“The Oz Club’s mission is to educate as
well as to entertain,” said Kathleen Sorbello Di Scenna, L. Frank Baum
historian and founder of the Land of Oz Preservation Company. “Syracuse
was chosen for the convention not only because Baum was born in
Chittenango, but also because his family lived in Syracuse from 1862 to
1868. There is a lot of history about Baum in Syracuse and Mattydale
that people don’t know about.”
Participants will have the opportunity
to visit historic sites where Baum lived, worked and began to
accumulate the experiences that would allow him to write the Oz series.
“The scenery in Mattydale is where Baum got his inspiration for the
scenery and characters in Oz,” Di Scenna explained. Apparently, Baum
modeled the journey along the yellow brick road on the woods adjacent
to Roxboro Road Elementary School, 300 Bernard St., Mattydale.
Each year, the California-based Oz Club
chooses to honor one munchkin. This convention will feature Margaret
Pellegrini, best known for her role in MGM’s 1939 film version of The Wizard of Oz as the “flowerpot” and “sleepyhead” munchkin. Pellegrini has not attended an Oz event since 1998.
Of the 124 dwarfs employed for the 70-year-old movie, only six are still living. Mickey Carroll, who made his acting debut in The Wizard of Oz as a “town crier,” “fiddler” and “munchkin soldier” in Munchkinland, died two months ago at age 89.
When asked whether she thought the Oz
Club would stop holding events when the munchkin supply runs dry, Di
Scenna offered some positive views. “I don’t think the conventions will
end,” she said. “I think that instead of three-day events, we will have
one-day events. Even if there are no munchkins, we will find more
creative ways to honor Oz. It will be about how we want to keep these
events going. We will have to find more creative venues, whether that
means bringing in child munchkins and their descendants, or doing
Other celebrities with connections to
the movie will be present at the convention, such as Caren Marsh-Doll
(Judy Garland’s stand-in), Cowardly Lion Bert Lahr’s daughter and
granddaughter, and Robert Sabuda, who created a popup book based on the first Oz tome in 2000.
The Munchkin Convention will include
many other Oz-related events such as films, lectures by scholars, plays
and an auction of Oz collectibles. This event will also celebrate the
70th anniversary of the film and the 100th anniversary of The Road to Oz,
which is the fifth in the 14-book series. This year also marks the
200th anniversary of the town of Salina, which contains Mattydale.
“This year’s Munchkin Convention is about bringing these connections
together in Syracuse,” noted Di Scenna.
The Munchkin Convention will hold court
at the Hotel Syracuse, 500 S. Warren St., where the hotel’s Ballroom
will be transformed into the Royal Palace of Oz, while the Persian
Terrace will become Emerald City. Surrounding downtown buildings will
be lit in green to add to the weekend’s ambiance. The convention begins
Friday, July 31, from 4 to 7 p.m., and continues at the Landmark
Theatre, 362 S. Salina St., until 11 p.m. On Saturday, Aug. 1, the
event runs at the hotel from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., and on Sunday, Aug. 2,
festivities will move to Roselawn, where Baum began creating his vision
of the Land of Oz, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Roselawn is the current site
of Roxboro Road Elementary School.
While weekend admission to the event is
$109 for club members, $129 for nonmembers, each venue has separate
admission that ranges from $7 to $15. Registration forms may be found
at www.ozclub.org. Participants are encouraged to come dressed as their
favorite Oz character. For more information, call 278-7029.