[Above: If, indeed, there’s much past, present, and future news to proclaim – and there is! -- let’s give this month’s “kick-off photo spot” to the man responsible for all of it. Had it not been for the imagination, creativity, brains, courage, fancy, fantasy, wit, whimsicality, and indefatigable writing prowess (and heart!) of L. Frank Baum, we’d have nothing Ozzy to celebrate.]


So many Oz topics to reference.

So many Oz-specific or Oz-related news items to share.

And so much joy in all of it!

There are a couple of reasons for this month’s diverse -- and all-over-the-map-of-Oz -- dissemination, and the primary one is quite simple: There’s a LOT going on! 😊 So, without further ado, let’s look at October 2018 . . . and then on into the future.

Although the OZtoberFest events in Wamego took place two weeks ago, the memorable magic still lingers. True – the weather was cold, wet, chilly, and mizzzerable. Yet several thousand folks came out from all over the county, state, and country to enjoy the Ozian offerings and everything else. Well over six hundred people visited The OZ Museum between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. on the official festival date (Saturday, October 6). Scores more attended the four different Oz-related presentations at The Columbian Theatre that afternoon – and jam-packed the multiple performances of the charming Oz puppet show in the mini-auditorium at the rear of the museum. Costumed visitors of various ages paraded for the judges of that contest, and a record-breaking number of entries were submitted in other competitions. There were happy purchases of the all-Toto artwork; a highly-anticipated raffle of Allen T. Hickmon’s stunning LEGO Toto; and full-houses for the two evening presentations of THE JUDY GARLAND SONGBOOK (splendidly delivered by Mandy Kerridge, Linda Uthoff, Joe Braun, Thom Jackson, and four exemplary musicians). In short, OZtoberFest made for a gala gathering of old friends, new friends, and out-of-town guests from multiple points of the compass, including Missouri, Texas, Iowa, Oklahoma, Colorado, California, and New York.


[Above: The ingenuity, creative savvy, and toy-riffic resourcefulness of Allen T. Hickmon shone forth again at this year’s OZtoberFest via his latest LEGO creations.]

If OZtoberFest 2018 must now be categorized as “past” history, how about something as “present” and up-to-the-minute as is conceivable? Well, when this blog is posted on Friday, October 19, its appearance will coincide with the reappearance – yes, on the very same day – of the newly-conserved pair of ruby slippers, going back on display to the public at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C. One of five surviving sets of Judy Garland’s footwear from the 1939 Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer classic film of THE WIZARD OF OZ, the shoes have spent the past two years (plus) in being scrupulously cleaned, “sustained,” and protected for decades of future viewing. They were revealed at a by-invitation-only event at the museum last night and will share exhibition space with another MGM movie treasure: the actual Scarecrow costume worn by Ray Bolger.


[It was an immeasurable honor to associate with the extraordinary, gifted members of the Smithsonian staff over these past couple of years -- all the while their work proceeded re: the conservation of the pair of ruby slippers that has been part of their collection for nearly four decades. Our times together included my participation in their fund-raising and premium videos; in meeting Oz fans among the Smithsonian’s contributors; in consultation about general “hOZtory”; and in the privilege of touring both their archive and (as shown above) preservation lab.]

And as to the future? Well . . . !


Later this month, NBC-TV celebrates the 15th anniversary of the Broadway debut of WICKED, the international musical smash hit that continues to pack ’em in at the Gershwin Theatre in New York City and everywhere else on its world-wide tours. The television concert, A VERY WICKED HALLOWEEN, will be shown on Monday, October 29th at 10 p.m. ET, showcasing “a cavalcade of special guest stars to help celebrate the music and the magic of the show that tells the story of what happened in Oz before Dorothy dropped in.” The program will reunite the original Elphaba and Glinda – Idina Menzel and Kristin Chenoweth – and feature such special guests as Ariana Grande, the vocal group Pentatonix, and the current New York company of the Stephen Schwartz/Winnie Holzman/Joe Mantello/ Gregory Maguire achievement.


Meanwhile, for Oz book fans, The Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission have partnered with The University City Arts League to sponsor a celebration of Philadelphia native Ruth Plumly Thompson – author of nineteen of the “famous forty” of the Oz Book Series, as well as two additional Oz titles published in the 1970s by The International Wizard of Oz Club. Activities will be held on Sunday, November 4th at the Arts League building (4226 Spruce Street, Philadelphia) and include a continental breakfast at 10 a.m.; special Oz activities from 11 a.m. – 12:45 p.m. (Oz-themed arts/crafts, creative writing activities; an Oz book exhibit, and short plays based on Thompson’s THE WISHING HORSE OF OZ); and, finally, a fifteen-minute walk -- beginning at 12:45 p.m. -- to one of Thompson’s former homes at 254 South Farragut Street. As the high point of the event, those responsible will unveil and dedicate an official state historical marker in her honor at that address at 1 p.m.

