A sign greets visitors to the 2010 Chesterton (Ind.) Wizard of Oz Festival. Orland Park will host a reincarnation of the festival this year. | Supplied photo by Carla Sellers
Updated: June 6, 2014 6:16AM
Fans of Dorothy, Toto and the Lollipop Guild won’t need to be swept away by a tornado to visit the land of Oz later this year.
The inaugural Midwest Wizard of Oz Festival is coming in September to Orland Park’s Centennial Park.
The timeless tale of a girl and her dog lost in a strange world and searching for a way home has spawned books, movies and Broadway shows for more than 100 years. It remains an enduring classic.
“Everybody knows what ‘The Wizard of Oz’ movie is,” festival organizer Dave DeJohn said. “It seems to touch different people in different ways.”
Two years ago, the original Midwest Oz Fest based in Chesterton, Ind., shut down after a run lasting 35 years. DeJohn, who took his children several times to the old festival, wanted to see it revived.
“I thought that if I could keep this alive, it would start a whole another tradition,” DeJohn said.
During a drive through Indiana more than five years ago, DeJohn and his two girls stopped at a diner in Chesterton. It didn’t take long for him to notice the strange characters all around.
“As I was walking through the restaurant, I realized everyone was dressed up in ‘Wizard of Oz’ costumes,” he said.
DeJohn hopes that moving that magic to Orland Park will give Chicago-area residents another chance to fall in the love with the movie.
John Fricke, who will be a guest speaker and master of ceremonies for the festival, said “The Wizard of Oz” has roots in Chicago. The original 1900 book, written by L. Frank Baum, was illustrated and published in Chicago. Baum oversaw his book adapted into a musical that was performed in the city before hitting Broadway. Several silent movies based on his works were produced there, too.
Fricke, an Oz historian and two-time Emmy Award winner, believes that love of “The Wizard of Oz” will continue to entertain new generations to come.
“It’s very difficult to find anyone over the age of 3 who doesn’t know Dorothy,” Fricke said.
Orland Park’s festival will feature rides in a tethered hot air balloon, one of the largest carnivals in the Midwest, a Dorothy Gale-themed petting zoo, interactive displays and vendors.
Roger S. Baum, the great-grandson of L. Frank Baum, also will be a special guest. His bestselling 2013 book, “Legends of Oz: Dorothy’s Return,” will be released as a motion picture this month.
The Midwest Wizard of Oz Festival is scheduled to run Sept. 19 to 21. Centennial Park is at 10401 W. 153rd St. The festival will be held in the northwest part of the park and in the Metra station parking lot.
Entrance to the festival is free. For more information, visit www.midwestozfest.com.