Well, it's been just over a week since Amanda and I returned from the Land of Oz; specifically the Wizard of Oz Days in Chesterton, Indiana. The glow of Oz is just now abating as we reflect on a fabulous weekend as Oz returns to it's familiar surroundings.
For those of you who were unaware, Chesterton used to play host to the second longest running Wizard of Oz Festival. That is, until the last festival in 2012. Since then, many of us have longed for its return... and thanks to the tireless efforts of jack Bishop, Oz has returned to Chesterton and by all accounts, it was long overdue and very well recieved.
In my previous post, I spoke of the Friday night event; The Emerald City Gala and how well it went. As Guest Auctioneer, I had a particularly good time, as did my wife Amanda, who had never seen me do my stuff before.
The following morning (Saturday), we arrived early and were soon set up to "flog our wares", to borrow a Harry Potter'ism.
We had a very nice location with excellent exposure and spent a good part of the day talking to Wizard of Oz fans and sharing our family-friendly vision of Oz.
Alongside us were numerous vendors;
And a variety of some of the most talented artists I've ever had the pleasure of knowing
This young man is Joe Shipbaugh and he does stunning artwork about the Land of Oz. He does some really impressive recreations of W.W. Denslow's illustrations from the 1900 Wizard of Oz book.
Rick Ewigleben is another stunning srtist who's artwork is highly valued for Wizard of Oz event posters. We still have a wonderful piece of artwork he did of Margarette Pelligrini, former Munchkin in the movie, that hangs in our front room. It was even signed by her and dedicated to Amanda's legendary potato soup.
Another amazing artist who was stationed right next to us was Tim Wolak, who has created hand-carved full-sized figures of numerous characters from the Wizard of Oz movie and tours with them, offering fans photo opportunities.
That is one stylin' jacket he's wearing!
Micheal Siewert was one of the featured guest, presenting a program on his friendship[ with Munchkin Margarette Pelligrini. Like most everyone I mention here, I met him at the 2010 Chesterton Wizard of Oz Festival and I have found him to be a wonderful person to be around. Always full of life and happy, he never fails to induce joy in everyone he meets.
Walter Kreuger, famed Oz collector (his collection is huuuuuuuuge!) was there as well, discussing his collection as part of the main program both Saturday and Sunday.
Victoria Calamito, Oz historian and amazing singer was all over the place, bringing smiles and a song to the festivities.
As part of the main program, Tom Hutchinson of Big Dog Ink made a Zoom appearance to talk about his graphic novels about Oz. His work is really good and he does very well bringing Oz to an entirely new audience.
Sitting alongside Victoria during this Zoom call was Ryan Jay, noted TV personality and Oz historian, who served as Master of Ceremonies and overall Host. He did a fabulous job... and Toto too!
The highlight of the entire weekend was the appearance of Emma Ridley, who played princess Ozma in the 1985 Disney film, Return to Oz. She was radiant, spell-binding and a true Disney Princess! She spoke of her experiences while filming the movie and the audiences were captivated.
Of the two days, Saturday saw slightly better attendance, despite the minor rain showers in the early afternoon. After the day's madness, Amanda and I found a bingo hall in the next town over; Hobart. I even hit $125, so it was a great day.
The next day, Sunday was a repeat of Saturday with a little less attendance, though that is very common at every Oz festival we attend. Nonetheless, sales did well and we enjoyed visiting with good friends.
We were even lucky enough to make some new friends. This young couple sat with us during the Emerald City Gala and had a booth across from us. They have developed and are marketing a new card gane called Home from Oz. I tried it and it was a fun, easy game that anyone can play. They were a very pleasant couple who gives me hope that the future may be in good hands.
Sadly, I almost never ventured outside as we were busy. Still though, I regret missing Stephen's Puppets marionette show about The Wizard of Oz. I first met Bob Wall's at Chesterton performing the show. He was the "puppet dude." He has since retired (well earned I might add) and I was hoping to see the new guy. I'm sorry I missed it. I heard good things about it from patrons.
Like any good Oz festival, it had to come to an end and did so with a rousing appearance by the Spirit of Oz Character Troupe. They always excel in bring the spirit of Oz to every event they perform at. This was no exception and they left the audience pleading for more.
Overall, Amanda and I felt this was a great return to Oz of the Chesterton Oz Festival, now known as the Wizard of Oz Days. Our sincere gratitude goes out to Jack Bishop and all his volunteers (especially Karen Owen Armstrong) for allowing us to be a part of the fun. We had a great time and look forward to next year, especially for me as Guest Auctioneer.
With the pandemic now in remission, it looks like Oz is busting out all over!
James & Amanda Wallace