Missouri News

'Wizard of Oz' festival celebrates long-loved characters, story

By Herald-Whig
Posted: Aug. 28, 2017 9:15 am

NEW LONDON, Mo. -- Dorothy, Toto and their friends traveled from Oz to New London this weekend for the town's first "Wizard of Oz" festival. The popular characters mingled with attendees, and various performances and activities based around the story were held.

"It's a great family activity. There is no generation that has not been touched by ‘The Wizard of Oz,'" said Zachary Ryan Allen, who has portrayed the Scarecrow with the touring company Spirit of Oz since 2005.

The festival was originally to be held in Clarksville, Mo., but due to various reasons, it was cancelled. Organizer Jackson Bishop moved to New London several months ago and decided to take the festival with him.

"The whole thing was my conception when I was in Clarksville," Bishop said previously. "It was my idea. It was my implementation. And I told them when I was leaving that I was going to do a ‘Wizard of Oz' festival in New London."

Many people from around the area attended the weekend event.

"Saturday we had a large crowd and today's a little light, but people are really enjoying it," Bishop said.

In addition to Dorothy, Glinda, the Scarecrow, Tin Man, Cowardly Lion and Wicked Witch of the West dressed up at the festival, several children donned the memorable costumes, too.

Bailey Meador, 5, wore her favorite black and lime green Wicked Witch of the West dress.

"We both love ‘Oz,' and they don't have anything Oz-oriented around here. So we decided this would be a good family event to go to," her mother Nikki Smith said. "We've gotten to meet all of the characters, which she loved."

Michelle Ritchie agreed. Her daughter Emerson, 4, "is obsessed with ‘The Wizard of Oz,'" so attending the festival was a must for the family.

"We had to bring her out," Ritchie said. "Her favorite character is Glinda, and she's been having so much fun."

Dogs also had fun dressing up during a canine costume contest. Two of the winners were Lola and Roxie, both Yorkshire terriers and dressed as Dorothy and Glinda.

"It's just a nice event to get out, enjoy and bring the dogs," their owner Trina Lamberson said. She received an old-fashioned children's "The Wizard of Oz" book and themed trading cards.

Other activities included a puppet show, musical performance by the characters and "Wizard of Oz" trivia game.

"A lot of people don't realize that there's quite a fandom to ‘The Wizard of Oz,'" Allen explained. "We've seen some Oz groupies (who attend multiple ‘Wizard of Oz' festivals across the U.S.) here, but most of the people in New London have never experienced such a festival, and it's great to see them enjoying it."

Allen also is an ordained minister, and Bishop plans to hold a contest this year where a lucky local couple get to be married by the Scarecrow and have on Oz-themed wedding at the 2018 festival.

"I see this event really growing in size next year," Allen said.

That's good news for Tri-State "The Wizard of Oz" fans.

"We've really enjoyed this festival, and it helps keep the movie alive," Smith said.

Things to Do

Sign up for Email Alerts