On Saturday, Jay, WCK, and I traveled to Wamego, Kansas for the town's annual "Oztoberfest". Wamego is a tiny little town about 90 minutes from Kansas City with an incredible Wizard of Oz museum. Every October, the town also throws a huge Oz-themed festival. Guests of honor included four of the surviving Munchkins, the great-grandson of L. Frank Baum, and a couple of world-renowned Judy Garland experts.
I'd never been to Wamego before, so I was very excited. The museum was amazing. I could have spent an entire day there, reading all of the nerdy descriptions on all of the artifacts and spending WCK's entire college fund in the gift shop. I got a couple of t-shirts, a new sign for my Oz-themed bathroom, and a Christmas ornament. The museum displays included life-sized re-creations of all of the characters and scenery. You actually get to walk through the Haunted Forest on the way to the witch's castle, and it truly feels like you're in the Haunted Forest. I do believe in spooks! I do believe in spooks!
We also visited the Oz Winery and bought a bottle of "O.E.O" wine (Get it? It has a picture of the witch's guards on the label) and some Oz Winery wine glasses, and we had dinner at "Toto's Tacoz". In between, we stood in line to get autographs from the Munchkins.
And we stood in line, and stood in line, and stood in line. We spent the entire afternoon standing in line, and the line never moved.
I missed out on all of the Judy Garland lectures because I was standing in line. At one point, I actually saw John Fricke pass by on the street. John Fricke, people!
Yeah, I know nobody knows who John Fricke is. Nobody but me would be impressed by being passed on the street by John Fricke, but he's probably the world's leading expert on Judy Garland, so he's kind of one of my personal heroes. I want to be John Fricke when I grow up, or, at the very least, John Fricke's assistant. Just let me open your mail, John Fricke! Let me get you some coffee! I really regret that I didn't snap a paparazzi-like photo of him.
Anyway. After about three hours of standing in line, when we were three people from the front of the line, the guy in charge came out and announced that the Munchkins were exhausted and had to stop signing autographs promptly at 5 p.m., and that we were not going to get in. This man was obviously hired to protect the Munchkins, and he was not messing around.
"I've already had one Munchkin go down today," he said. "I'm not going to let it happen again."
It's true. Four Muchkins walked into that autograph session, but only three walked out. I don't know what happened to the fourth. I hope she's OK.
He told the crowd that we were all welcome to come back the next day, and that he'd mark our bracelets so we'd get priority admission. Our little family was not able to come back the next day, so we didn't get our autographs. Disappointing, yes, but
a) I already have autographs from all of the Munchkins that were there, plus two others.
b) I really didn't want to be responsible for another Munchkin "going down." I understand the need to protect the Munchkins. They're the last surviving link to the greatest movie of all time, and they've got to be pushing 90 years old. If the Official Munchkin Wrangler says that signing one more autograph could potentially kill them, I take that warning very seriously.
c) How cool is it that we were told to "Go away, and come back tomorrow!" just like the guard at the Emerald City told Dorothy in the movie? How cool is that???
The Official Munchkin Wrangler told us that, as a consolation prize, the Munchkins would step out onto the balcony of the theater where they'd been signing autographs and wave at the crowd. They'd also walk past us on the red carpet on the way to their cars.
"I'll be sure to tell them to walk very slowly," said Munchkin Wrangler, and then he stopped to think about it. "Yeah, they all walk very slowly anyway. It'll be fine."
So we waited and waited some more, and finally the Munchkins -- along with L. Frank Baum's grandson -- appeared on the balcony. The crowd -- all of us who had been sticking it out the entire afternoon -- went wild. Even though we'd been through a lot over the course of the afternoon, I was amazed by how many people stuck around and by how sweet and respectful the crowd was toward the Munchkins, except for the one guy who yelled at Jerry Maren, "THROW THE LOLLIPOP!"
He didn't throw the lollipop, although that would have been pretty cool.
Then the Munchkins were down on the red carpet (walking slowly) and they got into their cars and were whisked away. Oztoberfest was over. I told Jay that I have a whole strategy for getting our autographs next year. Jay's loving response: "WE HAVE TO GO BACK NEXT YEAR??!?!?"
Yes, a good time was had by all.
Now, some photos:
The Munchkins rode to and from autograph sessions in these little cars:
If I owned a dog, I would totally do this:
Where was the lion? It was never explained:
The Witch entertained the crowd waiting for Munchkin autographs. She tormented this little boy for a good five minutes, and he remained completely oblivious:
Myrna Swenson, and L. Frank Baum's great-grandson and his wife:
Lollipop Guild representative Jerry Maren and his wife. Jerry is the one who handed Judy Garland the lollipop in the movie: