Wamego#85 July 21, 2017
[Above top: Margaret Hamilton’s multi-talents have terrified generations of children – and adults – in MGM’s 1939 film classic, THE WIZARD OF OZ. Bottom: Her son, Hamilton Meserve will “top the bill” of exceptional guests at this year’s OZtoberFest in Wamego, KS.]
Over its decade-plus of existence, the annual Wamego, KS, OZtoberFest has hosted many exciting and legitimate “citizens of Oz.” This year, however, the gallery of guests hits a new high of Ozzy magic and diversity, as three stellar attractions topline the October 6th-8th event. They include HAMILTON MESERVE (son of MARGARET HAMILTON, the endlessly fascinating “Wicked Witch of the West” in the classic 1939 THE WIZARD OF OZ motion picture), SHANICE WILLIAMS (who starred as “Dorothy” in the heralded NBC-TV production, THE WIZ LIVE! in December 2015), and GABRIEL GALE (conceptualizer and coauthor of the new “AGES OF OZ” book trilogy from Simon & Schuster). All three will be introduced and/or interviewed onstage by best-selling author and Emmy Award-winning producer JOHN FRICKE, perennial OZtoberFest master of ceremonies and preeminent Oz and Judy Garland historian.
Additional, returning guests for 2017 include PAUL MILES SCHNEIDER, author of SILVER SHOES and THE POWDER OF LIFE (two highly regarded contemporary Oz novels for students and young adults); JOHNPAUL CAFIERO, whose family’s extraordinary Oz collection makes up a great percentage of material showcased at The OZ Museum in Wamego; RYAN JAY, nationally-known film critic; and JANE ALBRIGHT, current president of The International Wizard of Oz Club (ozclub.org).
The Saturday and Sunday presentations by -- and meet-and-greet autograph sessions with -- the Oz celebrities will be held at either Wamego’s much-lauded OZ Museum or at the nearby Columbian Theatre. Specific scheduling and locales will be announced in September.
HAMILTON MESERVE’s enthralling talk, "OZ, THE WITCH, AND MOM: TEN THINGS YOU MIGHT NOT KNOW," will delight any and all who love the legendary MGM film, and his appearance is a rare opportunity to hear, in person, from one of the legitimate members of "The Second Generation of Oz." HAM was a child when MARGARET HAMILTON filmed THE WIZARD OF OZ, but his memories encompass those days as well as events across the many ensuing decades he shared with her. Now retired, HAM and HELEN (his wife of fifty-six years) live in Maine. He has enjoyed a happily varied career in banking, newspaper publication, and antique dealing.
When NBC prepared THE WIZ LIVE! for coast-to-coast telecast in 2015, eighteen-year-old SHANICE WILLIAMS won the coveted role of Dorothy over literally hundreds of other girls. She made her TV debut in that production and has also been seen in THE NATIONAL DOG SHOW PRESENTED BY PURINA (2015) and STRAIGHT OUTTA OZ (2016). A native of Rahway, NJ, she graduated Rahway High School and did further theatrical studies at the revered Paper Mill Playhouse in New Jersey. SHANICE happily admitted in 2015, however, that the opportunity to play Dorothy Gale had “been my dream forever. But I never thought it would be a reality!” The morning after THE WIZ LIVE! telecast, no less than THE NEW YORK TIMES exulted, “She more than pulled it off, earning accolades from many critics, fans, and celebrities following along on Twitter.” OZtoberFest 2017 marks her first appearance at an Oz festival, and we are delighted and proud to welcome her!
According to his official biography, GABRIEL GALE is a science and history buff and a thrill-seeking adventurer – attributes that serve him well as a royal historian of Oz. Born, raised, and living in Brooklyn, NY, he and Connecticut coauthor LISA FIEDLER debuted the first title of the AGES OF OZ trilogy in May: A FIERY FRIENDSHIP. It’s a genuine, traditional-yet-ground-breaking Oz book and beautifully details the back-story of Glinda, who – at thirteen – suddenly discovers her true heritage as a wonder-worker and pivotal, enchanting/enchanted component of the future of the kingdom. A FIERY FRIENDSHIP has already been acclaimed as “an entertaining new fantasy series” for middle-schoolers and young adults (SCHOOL LIBRARY JOURNAL), as well as “a fast-paced series opener [with its] intricate world filled with excitement and magical creatures” (KIRKUS REVIEWS). The lavishly illustrated volume is published by Margaret K. McElderry Books, an imprint of Simon & Schuster.
Of course, across its three days, OZtoberFest invariably and magically encompasses much additional activity and joy – almost all of it geared for the whole family, and with everything at hand and onsite in downtown Wamego. The “main events” on the town’s schedule take place on Saturday and, apart from an entrance fee to The OZ Museum (which includes attendance at all the celebrity appearances), virtually all of OZtoberFest is once again FREE TO THE PUBLIC! Lincoln Avenue will be closed off all day Saturday, October 7th, and (from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.) the variety of activities there and in adjacent areas are all-encompassing. Highlights include the Costumed OZ Characters as they traverse the street for photo ops or perform their OZ Vignettes; the annual OZ Costume Contest; plus Face Painting, Magic “Glinda the Good Witch” Bubbles, Munchkinland Animal Balloons, “Munchkinland Junction,” and Munchkinland Inflatables. (Please note that these last two activities require purchase of an all-day wristband pass; see details below.)
Different areas of Lincoln Avenue and its environs, including Wamego City Park, will host the annual – and beautifully nostalgic -- Classic Car Show, as well as Boom Battle Sports (bubble soccer and laser tag for ages six and up), The Wicked Witch Dunk Tank; and multiple food vendors, including Homemade Ice Cream and a Wine & Beer Garden. Everything from pottery, collectibles, and fresh produce will be available for purchase at The Oz Marketplace, Uncle Henry’s Farmers Market, The Tin Man’s Garage at Iron Clad, a Yellow Brick Road Sale at Vanderbilt’s…and on and on.
Free entertainment is another integral aspect of OZtoberFest, and both The Emerald City Stage (in front of the Columbian) and The Tin Man’s Talent Showcase (in front of or inside Iron Clad) will provide music and general jubilation all day on Saturday. That evening, from five o’clock to seven o’clock, there’ll be a Street Dance on Lincoln Avenue; the name of the participating band will be announced later this summer.
Admission (wrist bands) to the OZ Museum and activities sponsored by the Museum are $10 adults, $8 children ($8 military adults, $6 military children) per day. This includes unlimited time and access for the day to the Museum, as well as admittance to all the speaker events at the Museum and at The Columbian Theatre. (Prices are subject to change.)
Topping off both Friday and Saturday evenings, the Columbian Theatre will also offer a reprise of last year’s rapturously received OZ MURDER MYSTERY play. Show times and ticket prices for the play are forthcoming.
To paraphrase a classic Broadway tune from THE PAJAMA GAME: “This is your once-a-year…weekend!” So make your plans NOW to join us in Wamego, KS, for the family fun, the nonstop activities, The OZ Museum, the OZ MURDER MYSTERY…and the really amazing contributions and presence of Hamilton Meserve, Shanice Williams, Gabriel Gale, the Oz Costumed Characters, and all the other special guests.
Watch for additional, specific information…and always remember: There’s no place like home – which, as Dorothy knew, was Kansas.
Especially in Wamego on October 6th-8th, 2017!
The OZ Museum: 866 458-TOTO (8686)
The Columbian Theatre: 800 899-1893
The Wamego Chamber of Commerce: 785 456-7849
Article by John Fricke