Landing spot for Midwest Wizard of Oz Fest up in the air
By Donna Vickroy email@example.com July 31, 2014 7:18PM
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: September 2, 2014 9:40AM
Not in Kansas anymore. And not in Orland Park either.
The Midwest Wizard of Oz Fest is caught in a whirlwind right now, and it may or may not land in Tinley Park.
Mayor Ed Zabrocki said he was approached at the village’s Caribbean Beach Block Party about hosting the event after a deal to revive the festival in Orland Park apparently went south.
“I can tell you that no final decision has been made,” Zabrocki said. “We are just negotiating with them right now.”
The original Midwest Oz Fest based in Chesterton, Indiana, shut down two years ago after a run lasting 35 years. In May, organizer Dave De John announced that he was planning to revive the popular festival in September in Orland Park.
But a message on the festival’s website Thursday, signed by De John, said that organizers had moved the festival location from Orland Park to an undecided location.
“I want to thank everyone at the Tinley Park Illinois Village Hall, the Park District, the Police Department, the Public Works Dept. and everyone from the Mayor (who took time out of his schedule to talk to me in person on a Sunday afternoon), to the Chamber of Commerce, to the individual residents who are stepping up and showing their support for the festival. I would also like to personally thank all of the Wizard of Oz fans who have been patiently waiting for the announcement.
“Putting on a festival of this magnitude (especially in the first year) is no small task and it involves almost every aspect of the village’s resources and approval. It is necessary for all of the I’s to be dotted and the T’s to be crossed, and to consider every possible scenario before it happens. We are coming down the home stretch and I am hoping to announce the exact location in the next week,” the statement said.
Zabrocki said he and other village officials talked with De John in an afternoon conference call following the block party encounter.
“All we talked about was conceptualization,” the Tinley Park mayor said. “Does it sound interesting? Yes. But there a lot of things to consider. Who’s paying for liability and police? We have not approved anything yet.”
The festival had been scheduled to open Sept. 19 at Centennial Park in Orland Park.
Orland Park Mayor Dan McLaughlin said village officials had been negotiating with De John for several months when concerns began to mount. Eventually, McLaughlin said, De John pulled the plug.
De John said he just wasn’t able to finalize things with Orland Park and so went in search of another village to host the fest. He said he needs to stick with his original dates because he has vendors and guest speakers already under contract. De John said negotiations are “about 99 percent of the way there.” He said he hopes to have an announcement about the location of the festival within the next week.
“I called about 47 villages around Chicago,” he said. “I can’t believe how many have festivals in September.”