Meanwhile, looking ahead to next year:

2019 marks the eightieth anniversary of the premiere and release of MGM’s THE WIZARD OF OZ – long since historically categorized as the movie seen by more people than any other entertainment in the world. 2019 also marks the fiftieth anniversary of the passing of that film’s star, Judy Garland, whose performance as Dorothy serves as the foundation for an ongoing, legendary career arc -- in motion pictures, in stage performances, on television, recordings, and radio -- that quite possibly has been unequaled by anyone else. Given those two noteworthy occasions, there’ll be a lot to herald.

And just announced last week: The San Diego County Fair has pronounced OZSOME! as its 2019 theme and will turn its event – and exhibition space -- into a retrospective history of Oz in all its incarnations: the Oz books, Oz on stage and screen, Oz in the commercial marketplace, and etc. -- from May 31st – July 4th in Del Mar, CA. They’ll also offer Oz entertainments, speakers, contests, and all the rest.

Of course, there’ll be much, much more, including the annual OZtoberFest in Wamego next October! You can watch here (and on The OZ Museum and OZtoberFest Facebook pages) for information as it develops.

Finally – and speaking of The OZ Museum – this month’s blog marks my one-hundredth entry in this series. And that’s the other reason today’s journalism represents a personal level of joy. Writing under Wamego’s aegis has meant for me the privilege of posting an amalgam of historical and personal composition: remembering, encapsulating, and sharing Oz news, Oz joys, and Oz passions. There could be no greater pleasure for me, and I want to express my appreciation to Clint Stueve (and Company!) for the honor and forum.

Given such a numerical milestone, I took a moment earlier this week to look back to when/where all of this began. “The Wonderful World of Oz” – as the series has been titled – was the first blog I’d ever attempted. It started here in June 2014 and ran once a week for a year, then twice a month for a year, and then as a monthly contribution ever since.  Among other topics, there’s been reportage about the activities and guests of Wamego’s OZtoberFests across 2014-18; an appreciation of The OZ Museum and its holdings; and individual homage paid to “Royal Historians” Baum and Thompson, foreign Oz books, Oz children’s records, Oz coloring books, personal Oz stationery, and the connections between Oz and Christmas. I’ve been able to pen my own reviews of Disney’s on-screen OZ THE GREAT AND POWERFUL and Andrew Lloyd Webber’s on-stage THE WIZARD OF OZ; to describe the St. Louis Muny Opera revival of OZ in 2016; and to tell the back-story of the new Judy Garland biographical stage musical, CHASING RAINBOWS: THE ROAD TO OZ.  Details have been recounted re: the NBC-TV Shirley Temple adaptation of THE LAND OF OZ (1960) and NBC Radio’s Jell-O sponsored THE WIZARD OF OZ network series (1933-34). There have been three-part mini-histories of the Rankin-Bass TALES OF THE WIZARD OF OZ (1961) and RETURN TO OZ (1964) television cartoons; the JOURNEY BACK TO OZ (1972) animated, all-star-voiced, feature-length film; and THE WIZ on Broadway and on motion picture and TV screens. Similar three-part retrospectives covered my personal memories of MGM “Wicked Witch” Margaret Hamilton and the International Wizard of Oz Club – and there was an eight-installment recollection of the many occasions in which I was lucky (for sure!) to be teamed with the surviving MGM “Munchkins” at various Oz festivals and events, including OZtoberFest. I also had the opportunity to write about seeing Judy Garland “in person” in concert and about meeting her after one of those shows – as well as offering remembrances that detailed my early years of researching Oz and Baum for my own preteen jubilation.


[This one really needs no caption!]

Of course, there has been (by request) LOTS of writing about the MGM movie: the early scripts and planned (but dropped) characters and scenes; sequences that were filmed but deleted from the release print; MGM props and costumes – and rumors; MGM doubles and stand-ins for the actors; the original casting choice for the Wicked Witch of the West; the differences between Baum’s first Oz book and Metro’s OZ film; the movie’s premiere and critical reaction; the appearances at the initial New York City opening by Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney;  Oz trivia . . . and etc.

[Incidentally, the Oz trivia answer-blogs grew from questions submitted to me via The OZ Museum’s Facebook page. So, if any of you have more of them, please consider sharing them there, and we’ll see about incorporating the responses in future blogs.]

All of the past blogs are posted at The OZ Museum: https://ozmuseum.com/   Just click on that link; then click again on the OZ NEWS category when it comes up. . . and you’ll go right to the most recent of the thirteen (!) archived pages that provide individual links to the varied subjects referenced above. (Just scroll down to the bottom of each of those archival pages to “click back” to preceding articles.)

So, what else can be said but: THANK YOU AGAIN – for reading, commenting, attending OZtoberFest, and continuing to share the absolute and unique joy that is OZ. As the headline above touts it: HAPPY . . . EVERYTHING!


Article by John Fricke


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