The Oz Museum in Wamego, Kansas, opened its doors Oct. 7 for a wonderful weekend of Oz. Perfect weather and family-friendly programming attracted the crowds for a truly unforgettable time. For the second year, author Paul Schneider and I were able to spend two days leading up to the event speaking about Oz in area schools. Joining the community outreach this year were other special guests and Oz Club members John Fricke, Gabe Gale, Aaron Harburg, and Ryan Jay. Six speakers! Classes and civic groups were treated to the full breadth of Oz from the original book to the most recent entertainment productions. I am so grateful that the Oz Club can provide the festival’s community with educational programming that engages kids.
The days started with introductions, emceed by John Fricke, then offered presentations, museum tours, and incredibly magical moments. My favorite? When special guest Shanice Williams ended her interview with Ryan Jay by singing “Home” with all the emotion and talent she’d poured into that song as Dorothy in The Wiz, Live!
The Oz Museum features the collection of Johnpaul Cafiero. His participation in the festival is always cause to celebrate. This year we also had some visual treats; artist Vince Myrand was on hand with original paintings and prints, and Lego Master Builder artist, Allen T. Hickmon shared some amazing Oz pieces. The Swogger Art Gallery at the Columbian Theater mounted “Dorothy’s Closet”, an exhibition of Oz themed pieces many of which were for sale. One display showcased costumes from a recent production of The Wiz in St. Louis. I was pleased to see many Oz Club members and other Oz friends in the crowd, including Karen Owens and Deb Dwyer who returned to Oztoberfest after a few years away. On a personal note, my friend Lynn Beltz came to provide me with back up.
A Murder in Oz, a who-done-it comedy written and produced for the event, performed to sold out audiences (and different endings) each evening. This show would be a hit in any community; I hope other Oz festivals consider it.
This festival offers everything–car shows and costume characters, beer garden, bouncy houses and barbeque contests. The street comes to life with children’s activities, music and entertainment. When the Wicked Witch of the West isn’t throwing “fire balls” at the crowd she’s trying to avoid the dunk tank. Through it all Toto’s is serving up Tacoz and the Oz Winery is pouring tastes. The tireless Oz Museum staff and volunteers make it weekend to remember.
We were all disappointed to miss Hamilton Meserve when illness cancelled his appearance, but hope we’ll see him at Oztoberfest 2018. I’d like to see you, too; pencil it in next October!