Oz Festival Reaches End of Rainbow

Porter County in northwestern Indiana is losing its annual Wizard of Oz festival, which once drew as many as 75,000 visitors. The September event had a low turnout and organizers are $10,000 in debt. A big part of the problem is their diminishing main attraction, the surviving Munchkins from the 1939 film.

You think our fandom has graying problems? Only three Munchkins were still alive and well enough to attend this year’s Oz festival. As many as 15 actors who played Munchkins attended the festival during its peak years.

One year, it was cigar smoking Munchkin Lollipop Kid Jerry Maren who fed me the best line for my next day’s story. “Do you realize that the dog who played Toto made more money that any of us Munchkins did on the set? We Munchkins got paid $50 or less per week and that dog made $125,” Maren said.

The Porter County Museum in Valparaiso has expressed interest in preserving the collection on display at the organizers’ Wizard of Oz Museum, which now faces the prospect of being sold off to satisfy debts.

[Thanks to Andrew Porter for the story.]