought along her big brother, a flying monkey! OZtoberFest 2014, Wamego, Kansas.
If I look a bit dazed and overwhelmed here, it’s because this nice lady traveled all the way from Dallas (I kid you not) just to have me sign her copies of “Silver Shoes” and “The Powder of Life.” That’s not something that happens for me generally (or ever!). I was truly blown away. OZtoberFest 2014, Wamego, Kansas.
Wonderful friends and representatives of the International Wizard of Oz Club pause with Paul Miles Schneider (center) for a photo after his first presentation on Saturday, including Susan Hall on the far left and Melodie Foreman and Kevin Smith on the right. OZtoberFest 2014, Wamego, Kansas.
Taken during Paul Miles Schneider’s first presentation all about “imagining Oz for 21st century audiences.” OZtoberfest 2014, Wamego, Kansas.
Susan Hall as Glinda (faithful depiction from Baum’s Oz books!) drove up from Tulsa for the event! So great seeing her, too. OZtoberFest 2014, Wamego, Kansas.
Lunch break at Toto’s Tacoz! I had the green burrito. It was as big as my head, I swear. And SO delicious. Great food, and the owners are wonderful people. The line was out the door that day, but well worth the wait. OZtoberFest 2014, Wamego, Kansas.
A vintage car show outside, with big band music playing in the background, courtesy of local high school musicians. It set a wonderfully nostalgic tone for the festival. OZtoberFest 2014, Wamego, Kansas.
Photo op! This Dorothy and Toto are way too cool for school. OZtoberFest 2014, Wamego, Kansas.
Poor Scarecrow. This “display” was featured just off the curb with a sign warning people against the perils of texting while driving. True enough. OZtoberFest 2014, Wamego, Kansas.
I’m glad they had proper zoning for this. Wicked Witch parking! OZtoberFest 2014, Wamego, Kansas.
Wonderful window art based on the original W.W. Denslow Oz illustrations! The windows of all the storefronts were painted on both sides of the street. OZtobeFest 2014, Wamego, Kansas.
I see the Scarecrow on sax! Part of the high school’s big band ensemble, entertaining visitors as they roamed the street. OZtoberFest 2014, Wamego, Kansas.
This crowd was “in the mood,” with big band music during lunchtime. OZtoberFest 2014, Wamego, Kansas.
That poor Wicked Witch of the East can’t catch a break. OZtoberFest 2014, Wamego, Kansas.
The Wicked Witch of the West attempts (and fails at) the ice bucket ALS challenge outside the museum’s entrance. Poor thing. OZtoberFest 2014, Wamego, Kansas.
Twin Glindas returned the next day as twin Dorothys with their mother, dressed as the Wicked Witch! Dad was the Tin Man, taking photos while this trio stepped inside the Tornado Simulation Machine in the museum’s gift shop. OZtoberFest 2014, Wamego, Kansas.
This family was so great, really getting into the act. Dad, the Tin Man, Mom the Witch, and their twin Dorothys. All with thick southern accents and loads of enthusiasm (I think they were from Georgia? But my memory is foggy.) Wonderful people! OZtoberFest 2014, Wamego, Kansas.
I never saw this one coming. They kept it as a surprise for me, but I was ushered outside to put my handprints and signature in cement, to be on permanent display at the Oz Museum. I seriously had to bite my lip to keep from crying. So grateful and overwhelmed by this honor. Paul Miles Schneider. OZtoberFest 2014, Wamego, Kansas.
The trio of special guests at this year’s OZtoberFest. See if you can find a pattern here: there’s John, Paul, and Johnpaul. Hmmmm. (Left to right: John Fricke, Paul Miles Schneider, and Johnpaul Cafiero.) Wamego, Kansas, 2014.
As this festival continues to evolve and grow, uniting the town of Wamego, Kansas, with a universal love of Oz, I look forward to witnessing this community celebrate its unique heritage, its outstanding Oz Museum, the warm people who welcome visitors and guests like members of their own families, and a chance for all of us to escape to a place “where troubles melt like lemon drops,” if only for one weekend each year.
… and as long as they’ll have me back, I plan to be there myself to help them celebrate.