The 28th Wizard of Oz Festival is being brought back to Chesterton this year
by the Duneland Business Initiative Group (DBIG) on September 18-20. If you
are a newspaper reader, you already know that. Being a paper reader you
might also know of the DBIG’s plea for area food vendors to jump on board to
feed the festival goers for this much loved event.
I am one individual on the committee that is planning the event, my name is
Machelle Blount. I have heard for nearly two years, being a member of DBIG,
how we need Oz or Diana of the Dunes back. The opportunity to host Oz again
was made available to us in November 2008. The task we took on has not been
entirely without hiccups, but for the most part has gone smoother than
expected. We have a great group of people working on the festival, the town
has been very helpful and comments from the community have been incredibly
Now the committee is tasked with finding quality booths (food, crafts,
artisan, and Oz commercial), partnering with sponsors, planning events,
getting parade participants, publicizing, lining up entertainment,
collaborating with Oz celebrities, marketing, volunteer search, talking with
area businesses, etc. etc. etc., “oh my”.
What I view as a big dip in the road is the less than robust sign-up by the
Duneland area foodies. Our hope was to give the opportunity to the area
organizations, non-profits, churches, clubs and restaurants to sell food at
the event and make a decent profit for their cause or business.
Recently, I sat at breakfast with some friends and they told me
past-festival stories of how their group had great fun selling pork
sandwiches, lemonade and caramel apples. Friendly competition would arise
with groups making carnie cries of “Get your pork sandwiches here”. The
stories went on about meeting the Friday of the event, squeezing lemons and
joking with each other. It is the camaraderie, the laughter, the fun in
competition that had their group coming back for more. I sat, smiled and
wished for that.
Then I heard the stories of why they stopped having fun and why they were
less than excited to participate in the festival. It seems as if the little
guy got squeezed out, there was duplication in food, big trailers became the
food procuring enticement, and so forth. “This is why we wanted Duneland
area only”, I responded, “we want to help these groups and we WILL watch out
for the little guy”.
It is a challenge to find an even balance. It is true trailers offer more
and of course we cannot rule them out completely. But is it also the
non-profits that people seek out. Fest-goers’ appetites are diverse and the
search is on for either the last of the season elephant ear or that
home-made pierogi or tamale. It is the mix that makes it and we need the
little guy or gal. So we are standing our ground, for the short while,
trying for a festival with Duneland flavor. On May 20, at 7 p.m., in
Westchester Public Library’s Bertha Wood Room in Chesterton we are asking
Duneland foodies or foodie want-to-be’s to join us in a question and answer
session. For more information please contact Machelle Blount, NW Indiana
Realty at 926-9900.