The Land of Oz

Back in the ’70s, there was a theme park on top of Beech Mt, NC based on the Wizard of Oz movie and Land of Oz books. We went there many times as kids. Unfortunately, they had a run of bad luck – the owners used the profits from the park to support other interests, leaving no money for upkeep, and there was a break-in, robbery, and fire that destroyed many of the props and costumes, and also kinda ripped the heart out of it. It closed in 1980.

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Anyway, after it closed, it became a target for college students, stealing yellow bricks and crap like that. And they sold off the area that was once Emerald City, to become a housing development.

So, maybe 20 years ago, a group of people got together to run a charitable event of a tour through the park, to remember its glory days. They did it one weekend a year. I went there with Bridgette once – I wish I could find that picture of us, with the movie munchkin that signed the wicked witch’s death certificate. If I run across it someday, I’ll post it.

The tour through the park was very popular. Over the years, it expanded, and basically turned into a real business. But it was always done in the fall, and became known as Autumn at Oz.

My sister LOVES The Wizard of Oz. She has made a Dorothy costume, which is ridiculous in its detail. And she LOVED the Land of Oz when we were kids. So I always hoped I could get her there during one of the tours, but since she was a teacher, fall was not really a good time for her to visit.

Anyway, since she quit teaching this spring, and we had a visit planned for September, I was thrilled when I saw the ads for the tours that included the time she was here. Definitely, we were going to Oz.

I was thrilled to see how much they had done to the park to restore its former glory. The first time I went, they had cleaned it up and had a few characters, but that was about it. And when you got to “Emerald City” there was just a gate and someone there telling you that was it, go home.

But now – they had some good actors and actresses. Everything was refurbished. And most exciting to me was that they had made a deal with the housing development, and had set up a temporary Emerald City there.

I always loved the house up at the theme park. I thought it was such a clever way to mimic the tornado. Anyway, there’s a barn and the house (in the old days the barn had a petting zoo in it) and you go in the house to start your way through the park. It looked very much like Dorothy’s house, boring and basic. Then Dorothy’s mother greets you, tells you a storm is coming, and shoos you into the basement – which has a big movie screen showing a tornado, while you walk down a series of ramps through the room. After you leave the basement, you go back out into the house – only now it’s tilted and screwy.

Upon leaving the house, everything is FAR more colorful, and you can see the house has landed on a witch. Glinda is out to greet everyone.

Met a few munchkins, the scarecrow, tin man, and lion. Each of the characters does a song and dance routine, just like the original theme park.

The best character, in my opinion, was the wicked witch. This lady was hilarious, funny, had witty comebacks to people talking to/about her, and had a great laugh.

And they have replaced all the stolen and damaged yellow bricks.

This was truly a THEME park, were you take a tour guided by Dorothy. At the end, she would disappear, and reappear on the balloon ride – the only ride in the whole park. And yet, even with only one ride it was very successful. Even Disney sent people to visit, to figure out why it was so popular. It’s sad the way things ended for it, but I’m thrilled that we were able to enjoy it again for a day.

The Emerald City had a final show, a couple of food trucks, and a souvenir shop, where I suspect my sister spent too much money. But who cares? It was a fun day with my family, and worth every penny.

Published by JoAnne

Homebody extraordinaire

2 thoughts on “The Land of Oz

  1. I never got to see the Oz theme park when it was running, but had heard about it from many people and knew some people that played some of the characters when they were younger. It was fun to get to see it, even as it is now, and the actors did a great job, especially the wicked witch! Everyone should go see it at least once and I hope that it continues to bring joy to all who get to experience it!!


  2. I never saw it in its heyday either but I remember going with JoAnne and a friend many years ago. I got the pleasure of meeting the munchkin that signs death certificates. He had grainy printed photos and if you bought one he would sign it. He told me a story about how one lady got cross because he put her name on the death certificate part of the photo. He also relayed that the little people were treated horribly and paid peanuts. That put a tarnish on this great movie for me but it is such an iconic cinematic piece, both my kids have seen it a few times. When Jo and I visited years ago it was a little sadly put together but if these photos are proof, there seems to be new life that has breathed in to the park so I’m happy to see that. Another fun event for Jo’s clan! Thanks for sharing!


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