Somewhere over the rainbow in “Eastern America’s Highest Town,” a once-grand Wizard of Oz theme park is reopening its doors.
For a couple of short windows each year, the previously abandoned Land of Oz in Beech Mountain, North Carolina, opens its emerald-colored gate to visitors. Glimpses into this ’70s-era theme park used to be rare after it shuttered in 1980, but the family-owned site is now ramping up its event schedule, with plans in the works for a brand new event this October.
Die-hard fans won’t have to wait until fall, though. For a few days in June, the park will open for “Journey with Dorothy,” an interactive event that started five years ago. Tickets are almost sold out, but some are still available for June 1.
“[Journey with Dorothy] has grown drastically over the past couple of years because of the demand of people wanting to attend the event,” Sean Barrett, the artistic director and PR representative for the Land of Oz, tells Mental Floss. “For 2018, Journey with Dorothy will have a pop-up museum exhibit by the parking area at Beech Mountain Resort featuring many of the park’s original costumes and props on display as well as the addition of the Miss Gulch character in Kansas.”
Land of Oz was initially developed by the Carolina Caribbean Corporation (CCC), the same group that brought Tweetsie Railroad, a Wild West theme park, to North Carolina. Actresses Debbie Reynolds and Carrie Fisher both attended Land of Oz’s opening in 1970, and in its first season, the park saw 400,000 guests, including Muhammad Ali. Billed as the “anti-theme park,” Land of Oz had no roller coasters, but instead offered performances and attractions which aimed to give guests “an emotional experience.”
However, the park was mismanaged over the years and CCC eventually went bankrupt, according to the park’s history page. Things continued to take a turn for the worse when the park’s Emerald City caught fire in 1975, followed by the looting of several key pieces of movie memorabilia, including the original gingham dress worn by Judy Garland. Under new management, the park shut down in 1980.
Over a decade later, a group of former park employees decided to re-open Land of Oz for a reunion, which reignited interest in the property. That event morphed into “Autumn at Oz,” which has been held each year for one weekend in September ever since. Tickets for that event will go on sale this summer.
Park organizers are keeping mum about what the new October event will entail, stating only that more details will be released this summer.
The truly Oz-obsessed may want to extend their yellow brick road pilgrimage and head to Oz-Stravaganza in Chittenango, New York, which will be held June 1-3 this year. A museum called All Things Oz is located in the same town, and there’s another Oz Museum in Kansas—naturally.
BY EMILY PETSKO/Mentalfloss. Com