Midwest Wizard of Oz Fest’s road leads to ... Tinley Park?
By Nick Swedberg Correspondent August 5, 2014 5:04PM
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 7, 2014 6:36AM
There’s no place like home, wherever that might be.
The organizer behind the Midwest Wizard of Oz Fest announced Tuesday that the event is likely moving to Tinley Park when it returns next month. But hurdles remain before the village will grant final approval.
Tinley Park officials gave a “verbal go-ahead” to the September event after discussions took place over the past two months about a potential move to the village, event organizer David De John said.
De John, who is seeking to resurrect the popular festival that shut down two years ago, said he pulled out of Orland Park over logistical concerns about the site.
“The festival is taking place,” De John said. “It is in Tinley Park.”
Tinley Park Mayor Ed Zabrocki said De John still needs to answer questions about security and liability, as well as show that he’s lined up enough sponsors and vendors.
“He’s well along the way to doing it and we look forward to having him,” Zabrocki said.
While a village board vote won’t be necessary, the final nod from village officials won’t be granted for the Wizard of Oz festival until the issues are solved.
Tinley Park Trustee Greg Hannon said that although the village has tentatively agreed to act as host, the offer’s only good if organizers can get details settled quickly, noting the festival is about six weeks away.
“If he (De John) can get all his ducks in a line,” then Tinley Park will allow the festival, Hannon said.
“He’s got a lot of things already done,” Hannon said, including lining up sponsors based on the village’s tentative OK.
The festival would use park district property and a small section of state-owned land next to the former Mental Health Center, Hannon said. Vendors would line up along Veterans Parkway south of the Metra station, and the train station lot would be used for festival parking, he said.
The Midwest Oz Fest was originally based in Chesteron, Indiana, and ran for 35 years before closing. DeJohn announced in May his plan to bring the festival back and move it to Orland Park.
A message posted to the festival’s website Thursday said they were moving from Orland Park to an undecided location, but referenced conversations with Tinley Park officials.
“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.”
De John said he decided to move from Orland Park after he became concerned about potential damage to fields at Centennial Park from the volume of people he expects to attend the event.
An announcement sent by festival organizers on Tuesday proclaimed that Tinley Park was the new home. A specific location wasn’t mentioned.
De John said he discussed several possible locations with village staff before setting on an area near the 80th Avenue Metra station.
Since receiving the unofficial go-ahead, De John already has received interest from about 40 people who want to volunteer at the festival.
“Within just a couple of days, it’s amazing to see people in the community just stepping up,” De John said.
Contributing: Mike Nolan