Chesterton Tribune

Oz Festival: There really is No Place Like Home

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Oz farewell until next year: Oz celebrities say good-bye at the Sunday evening Farewell Party, held in Thomas Centennial Park. Waving farewell to the gathered crowd from the bandstand are, left to right, John Fricke, author; Myrna Swensen, wife of toy soldier; Jerry Maran, a Lollipop Kid and wife Elizabeth; Mary Ellen St. Aubin, wife of a Munchkin soldier and Caren Marsh-Doll, filming stand-in for Judy Garland. (More photos on Page Four.)                  (Tribune photo by Dana Gilbertson)



After a two year absence from Chesterton, the Oz Festival returned home to an appreciative crowd that cheered “There’s No Place Like Home” echoing with this year’s appropriate theme.

Visitors began shopping in town on Friday, bringing the normally empty Friday afternoon sidewalks alive with those happily stopping in the shops boasting Oz memorabilia and contests.

Friday night, at the Gala at Duneland Falls, the original Munchkins of the 1939 film classic, “The Wizard of Oz,” echoed each other expressing “There’s No Place Like Home,” during brief interviews conducted on stage by emcee John Fricke for everyone to hear.

On Saturday, the parade route was lined with visitor’s early, anxiously awaiting the Munchkins and other celebrities who would be featured in the popular event.

Nicky and Ralph Jackson, who moved here two years ago, said they’d been looking forward to the Oz Festival because they’d heard so much about it and it hadn’t been here since they moved in. Their children Rhys, a 7th grade student at Chesterton Middle School and Bryn, a 4th grader at Brummitt saved places along the sidewalk for their friends Bella Grisafi and Olivia Trinks, who joined them to watch bands, floats, celebrities, representatives of the U.S. Armed Services and local organizations march or ride down the streets. The kids enjoyed the candy tossed their direction by some of the people walking the route.

Holly Fucrell, a local Realtor and Duneland Chamber member said she was happy to see the parade back in town. “I saw my first Oz parade from Salon 218 when I was having my hair done for my wedding 12 years ago,” she said. “I had no idea at that time it was the Oz Festival time, but it is now special to me.”

“The town feels alive again,” she concluded.

At the end of the parade Rhys gave a thumbs-up and his sister and her friends agreed it was a good parade.

Ron Lonkar, his wife Darlene and friends Kingston and Donna Simms, all of Portage, staked their chairs early for the parade. “We’ve attended the parade and festival for years and love it!” Ron said.

“We went once while it was in Valpo, but didn’t care to return there because it wasn’t the same,” he continued. “This home town parade can’t be beat!” he said, adding, “We always come early and stay late.”

Parade Marshall Janet Davies got a warm reception and the Emerald City Express was fun to watch. Kids around said they’d like to have been on that train. The Special Olympics had a large group of enthusiastic marchers and gymnasts and all the Dorothys, Tin Men, Lions, Scarecrows and Witches, both Glindas and Wicked Witches were fun to watch.

Those who ventured to the festival on Broadway and Calumet were treated to Scarecrow, Tin Man and Lion scaling the building over Mainstreet.

Singing groups could be found throughout the festival, singing, playing guitars and generally having a good time. The bandstand was the center of activities in the park both Saturday and Sunday and there were endless food booths, many of which were those of local churches and organizations.

Although there weren’t as many craft booths as some might have liked, there were plenty to keep most people happy. The Oz memorabilia booths were kept very active.

“We’re back” was the reaction of Marilyn Zengler, owner of the former Yellow Brick Road Shop. Zengler said she hopes the festival will be back in all its glory next year.



Posted 9/21/2009