Oconomowoc or Bust!

Road trip Day 3 started with a detour. Garry Parrett had encouraged me to see the antique mall in Appleton where there was a Glinda figurine I’d likely want. He started listing other things he’d just seen there and I was a goner. Once Glinda was safely in the car—along with a Denslow plate, a couple foreign translations, three Ruthellen Oz dolls, and a random OzKin of the soldier with green whiskers who looked too lonely to leave on the shelf—I was back en route with a lighter wallet. In my next stop, Oconomowoc, Wisconsin, I had plans to celebrate the 80th anniversary of the classic MGM film with Laura DeNooyer.

I met Laura when something led me to a lovely entry on her blog about her visit to one of my favorite places, Chittenango, NY, birthplace of L. Frank Baum and now home to the All Things Oz museum. We’d exchanged a few pleasantries online and I’d encouraged her to stop in KC if she visited the Oz Museum in Wamego, Kansas, too. She was researching a book she’s writing that includes L. Frank Baum as a character, so Oz/Baum research trips were in her crosshairs.  Her KC “stop” turned into a wonderful visit of many hours. We discovered much common ground and I found I had a new friend. She even spends some of each summer in Baum’s old summer stomping grounds, Macatawa! I was delighted when a short story version of her forthcoming book won the Oz Club’s 2019 Oz Fiction Contest.

Twice this many seats were behind us, and it was hours before the film would start.

After dropping my bags at her home, and digging into a delicious lunch of bratwurst grilled by Laura’s husband, we headed to Oconomowoc armed with folding chairs, water bottles and lap robes for after-dark. The town’s main street was blocked off and there were already thousands of chairs lined up. I mean a daunting, curb to curb crush of chairs as far as the eye could see.  We took a risk and kept moving forward hoping to find a spot closer to the screen. Eureka!  There it was, only about a third of the way back from the screen. Claiming space with our chairs we then wandered through the vendors and activities filling the street and surrounding area.

People in costumes — some outlandish — were everywhere. So many excited kids!

A stage was set up for competitive games, and for a costume contest scheduled just before the film. Some booths offered hands-on activities for kids. Lots of reporters milling around and cameramen logging B-roll.

Yes, I posed for a photo with the city’s Oz marker. Yes, I got the t-shirt.

The main event before the main event was the unveiling of outdoor Oz sculptures. The Wizard was already unveiled and pressed into service as a photo op.  We did our best to position ourselves to see the ribbon cutting, but it was a losing battle. The speaker had a microphone and was saying something, but from our spot I’ve no idea what. My guess is thanking everyone who raised funds or otherwise made it possible. They cut a large ribbon, then pulled away tarps that were covering Dorothy and friends.  Lots of cheers. Lots of photos snapped.  The crowd regrouped to pose for keepsake photos.

Once the unveiling was over, fans lined up to pose with the sculptures for photos.

A Wicked Witch character further back in the same courtyard is ugly, but apparently not too scary!

I ran into my friend Sue Boland briefly who just moved to Wisconsin from the Chittenango area.  Fun to see her; it had been some years. 

Finally it was film time. The announcer described Oconomoc as the site of the film’s “midwest premier,” perpetuating, with a fresh twist, the town’s less-than-accurate claim to Oz fame. Then he called Wisconsin’s own Meinhardt Raabe the “Mayor of Munchkinland.” So … well… hmm.  It’s all about family fun, right?  Everyone was too busy eating kettle corn to take notes for an Oz history test. 

Great movie, by the way. (Spoiler: she wakes up in the end.)

We stopped for frozen custard on the way home—another Wisconsin specialty I’d happily have again. For the third night in a row I was up late jabbering away about Oz. Eventually sleep was in order and morning called for me to get back on the road. After coffee outdoors on the deck (beautiful weather this entire trip), I pulled a bunch of Bugles Laura didn’t have out of my packed car for her, and set my GPS for destination Day Four: Ryan Jay.


5 thoughts on “Oconomowoc or Bust!

  1. Pingback: My Journey to Oz & Kansas—Part 5: Why so much Oz? – Journey to Imagination

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