Land of Oz

autographed picture of Clarence Swenson
autographed picture of Clarence Swenson

Ozstravagaza returns to the village of Chittenango this weekend, June 5th-7th, 2015, with lots of special guests including Gregory Maguire, the author of Wicked and other books set in L. Frank Baum’s fictitious Oz.

Jerry Maren in the 2000 Ozstravaganza parade, Chittenango, NY
Jerry Maren in the 2000 Ozstravaganza parade, Chittenango, NY

For many years, I dressed as Dorothy and walked the parade with the 2nd graders from Lake Street Elementary school in Chittenango, New York.  I wore that costume throughout my thirties and wondered what I would have done as a 50-something had I not moved on to work at the middle school.  (A student suggested going as the witch, lol).

with Ruth Duccini and Karl Slover
with Ruth Duccini and Karl Slover

Our float was a collaboration between all 2nd grade teachers.  My colleague Sandy Kennedy (who retired) and I made art projects for students to carry in the parade, and music teacher Margaret Kelsey taught the students a song with a bit of choreography to clinch one of the many awards the Oz Foundation gave to parade entrants. This year is Lake Street’s last foray into Oz because the district is closing the school – restructuring the Bolivar Road elementary to accommodate students.  It’s really an end of an era because Mrs. Kelsey is retiring as well.  They plan to go out with a bang, so it will definitely be exciting to watch if not simultaneously bittersweet.

with Mr & Mrs Jerry Maren
with Mr & Mrs Jerry Maren

Although I have not participated in the parade in nine years, I am still a part of this wonderful community via my 8th graders , who created the illustrations for the coloring contest.  They will be honored at noon at the center stage on Sunday, June 7th.

with Mr & Mrs Clarence Swenson
with Mr & Mrs Clarence Swenson

The pictures accompanying this post are from 2000, specifically the night I kissed a munchkin on the lips.  He was Clarence Swenson (above) and it was the night of the munchkin dinner.  Clarence and his wife, Jerry Maren and his wife, Ruth Duccini, Karl Slover, and Margaret Pellegrini were all in attendance.  Sadly, many of them have passed away.

Margaret Pellegrini and her granddaughter
Margaret Pellegrini and her granddaughter

I was especially fond of Margaret, as she reminded me of my grandmother who, had she been in the right place at the right time, could have easily been swooped up into the Singer Midget troupe.  You see,  I come from a family of the short – my grandmother was only 4’4″ tall, two inches shorter than Margaret.

My grandmother with one of her award winning crochet bedspreads.
My grandmother with one of her award winning crochet bedspreads.
autographed picture of Margaret Pelligrini
autographed picture of Margaret Pelligrini

Margaret signed this 8″ x 10″ glossy that I keep in an over-sized Pottery Barn frame with a big mat border.  It says “to Karen the art teacher” and “Munchkin love”.  She would see me every year and say,  oh, you’re the art teacher!  I just loved her.

"to Karen the art teacher"
“to Karen the art teacher”

People come to Chittenango  from all over the world to attend this event.  It is the birthplace of the author of the Wizard of Oz books.  For more information, check out the Ozstravaganza website here –   http://www.oz-stravaganza.com/

3 thoughts on “Land of Oz”

    1. Thanks, Mark. I used to be pulled out of the parade to take pictures with babies and toddlers – parents would tell their kids I was the real Dorothy. I am probably in a bunch of photo albums like a Dorothy version of where’s Waldo.

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