The Marvelous Land of Oz-Stravaganza!

It’s a strange feeling to be home in Kansas one minute and then suddenly whisked away over the clouds to a curious land where the sidewalks are paved with yellow bricks, fascinating little people greet you with flowerpots on their heads and other such colorful attire, and, soon after, you’re escorted down the main boulevard waving and smiling at hoards of townspeople in a parade. Suffice it to say that after this last weekend, I can relate even more to young Dorothy Gale and her extraordinary adventures in a faraway land.

Chittenango, NY—the birthplace of L. Frank Baum—may not be Oz, but, for one weekend each year, it’s the closest we’ll get to it in this world.

Downtown Chittenango, New York.

Downtown Chittenango, New York.

 

Looking back now, I think it’s easy to sum up what makes this annual festival so satisfying and unique. It’s the people—everyone who has a hand in putting it together: the committees, hosts, sponsors, guests, exhibitors, vendors, ride operators, shop owners, and all-around magic-makers who collectively create the unique events, as well as those who attend from near and far with open hearts and smiling faces.

My adventures began immediately after the plane ride with a quick stop Friday afternoon at the Sullivan Free Library, in Chittenango, for a gathering and presentation with fellow Oz authors. Then it was straight to the high school for the official kickoff of the weekend festival. I had my first book-signing seated right next to the MGM Munchkins: Karl Slover, Margaret Pellegrini, and Myrna Swenson. Caren Marsh-Doll was also there from the 1939 movie. She had been Judy Garland’s stand-in as Dorothy and would also serve as grand marshall for Saturday’s parade. There were other wonderful authors, illustrators, and Oz luminaries stretching down the hallway just outside the auditorium.

The festival begins at Chittenango High School. Paul Miles Schneider signs copies of his novel "Silver Shoes" sitting by the MGM Munchkins from "The Wizard of Oz." 92-year-old Karl Slover can be seen at the next table greeting fans.

Oz-Stravaganza begins at Chittenango High School! Paul Miles Schneider signs copies of his novel "Silver Shoes" sitting by the MGM Munchkins from "The Wizard of Oz." 92-year-old Karl Slover can be seen at the next table greeting fans.

 

The signing was followed by a “Let’s-Make-a-Deal”-style game show, hosted by Marc R. Baum, a spaghetti dinner with the Munchkins, and the opening ceremonies, hosted by John Fricke, who interviewed the Munchkins and Caren about their experiences working on the film, as well as an informative chat with Clare and Robert Baum (great-grandson of L. Frank Baum) and best-selling author and illustrator Eric Shanower.

The MGM Munchkins and John Fricke.

Celebrated author and Oz expert John Fricke interviews the MGM Munchkins on stage at Chittenango High School. Left to right: Myrna Swenson, Margaret Pellegrini, and Karl Slover.

 

Saturday’s schedule began bright and early with a pancake breakfast and book event at the First Presbyterian Church, located right next to the festival grounds. I met some wonderful people there, including the mayor and his wife, and former mayor and his wife. Everyone was turning out to enjoy the day. Then I found my spot in the main tent for our first scheduled signing.

Paul's perch! A table for "Silver Shoes" in Authors Alley, located inside Glinda's Royal Tent---the enormous tarp-covered pavilion that housed fellow authors, illustrators, MGM Munchkins, Baum relatives, and other assorted Oz luminaries, plus a silent auction! All of us together under one roof for a weekend of signings and greetings.

Paul's perch! A table for "Silver Shoes" in Authors Alley, located inside Glinda's Royal Tent---the enormous tarp-covered pavilion that housed fellow authors, illustrators, MGM Munchkins, Baum relatives, and other assorted Oz luminaries, plus a silent auction! All of us together under one roof for a weekend of signings and greetings.

 

Time seemed to fly by, selling books and chatting with the patrons and other authors and illustrators in the “Alley,” including James C. Wallace II, Ron Baxley, Jr., Gwendolyn Tennille Adams, Dennis Anfuso, and Paul Bienvenue. I did find a few moments between signings to check out the festival and have a look around.

The Oz Club Booth at Oz-Stravaganza!

One of many costumed "Dorothys" checking out the various vendors at Oz-Stravaganza! This booth was sponsored by the International Wizard of Oz Club, and they were selling copies of their exclusive publications.

 

Before I knew it, it was time to get ready for the afternoon parade down the main street of town.

Clare and Bob Baum.

Clare and Robert Baum. They are dressed as his great-grandfather L. Frank Baum and his wife Maud Gage Baum for the parade. I'm happy and proud to call these wonderful people my friends. They posed for a photo op while we all waited to take our positions. You can see a bagpiper crossing in back. We had marching bands, street musicians, pipers, and luminaries, all navigating down the parade route in wagons, floats, tractors, and golf carts.

 

Thousands of people showed up to watch us smile and wave. I had never been in a parade before, and I must say the experience was both exhilarating and surreal.

Little Dorothys, Cowardly Lions, and Glindas enjoy the parade and wave to us from the curb as we move by.

 

The 2011 Oz-Stravaganza Parade

The 2011 Oz Stravaganza! Parade as seen from my POV while I slowly navigate down the main street in town.

