We’re Off to See the Wizard

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We stopped in Wamego Kansas at the Wizard of Oz Museum which opened in 2004 as a showcase for all things Oz. The brochure boasts a collection of 2000 items on display, commemorating all manner of Oz from books to film to the Broadway stage. Clearly with so much memorabilia on display I couldn’t possibly show it all, but I’ll cover some of the highlights and my favorites.

In the lobby of the museum you’re greeted by an 8 foot tall Tin Man. I’ve left the doorway in the photo just to demonstrate the enormous size of the statue. Such fun!

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As you walk through the museum many of the displays are grouped by character. As Oz characters go, I admit to being partial to Glinda, having played her in a sixth grade production of The Wizard of Oz.

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So, in honor of my sixth grade self, here is one of the Glinda displays:

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Despite my Glinda love, I’ll be honest, some of my favorite items were memorabilia for the Scarecrow. Here are just a few of the pieces that caught my eye.

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Of course, there were tributes to many of the other characters. Here are some other groups of memorabilia:

Dorothy

Of course, no Oz museum could be complete without lots of Dorothy items, as well as recognition for the incomparable Judy Garland. Here is just a small sampling.

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Tin Man & the Lion

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The Munchkins

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An Unexpected Tribute

This next display was certainly among the more unexpected bits of memorabilia in the museum. I certainly wasn’t expecting a 9/11 themed display when we walked in.

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According to the display, Oz collector Johnpaul Cafiero had visited the Warner Brothers store at the World Trade Center in New York often, as he had family in the area. He struck up a friendship with the store’s manager and during a visit at the end of August 2001 the manager asked if he wanted some Oz themed stuffed dolls that the store was not going to display (as the store was slated to close later that year). He did, and the manager agreed to ship them out to him within the next couple of weeks. 14 days later the unthinkable happened.

His thoughts after the tragedy of 9/11:

On September 12, I called the Warner Brothers Store in Times Square inquiring on the staff and manager of the WTC store. They all managed to get out before the towers collapsed. To tell you the truth, I did wonder about the plush dolls. Did they ever get shipped? Well, the answer came the next day on Thursday, September 13, 2001. I received a number of large boxes from the WTC Warner Brothers Store. It was a strange feeling. They had survived a terrible disaster. This box and the five plush character figures are a testimony to the enduring legacy of OZ and the American Spirit.

Beyond the Book

Beyond the original book and timeless film, the museum features other iterations of Oz. There were displays for musical adaptations Wicked (a personal favorite) and The Wiz; and TV mini-series Tin Man; a fantastic old Rolling Stone cover featuring the cast of Seinfeld; Wizard of Oz on Ice; and more. And on the day of our visit a display for “Oz the Great and Powerful” was in development to commemorate the most recent film starring James Franco and Michelle Williams.

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Overall it was a fun visit. A little on the cheesy side, but it was a cute stop and would thrill any Oz fan.

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From August 12 – October 15, 2014 my husband and I traveled the northern United States in my Honda Civic. Cross Country Civic was started (and will eventually be completed) to document our cross country adventure. All comments and questions welcome.

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“Is This Heaven?”

“It’s Iowa.”

In 1999, I went on a quest to watch a bunch of baseball movies I hadn’t yet seen. I watched Pride of the Yankees (“Phoebe, the guy WAS Lou Gehrig. Didn’t you kind of see it coming?”), Eight Men Out (a personal favorite), Bull Durham, and The Natural (having already seen other baseball gems, such as the hysterical Major League and the wonderful Sandlot, among others)

Eventually, I made it round to Field of Dreams. As movies go, it’s a bit of a slow one. Non-fans have been known to call it boring. Its most famous line is nearly always misquoted (the line is, “If you build it, HE will come,” not THEY). And the reality is, it’s not so much about baseball. But that’s actually what makes it so great. The story of family, redemption and forgiveness, of believing in the unbelievable and not giving up, is one that has touched many a movie goer for the last 25 years. With it being the 25th Anniversary of the film, I knew that little ballpark in the cornfield out in Dyersville, Iowa was a must stop for this road trip.

There are two ways into the Field of Dreams Movie Site. One way is pretty much right off the main road. The other, through a maze of unpaved dirt and gravel roads cutting between cornfields in the middle of nowhere. We were lucky enough to have taken the road through the corn, a far more magical journey in. We’d been in the Great Lakes area for 8 days, and then spent some time in the city. The scenery in Iowa was a welcome change. We found ourselves surprisingly drawn to it.

When we arrived at the farm we noticed one of the “Black Sox” sitting at a nearby picnic table, chatting with a few people. Moments later he would vanish. A bus was coming down the road, and soon enough he would emerge from the corn and greet them.

Before the site was inundated with tourists, I stepped behind home plate and took a picture of the famous field (though I couldn’t get a full shot)…

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…and then another from third base with the white house (different from the movie only in that it’s missing the porch swing) in the background.

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It turned out it wasn’t the bus he waiting for, so in the meantime he was available to chat and play. His name was Frank Dardis. Frank, a local guy, portrayed one of the ghost players in the original movie 25 years ago. He now greets tour buses and gives little talks. He signs autographs, and hands out old call sheets from the movie (with his name featured not quite as prominently as the likes of Kevin Costner and Ray Liotta). And he plays ball. Here’s Frank emerging from the corn.

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He was really sweet, and it was such a fun, unexpected touch to the visit. We played ball for a while. First Sriram pitched to me for a bit, and then later Frank did (I got one decent hit, and whiffed a bunch of others – need to keep my eye on the ball). We sat in the bleachers, the ones that are still carved with “Ray Loves Annie” and cheered on others as they played.

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We stayed for nearly an hour, reading up on the history of the movie, how the site was selected, how the corn almost didn’t grow, and how all these years later, the field still draws baseball-loving tourists from near and far. We also bought some memorabilia and learned that interestingly enough, the costs of upkeep come solely through concessions (admission is free). The studio has no part in keeping the site open; in fact, the farm has to pay royalties to the studio for the rights to the name/story.

But I’m glad that they have opted to keep things alive there in Dyersville as it’s a magical place. If you ever find yourself nearby, be sure to go explore a little bit of heaven.

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