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Opening Arguments

A little sadness

The Oz Fest is calling it quits. No, not that one. The other one, the one you never heard of:

CHESTERTON, Ind. - The organizers of an annual Wizard of Oz festival that attracted thousands of fans of the classic 1939 film to watch parades of costumed characters say this year's flood-plagued festival was their last.

Brenda Maynard, president of the Indiana Wizard of Oz Festival, announced the festival's cancellation Friday. She said the low turnout at September's festival due to heavy rains and flooding was just one factor in the decision to end the annual tradition after 27 years.

"When you add to that the tough economy everyone is up against right now, as well as the advancing age of our Munchkin guests, who are one of the primary reasons this festival is so beloved, we had to make a decision that it's time to retire the festival," Maynard said.

[. . .]

Paschen said the festival's annual operating budget had grown to as much as $100,000 during its peak years, when as many as 15 "little people" who played Munchkins in the original film would attend.

At this year's festival, there were only three Munchkins still alive and well enough to attend.

I never make it to the festival, though it started a couple of years before I moved from northwest Indiana. And all the times I vistited through the years -- it was like, you know, the festival will always be there, so I can attend next year, or the year after. But I waited too long, and now all the Munchkins are dying off creating just a small tragedy that gets little notice outside the small Midwestern community that had begun a tradition. Sure, people pay attention when the World War II veterans start dying, and those of us in the Baby Boom will make darn sure we do not pass quietly. But the Munchkins? Nobody cares.

My only hope now is that the folks putting together Harrison Square will put out the inivte, and the Yellow Brick Road Gift Shop and Cafe will relocate here. Come on down, Dorothy, you won't be in Kansas anymore!

Posted in: Hoosier lore