Finding Oz in the USA

theparadigmshifter / theparadigmshifter

Photograph by Flickr user theparadigmshifter.

We know that the land of Oz resides in one's imagination (or dreams, in the movie version), but we also know that Dorothy grew up in Kansas. The Wizard of Oz wiki looks at Baum's clues as to the location of the farm. In The Road to Oz, the nearby town of Butterfield is mentioned, which is not in Kansas, but in Missouri near the Arkansas border, a couple of counties away from the southeastern corner of Kansas. Baum might have just liked the name. Other mentions of the farm's location include a reference to the Jones County fair, which does not exist in Kansas, and a couple of references to Topeka as the nearest city, but those were from later stories written by others.

Photograph by Flickr user J. Stephen Conn.

Not knowing the exact location of the farm in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz did not stop anyone from claiming it. Max Zimmerman, an insurance agent in Liberal, Kansas, came up with the idea of making his hometown the "official" hometown of Dorothy Gale and her aunt and uncle. Oliver Brown found an old house that looked an awful lot like the farmhouse in the 1939 movie, and the townspeople had it moved to the Coronado Museum grounds. In 1981, it became The Land of Oz, a 5,000 square foot exhibit on Dorothy and Oz.

Photograph by Flickr user J. Stephen Conn.

Tour guides dressed as Dorothy will take you through a tour of the house, then down the yellow brick road to a museum that holds artifacts and memorabilia from the 1939 film The Wizard of Oz. You'll hear the story of how the movie came to be, and an explanation of many of the film's special effects.

Photograph by Flickr user einmyria.

Wamego, Kansas, a town of 4200, also celebrates the girl who traveled to Oz. In 2004, the Oz Museum was founded in Wamego. Surrounding businesses took on an Oz theme, with names like the Oz Winery and Toto's Tacoz.

Wamego hosts the annual OZtoberFEST as well. This year, the festival runs from September 27th through the 29th. In previous years, the festival welcomed actors who played the Munchkins in the 1939 movie and the grandsons of L. Frank Baum.

Chittenango, New York, is where L. Frank Baum was born in 1856. To celebrate its famous son, the town installed a yellow brick sidewalk downtown in 1982. The bricks needed repainting so often that the sidewalk was replaced by concrete in 2007, but it is also colored yellow to mimic a yellow brick road. The town hosts the annual Oz-stravaganza!, a festival of all thing related to the Wizard of Oz, in early June. The Oz-Stravaganza! Committee runs a museum year-round (open Friday and Saturday only) called All Things Oz. Exhibits include items from the Baum family, props and memorabilia from the 1939 film, and a recently-acquired collection from Judy Garland (some of which is for sale). 

At one time, there was a theme park called Land of Oz in Beech Mountain, North Carolina. It was opened in 1970 by Jack Pentes and Grover Robbins with the help of actress Debbie Reynolds, who supplied Hollywood memorabilia and movie props for the park's museum. There were rides to simulate a house in a cyclone and a hot air balloon, among others, and a yellow brick road tied it all together. The park lasted ten years, closing in 1980. However, in 1990, a development company opened a resort area called Emerald Mountain around the old theme park, and built vacation houses that come with access to the park, which is now treated as a "garden."