 

After the parade we had a second book-signing session in the main tent. Then it was back to the hotel. The guests for the festival were staying at the Craftsman Inn, just one town over in Fayetteville, NY. I should have known from the name, but this lovely hotel was chock full of Craftsman-style furniture, which comes from the famous Stickley Furniture Factory, located a few miles away in Manlius, NY.

The Craftsman Inn. Fayetteville, NY.

The Craftsman Inn. Fayetteville, NY.

 

I spent the evening at dinner with John Fricke, Paul Bienvenue, Jonathan Shirshekan and his sister Jessica, plus International Wizard of Oz Club luminaries Jane Albright, Lynn Beltz, and Carrie Hedges. We had a great time swapping stories and getting to know each other better, and it was the perfect way to end the day.

There was another signing session on Sunday, but I did manage to make it over first to the new Oz museum and gift shop called All Things Oz, which was housing Michael Siewert’s incredible collection of screen-worn Judy Garland costumes during the festival.

Michael Siewert's collection of dresses worn by the legendary Judy Garland, on display at "All Things Oz," the new museum and gift shop located on Genesee St. in downtown Chittenango, NY.

Michael Siewert's gorgeous collection of dresses worn by the legendary Judy Garland, on display at "All Things Oz," the new museum and gift shop on Genesee Street in downtown Chittenango.

 

That evening, our wonderful wrap party dinner was hosted by the American Legion in Chittenango. There were lots of hugs, much-deserved congratulations, and promises to see each other again soon!

Caren Marsh-Doll

The gorgeous Caren Marsh-Doll at our wrap party held in the American Legion. She was Judy Garland's stand-in for Dorothy in 1939's "The Wizard of Oz," and she defies time and space with her ever-youthful appearance and personality.

 

John Fricke says good-bye to MGM Munchkin Margaret Pellegrini at the Oz-Stravaganza! wrap party, held at the American Legion in Chittenango.

John Fricke bids farewell to MGM Munchkin Margaret Pellegrini at the Oz-Stravaganza! wrap party, held at the American Legion in Chittenango.

 

Before I left for the airport on Monday, I had a few hours in the morning to look around the area. And boy, was I glad I seized that opportunity! After a great breakfast at Hullar’s Coffee Shop with my highly knowledgeable and personable tour guide Ryan Zlomek, we checked out the Matilda Joslyn Gage home and foundation in Fayetteville. In addition to being celebrated in her own right as an abolitionist and women’s rights advocate, Matilda was also the mother-in-law of Oz creator L. Frank Baum. In fact, Frank and his bride Maud Gage were married in the front parlor of this house.

Matilda Joslyn Gage house.

The Matilda Joslyn Gage home and foundation in Fayetteville, NY.

 

After a quick tour inside, we decided to cross the street and walked half a block to the boyhood home of U.S. President Grover Cleveland.

Grover Cleveland's boyhood home.

U.S. President Grover Cleveland's boyhood home in Fayetteville, NY.

 

Then we checked out the Fayetteville Free Library, which houses the Stickley Furniture Museum on its second floor. This building used to be the old furniture factory itself before they moved it to nearby Manlius, NY. Having a genuine love for the Craftsman style, my jaw was on the ground for the whole tour.

Fayetteville Free Library

The Fayetteville Free Library in Fayetteville, NY.

 

All too soon, I was on an airplane again, heading home to Kansas. My “Sliver Shoes” had led me on an incredible adventure to a distant land. I hope to return again very soon. It was truly unforgettable.

 


Comments

The Marvelous Land of Oz-Stravaganza! — 4 Comments

  1. So – did you find any gorgeous pieces for your home? It sounds like the perfect opportunity! That town reminds me of the one my dad grew up in and my grandparents lived in when I was little. It was just perfect! (or at least it seemed so to me.) I’m glad you enjoyed the weekend and I hope that lots and lots of “Silver Shoes” were sold!
    xoxo, Mamie

  2. Thanks very much, Mamie! Yes, I’m happy to report I did very well with sales. I didn’t bring back any furniture with me, however. Especially Stickley! We didn’t make it inside the actual working factory in Manlius to tempt me, though, just the museum in Fayetteville. And most of what we saw was several thousand to several hundred thousand dollars! They had Gustav Stickley’s own bedroom set, etc. None of it was for sale, of course. But I sure loved “window shopping.” And you’re right—the towns of Fayetteville and Chittenango were both picturesque and the people were so friendly. I enjoyed my time there quite a bit.

  3. Silver Shoes is by far my favorite new Oz book to hit the shelves in many, many years! Having Paul Miles Schneider as a guest in Chittenango for the weekend was a pleasure and honor. I hope it will be the first of many visits! Thank you so much Paul for sharing your vision and talents with us all!!!!

  4. Wow, Barb, thanks so much for the compliment and kind words! It makes me very happy to hear you say that. I’m thrilled you enjoyed the book so much, and it was my pleasure to attend this year’s Oz-Stravaganza! You and the rest of the committee really made us all feel welcome and taken care of. I hope our paths cross again very soon.

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