This time, it was in Mapleton, Illinois and this was our third year of attendance. Fortunately, this wonderful festival is only about 3 hours west of our home in Terre Haute, Indiana.
Once we arrived, it was clear that we had arrived in the Land of Oz.
The first thing we noticed was an over-abundance of mud, which was due to unusually intense thunderstorms the night before and was certainly not something the organizers were able to control.
As it was, all of the wonderful volunteers did a great job of dealing with the mud and the vendors, some of whom were not pleased with Mother Nature and somehow blamed the Oz festival organizers. I know that none of them were Oz vendors, as Oz vendors know fully well the power of Mother Nature and Her penchant for tornadoes. Thank goodness there wasn't one of those, as there was back in 2010 at the Chittenango, New York Oz festival.
Once we set up, it was on and we were very well received by the thousands of Oz fans who had come out early during the cool weather.
If you didn't attend last year's festival, you won't know that the weather was blistering hot and crowds exceeded 5000 people, which was waaaaay beyond the year before, when only about 500 people showed up for the Oz fun. I'm very pleased to report that the organizers of the Wizard of Oz Illinois Festival learned from last year's experience and solved virtually every issue from last year. In all, we would estimate the count at well over 3500 visitors during the entire day.
The park was very well laid out with a mix of vendors, Oz-related activities and shows, as well as a stunning Land of Oz Yellow Brick Road Park.
There was also a wonderful traveling animal show called Woody's Menagerie, which featured not only numerous animals for the kids to learn about, including a bear,
One new addition to the festivities was Professor Marvel and his Magic Show. It was a fine show and I found out after speaking with the Professor that he is a member of the International Brotherhood of Magicians, as I am as well.
Of course, one of the two highlights of the festival was the Spirit of Oz Character Troupe, who I have worked alongside of for over 5 years. These folks are amazing in their performances as Dorothy, the Scarecrow, Tin Man, Cowardly Lion, Glinda and the Wicked Witch of the West and they simply captivate everyone they encounter during their shows and while wandering about for photo opportunities.
The other highlight was the Yellow Brick Road Park, which was relocated and expanded from last year to accommodate the larger crowds.
It all starts out in Kansas with a rainbow, the Gale farm and Professor Marvel's wagon.
Watch out Toto! Looks like the Wicked Witch and her evil minions are coming after Dorothy and Glinda!
Of course, once the twister hits, we find ourselves in Munchkin City.
As we "Follow the Yellow Brick Road" (I'll bet you sang that, didn't you?), we come across an old friend, the Scarecrow and the Apple Trees.
Shall we stroll into the Dark Forest?
Oh look, it's our old friend, the Tin Woodman!
Anyone brave enough to venture off the Yellow Brick Road and visit the Castle of the Wicked Witch of the West? Watch out for the Flying Monkeys!!!
"This is how long you have to live, my dear! And it isn't long... it isn't long!"
Fortunately for our dear Dorothy, the Wicked Witch of the West meets her melting fate.
Let's get outta here and find the Yellow Brick Road. Maybe we'll find one more friend.
Hello Cowardly Lion! Care to join us as we leave the Dark Forest and find the Wizard of Oz in the Emerald City?
Look, it's the Field of Poppies and Emerald City in the distance!
Whew! What a journey down the Yellow Brick Road that was!!!
Overall, words fail me in describing just how wonderful this festival was for all who made the journey to Mapleton, Illinois. The weather was great that day. There were no issues with parking whatsoever for the over 3000 visitors that showed up. There were plenty of Oz vendors with a wide selection of commercial and hand-made Oz-related goodies, great activities and shows, the Spirit of Oz Characters, and of course, two outstanding Oz Authors with a great selection of contemporary Oz stories which will please fans of Oz of all ages, young and old alike.
Of course, we highly recommend their latest book, Nomes of Oz, available in paperback at Amazon.com and through this blogsite, where you can get your copy personally autographed by the authors (that's us) themselves. Just leave a comment at the end of this posting and we'll be in touch with instructions on how to get your personalized copy of Nomes of oz... or any of our other fine books from the Land of Oz.
Special kudos and congratulations go out to the Hollis Park District, Jim Robertson and all the fabulous volunteers who put in soooo many hours of hard work to make this year's festival so memorable! You folks were the greatest!
We hope to be invited back next year as this festival continues to grow and excel~
Per ardua ad alta!!!
James & Amanda Wallace