BEECH MOUNTAIN, N.C. — It’s time again for the legendary Land of Oz to come to life. People can follow the Yellow Brick Road, meet up with characters from the famous book and movie and generally remember the good ol’ days when the park was one of the top theme parks around.
That’s because the 18th annual Autumn at Oz takes place Oct. 1-2. It has grown from a reunion of former park employees to a chance for Oz fans to come together and celebrate the theme park.
People can tour Dorothy’s House, walk along the iconic Yellow Brick Road and visit with many of the characters, including Dorothy, Tin Man, Cowardly Lion, Scarecrow, Glinda the Good Witch, the Great & Powerful Wizard, Munchkin Mayor and many more — and yes, the Wicked Witch of the West with her Winkie guards and flying monkeys will be represented.
“We have more characters now than when the park was open,” event organizer Cindy Keller said. “Several theater groups assist us, some from as far away as New York City. They’re interested in helping us rekindle, rebuild and resurrect what we can of the Land of Oz.”
While the theme park closed in 1980 after a 10-year run, the Oz spirit has never waned. People remain curious about the mountaintop park and what remains of it from the 1970s.
Thousands of people visited the park, and it had a lasting impact on most people because of its unique nature and the beautiful setting at the top of the highest town in the Eastern United States.
That, coupled with the popularity of the movie “The Wizard of Oz” and the novel by L. Frank Baum, “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz,” has made the Autumn at Oz gathering a success.
There are three sessions each day — 10 a.m., noon and 2 p.m. — with tickets costing $16.50 in advance (ages 2-under free) and $20 at the event, if not sold out. Tickets are available online and sales will be limited.
A highlight this year will be a display of items from the original park that were recently reacquired. The items had been in storage in Boone for years.
“We’re going to showcase a few pieces from a big collection that has come back to us,” Keller said. “In the early 1980s, several park items were donated to Appalachian State University under the assumption the Land of Oz was gone for good.”
Keller said that, after all these years of organizing the event, “Hardly a day goes by that somebody doesn’t make some reference to a line in the movie. It is part of the American fabric. I’m amazed how integrated it is into our culture.”
For tickets or info, visit www.AutumnAtOz.com or call (800) 468-5506. The property is not wheelchair-accessible or accommodating to large strollers.