Wamego #77 Nov 18, 2016
Greetings from Wamego, Kansas -- the Land of The OZ Museum!
Long-time readers may remember that a sometimes weekly, sometimes bi-weekly John Fricke “blog” has been an omnipr-OZ-ent (…!) feature of this Wamego site since June 2014. After a brief hiatus, we’re once again in launch mode, and it’s planned that I’ll be posting here every third Friday of the month through 2017. In addition, Amanda Shepley (marketing intern for The OZ Museum) will pen another once-a-month entry on an alternate Friday, in addition to which she currently oversees an every-Tuesday trivia question and a weekly dose of phil-OZ-ophy in a new series called “Monday Motivations.” Both of these features may be accessed on The OZ Museum’s Facebook page.
Thus, there now is a lot of general and specific Ozziness coming your way from Wamego on a regular basis! Please feel free to offer your reactions – and to suggest any topics about which you’d like to read here.
Meanwhile, it’s only proper that this first “return” installment acknowledges an historically-successful OZtoberFest 2016, which – on October 1st and 2nd -- drew the largest crowds in the festival’s dozen-year history! Beautiful weather brought out thousands of cross-generational adherents, who flooded Lincoln Avenue for Saturday’s outdoor activities. Concurrently, and across a total of just twelve hours of operation on Saturday and Sunday, The OZ Museum itself tallied well over eight hundred paid admissions, as gleeful advocates toured the exemplary exhibitions and relished the diverse, Oz-related presentations.
On the street, Oz fans (quite literally from all over the world) reveled in such attractions as the Museum’s gradually evolving, innovative Ozzy façade; the dozens of store-front windows, painted with colorful Oz designs; the children and grown-ups in “coztume”; the raft of classic, beautifully restored antique cars; the main-stage with its wide range of musicians and other “live” entertainments; the food booths; and the Oz and craft vendors. As if all that weren’t enough – and through the sterling campaigning of Wamego’s Chamber of Commerce -- The Weather Channel conducted three remote, “live,” Skype interviews from “OZtoberFest Central” in front of museum. In so-doing, they threw a nationwide spotlight on the festivities for millions of televiewers.
Inside the Museum, there were seven different, informal Ozian “talks,” often accompanied by rare video and/or audio. Visitors savored “insider views” of NBC-TV’s THE WIZ LIVE! from last December -- and a recounting of what it was like to participate in a 1970s’ pen-pal correspondence with Margaret Hamilton, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer’s “Wicked Witch of the West” in the 1939 movie of THE WIZARD OF OZ. Additionally, there was a picture game that led to fascinating anecdotes about the denizens and adventures to be found in the Oz books; a first-hand account of the dynamics required for the writing of present-day Oz stories; a retelling of the personal saga behind the glorious collectibles that cram the cases at The OZ Museum; an examination of the spiritual aspects of L. Frank Baum’s characters and themes; and a 60th anniversary celebration of the first telecast of THE WIZARD OF OZ movie (November 3, 1956).
The unquestioned highlight for devotees, however, came via the presence of author/editor Jane Lahr, daughter of MGM’s “Cowardly Lion,” Bert Lahr. With technical assist from Bob Owens, Wamego’s Wizard of Stagecraft, and Abby Richards, Columbian Theatre marketing intern (who aided Jane in assembling a dazzling pictorial accompaniment to her talk), Ms. Lahr traced the professional arc of her father’s extraordinary life-and-times. She spoke with charm, insight, humor, and emotion -- remarks augmented by the unique personal insights that only she could contribute. Jane has since publicly stated that her Wamego sojourn turned out to be “an important journey for me, filled with reviewing and somehow re-experiencing Dad's journey, from [his] early days to my time with him. I found the whole trip invaluable." From the reaction of Saturday’s capacity throng for Jane’s “conversation” at The Columbian -- and the thrill hundreds experienced when she met, greeted, and posed for photographs with them in the OZ Museum itself -- it was apparent that “invaluable” is the word to describe her, as well.
Finally, one can’t forget the supreme pleasure provided by the premiere performances of the OZTOBERFEST MURDER MYSTERY, given Friday and Saturday evenings to audiences who once again jam-packed the venerable (established 1895) Columbian. Director/playwright Bryan Scruggs mounted a masterful tale about the opening night of a community theater production of THE WIZARD OF OZ, monumentally disrupted when a murder “takes out” Dorothy mid-rainbow. Delightful divas (female and male) purposefully permeated the cast in all its intentional -- not to say pointed! -- small-town glory, gore, manipulation and machination. The show was thoroughly engaging and smartly aligned with the spirit of the weekend; bravos to one and all, onstage and off, for sharing such joy and talent.
In summation, OZtoberFest 2016 was bigger and better than ever, and discussions are already underway to deliver an equally amazing event in 2017! So please watch here for announcements about the dates, the guests, and the magic-to-come.
And here’s a heartfelt THANK YOU AGAIN to one and all who attended – and to all of those behind the scenes who worked and volunteered to create (if only for two days) “some place where there isn’t any trouble.”
The OZ Museum, 511 Lincoln Avenue, Wamego, KS 66547: 1-866-458-TOTO (8686) or email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Shop for OZ merchandise >> ozmuseum.com/collections/all
Article by John Fricke