Head off to see the Wizard

 
Published7/19/2008 10:38 AM

Q. Quite sometime back, a couple of years or so ago, you answered a question about the Wizard of Oz Festival in Chesterton, Ind. I'm very interested in the festival and wondered what the dates are? When I Googled Chesterton and the Wizard of Oz, I came up empty except for a festival of the same name held somewhere in Mississippi in December of 2004. Can you help me find the original Wizard festival and is it still being held? Thanks for your help.

A. My, how time flies! That column about the Wizard of Oz Festival appeared in the Daily Herald on Aug. 10, 2003, almost five years ago. You have a good memory. The festival location was moved from Chesterton, Ind., to nearby Valparaiso where it will be held Sept. 12, 13 and 14 at the Porter County Expo Center.

 

This 27th annual Indiana Wizard of Oz Festival, with this year's theme "We're Here to See the Wizard," is being held under the auspices of the Lake Shore Festival & Events Corp. The reason you couldn't find the festival on the Internet at wizardofozfestival.com is because it is now listed as wizardofozfestival.org.

The festival has an interesting history. Back in the early '80s, Jean Nelson - who loved the movie, has a vaudeville background and knew some of the Munchkins and stars of the film - decided to open a gift shop called The Yellow Brick Road. Some of her Munchkin friends came for the shop's grand opening. That was 27 years ago.

The event was such a success it was repeated the next year, then the year after and so on. It outgrew her shop and its grounds so it was taken over by the Chesterton Chamber of Commerce in partnership with Jean. The rest is history. It just kept growing and growing, and today it is world famous, attracting thousands of people. The festival features actual actors from the 1939 movie classic. Guest speakers will be notable Oz memorabilia collectors, and costumed characters - including Dorothy and her friends and a few witches (good and bad) - will be there to greet smaller festival goers.

The three-day event has on its agenda breakfast with the Munchkins, autograph parties, craft and food booths, a Friday night parade to kick off the festivities, look-alike contests, Munchkinland Market Days and a Judy/Oz exchange and auction.

Admission to the festival is free; however three special events require tickets. Tickets for the Friday after-the-parade gala are $40, and Dorothy's party (lunch) is $6 per person. Sunday breakfast with the Munchkins is $15 for adults and $10 for children ages 2 through 12. Additional information is available by checking the Web site at wizardofozfestival.org, the Porter County Web site at porterco.org or by phoning (800) 283-8687.


Send your questions at least sixweeks prior to travel to MadelynMerwin in care of
Travel,Daily Herald, P.O.Box 280, Arlington Heights, IL 60006, or e-mail
dpmerwin@sbcglobal.net.

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