The Wicked Witch (Christy Collett) throws fireballs from Wamego’s Columbian Theatre Saturday during Oztoberfest. (Sage Williams/KMAN)

The magic of Oztoberfest returned to Downtown Wamego on Saturday.

After the cancellation of last year’s Oztoberfest, community members, and Wizard of Oz enthusiasts alike, gathered to enjoy the many Oz themed activities and entertainment that they had been missing. A costume contest, magic shows, car shows, children’s story time, special guests, and a variety of live entertainment, were just some of the events bringing Wamego to life on Saturday.

Clint Stueve, Executive Director at The Oz Museum and Columbian Theatre in Wamego, said that the year off allowed them to reevaluate and put a fresh spin on the event, even offering exciting new attractions at the Oz Museum.

      Clint Stueve – Pieces for The Museum

Stueve adds that it was exciting having so many people who are so enthusiastic about the world of Oz, together because it keeps the world connected.

Kara Holle, Wamego Chamber Events Coordinator, said that she loves to see people come out and support the event each year, and that Oztoberfest attracts a diverse range of people of all ages and walks of life. Holle said that the story of the Wizard of Oz, is such a unique experience that brings together so many people.

      Kara Holle – Overall Great Experience

Many volunteers worked hard to bring the Land of Oz to life, for not only the spirit of the story, but also the pride of Wamego.

Christy Collett, who played the Wicked Witch during the event, said that she loves not only to be able to represent Wamego, but also enthusiastically recounted her many appearances in the role over the years, seeing new and familiar faces, and touched on what makes the Wizard of Oz special to so many, even today.

      Christy Collett – Kid Again

In fact, Collett said that she has reprised her role as the Wicked Witch so many times that she is now a known face in the community, even when she’s out of costume.

      Christy Collett – Recognized

The event attracted, not only adults who fondly remembered the story, but also children who were getting to experience and interact with the Land of Oz for the first time.

Darci Hildebrand, Director at the Wamego Public Library, said that Oztoberfest is a chance to celebrate and immerse in the world of Oz, which helps keep the story alive over generations.

      Darci Hildebrand – Childhood Favorite

Hildebrand also noted that coming together this year felt very special for the many faithful participants of Oztoberfest, and shared optimism for the future, even post pandemic.

Along with the many Oz enthusiasts in attendance, the event hosted several special guests, who have immersed themselves in the world of Oz.

John Fricke, who is widely regarded as the world’s most prominent Oz and Judy Garland Historian, made several appearances throughout the day, eagerly engaging with the community. He said that he first fell in love with the film at age 5, when he experienced the movie on television for the first time. Since then, he has fully embraced the story into his life, going on to author several books, documentaries, and CDs, all expressing his infatuation with The Land of Oz.

      John Fricke – Nov 3rd 1956

Fricke recounted his life, growing up with The Wizard of Oz in his life and his heart, collecting books and memorabilia, enjoying the many expansions on the story since then, such as The Wiz, Wicked, and the many  other books and movies following.

Fricke emotionally expressed how important Garland and Frank Baum have been in the shaping of his life, and that the film appeals to those with a sense of imagination and an open mind. He noted how the story’s characters are relatable regardless of age.

Fricke remarked that he loves attending events, like Oztoberfest, to continue to share his love for The Wizard of Oz that is just as pure as when he first discovered the story.

      John Fricke – Somewhere Over the Rainbow

A photo gallery of Saturday’s event can be found below. All photos by Sage Williams/KMAN.

Click to view slideshow.

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