As published on The Huffington Post
Tucked away atop Beech Mountain is an abandoned theme park that once a year comes alive with the scarecrow, the tin man, the lion and Dorothy.
The Land of Oz theme park opened in the 1970’s but in 1975 suffered a horrible fire that destroyed most of the park. It closed it’s green gates in 1980 but in the late 90’s it rose from the ashes and became what is now known as Autumn at Oz. Once a year, during the first weekend of October, you can join other Wizard of Oz fans and skip down the yellow brick road.
I couldn’t wait to get started on this journey with my daughter who just happened to be 18 at the time. The trick was going to be how to land 2 tickets. The website said Sold Out in big bold letters. Apparently this is a bigger deal than I thought as tickets went on sale August first and with in 2 weeks all 7,000 were sold. Undaunted, I called the office and hung up with 2 tickets waiting for me at Oz.
Auntie Em, replete with apron, greeted us at the door and ushered us into the basement, as there was a tornado coming. We found ourselves walking into a wind tunnel with the tornado scene from the movie playing on the walls. There was a small model of the farmhouse twirling from the ceiling and the music playing announced Miss Gulch riding her bicycle passed me. We walked around the corner of a tunnel and into the same farmhouse from whence we came only this was one was sideways, windows broken, objects on the floor and furniture broken. Apparently, the house had finally come to rest. But where were we?
We walked through the kitchen door with a quizzical look, as before us, singing his declaration, was the mayor of Oz. It appears by the stocking feet and red shoes sticking out from under the house, the wicked witch was dead. Very, very sincerely dead!
Stepping off of the porch onto a path and past the Welcome to Oz sign I could make out what could only be Glinda the good witch. She waved her wand to me and with those famous words she said, “Follow the yellow brick road.” I looked down and there it was before me. I gingerly put one red shoe (yes, I had on ruby red slippers) on it and then the other and for the next hour I had the most memorable time of all.
As my daughter and I rounded the bend, we walked right into a cornfield and there he was, the scarecrow. Pictures taken we kept walking and came upon the tin man, he even let my daughter oil his elbow. Ahead of us was a cave and out jumped the cowardly lion. More pictures. By now we were in Munchkin land where Glinda’s bubble was perched atop a rock and several munchkins were running about. We could see it ahead of us in the forest, the witch’s castle. All of a sudden I heard a scream and turned around in time to see the witch with her broom and one of her monkeys in tow, sweep by us. I thought we had made it out in time but as we ran around the corner her guards stopped me. Looking like they had stepped right off the movie set, they pointed their spears at my shoes, my daughter snapped a picture.
We passed through the poppy fields with no ill effects and on the road just steps in front of us was the entire cast, more pictures. We were almost there as we could see the emerald gates. We walked up and stood before a huge door with a sign that read, “Ring the bell.” My daughter walked up to it and rang the bell. Immediately the door flew open, “Who rang that bell? Can’t you read the sign, it says bell out of order,” and with that he flipped the sign over and slammed the door. I walked up and rang the bell again. The door flew open, “Can’t you read the sign?” I simply pointed to my feet where my ruby red slippers sparkled. “Well, well, now that’s a horse of a different color.” And we were in. I paused for a brief second, closed my eyes and clicked my heels 3 times. There really is no place like home.