Chesterton Tribune

There's no place like home: Oz Festival planning underway

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Guest Commentary

By Machelle Blount

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 positive.

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.


Posted 5/13/2009