Wizard Of Oz Festival Brings Judy Garland Magic To Grand Rapids
The Land of Oz has been consistently brought to life thanks to the annual Wizard Of Oz festival in Grand Rapids. It serves as a way to not only recognize the iconic film, but to also commemorate its star: Grand Rapids girl Judy Garland.
“It’s funny because Judy Garland’s story is like Dorothy’s story. Dorothy, from the Midwest, swept up by the tornado this fantastic experience. Judy Garland, a little girl from Minnesota in the Midwest, swept up by, if you will, the tornado of her talent and carried into Broadway and the world’s stages,” says John Fricke, a Judy Garland historian.
“She lived here until she was 4, but she made her debut at 2 ½ and people have taken great pride in the fact that this little girl that was born here and had her first influences on her life in Grand Rapids went on to become world famous,” says Michelle Russell, who’s in charge of special projects at Judy Garland Museum.
The festival lasts four days and is always filled fun events from movie nights to exclusive memorabilia tours.
“We had a program on news clips from 1989 all the way up to 2003 showing the events that happened all over these years when we had 13 munchkins in Grand Rapids and we had 20,000 people show up for parades and events,” says Russell.
The Wizard of Oz festival has been going on for decades now, and fans come from all over the world to partake in it. You can stroll through Judy’s childhood home and learn some trivia, or you can even take your own walk on the yellow brick road.
This year, audiences were also treated to a special “living history” performance that brought to life Judy and her family’s last evening in Grand Rapids before moving to Hollywood.
“It’s years and years since “The Wizard Of Oz” came out, but people still treasure that film. They treasure her singing. They’ve been inspired by her – people whose hearts have been broken have been lifted up by the joy that she gave them,” says Russell.
The festival is always held in June to commemorate Judy’s birthday.