Now, I am as big of a fan of Wizard of Oz as any straight man is allowed to be. No matter how old I get, I can sit down and watch that movie all the way through and probably quote every line.
So, you can imagine how excited I was when I found out that there was a Wizard of Oz themed amusement park in North Carolina.
And then, you can probably imagine how disappointed I was when I found out it closed in 1980.
But then, you can imagine how excited I was when I found out that they actually open the park up for one weekend every year.
The Land of Oz existed from 1970-1980 and was insanely popular at the time of its opening. Sadly, the park had a very quick decline, possibly by due to the fact that it is located in the absolute middle of nowhere in the tiny mountain town of Beech Mountain, NC. The attraction is still technically there, but had been converted into a mountaintop sub-division. You can actually rent out Dorothy's house for the weekend. The property is still circled by the yellow brick road.
In 2008 we decided to check it out. After driving hours through narrow mountain passes we finally arrived to find about a million and a half people waiting to visit the Land of Oz.
You see, while building theme parks on top of mountains was all the rage back in the day, it presents some logistical problems. Like, how do you get all these people to the top?
After waiting for a good deal of time in line, our chariot arrived....
To bad they didn't have these scary Ski Lifts working.
At the top you are met by citizens of the Emerald City, who instruct you to get in line.
The Land of Oz is not exactly a traditional amusement park. The original park only included one ride: a sky lift style hot air balloon ride. Unfortunately, it is no longer in operation. Also, the show and shopping areas were destroyed in a fire. The original park can be seen in this map I purchased at the festival (which now hangs on my office wall).
The Land of Oz is essentially a long decorative pathway with a series of meet-and-greets with Oz's characters. The first being, the lovely Dorothy.
After meeting with Dorothy we head into her family farm, where costume characters such as this Miss Gulch pose for pictures........
There is a barn containing some surprisingly valuable artifacts of American Cinema.....
As well as some artifacts from the old park.....
You start your journey into the Land of Oz by entering Dorothy's house, seen here behind another Miss Gulch.
You walk into Dorothy's quaint little home, which appears to be your average ordinary farm house. Then you walk down to the storm cellar and into the "Tornado Room".
The room is full of black light murals, strobe lights and tornadic sound effects. Also, there is this horrifying effigy of Miss Gulch.
After emerging from the Tornado Room you find the same cottage you had walked through before, but it they are now in disarray from being in the Tornado.
Stepping out of Dorothy's house you are greeted by the iconic legs of the Wicked Witch of the East.....
This is accompanied by the Munchkin Coroner singing his famous song....