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The Magic of Oz

It’s my hope that today’s children will read a handful of classic books, among them but not limited to: the Narnia stories, Little Women, lots of fairy tales, Peter Pan, Robin Hood, Alice in Wonderland, Winnie the Pooh and Paddington Bear – and of course, at least one of the tales of Oz, which began with “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.”

If you have lived in Central New York for more than a few minutes, you’ll know that this part of the country lays claim to the writer, Lyman Frank Baum, who was born in Chittenango and lived much of his life in Syracuse and Mattydale. As a result, the area also invests in celebrating the man, the books, the hit 1939 film, and the many characters we have grown to know and love.

This October, you can join the Lyman Frank Baum Foundation as it tours the Syracuse area by bus, stopping at many of the actual locations where the Baums lived, worked and entertained, many of them places scholars —and the foundation— believe gave Baum the inspiration for his books.

The two-day event, October 5th and 6th, encompass three main celebrations: the bus tour (CNY IS The Land of Oz) on Saturday; the balloon displays in Syracuse and Mattydale; and the Character Breakfast on Sunday.

Kathleen Sorbello Di Scenna, Executive Director of the Foundation, is clearly fascinated with connecting the “dots” of Oz —finding the ways in which Baum used the people and places of his own life to populate his books with brilliant scarecrows, brave lions, and a loving tin woodman— as well as munchkins, witches and the famous Wizard.

The event marks the 100th anniversary of Baum’s 13th and final Oz book, “The Magic of Oz,” the 100th anniversary of his death, and the 80th anniversary of the movie adaptation of the book (which happens to be a “ruby” anniversary!).

The bus tour will make 12 stops, and at each stop visitors will be treated to a character from the book (or movie). On their “Yellow Brick Road Portal Pass,” tourists will be encouraged to find the hidden object and get a stamp on their pass. Those who complete their challenge will be added to a drawing as their names are placed in Dorothy’s basket – and pulled out to win a prize.

In Clinton Square, you’ll find a hot air balloon – stationary and not inflated, as the Square can no longer accommodate the 7 story inflatable; but Di Scenna believes it was the 1871 hot air balloon landing in the Square, flown by Carlo C. Coe, that inspired Baum to have his Wizard land in Oz by means of a hot air balloon. It will also mark the first time since that a hot air balloon has been found in just about the same location! That same balloon will be inflated and glowing at the site of Baum’s childhood home, Rose Lawn, in Mattydale – now the Kreuger Funeral Home.

And finally, on Sunday, you can dress as your favorite Oz character —or accompany your own little munchkins— for a Character Breakfast at the Hotel Syracuse.

Along the way, you’ll learn more about the man and the magic of the story of Oz – and how Central New York, from his beloved childhood home to his job at a dry goods company as a young man to his marriage to Maud Gage daughter of Woman Suffragist Matilda Joslyn Gage. It is believed that Matilda, Baum’s mother-in-law, inspired Glinda in his books. Baum was also an actor, and his experience in the theater provided him more fodder for his stories.

And if you haven’t already done it – you still have time to read at least one of the Oz books before the event!

The Magic of Oz Event

CNY IS the Land of Oz ! Tour- October 5th, 10am to 1pm

Wizard of Oz: Welcome Back to Rose Lawn- October 5th 6pm to 9pm

Wizard of Oz Character Breakfast- October 6, at Marriott Syracuse Downtown, 10am to 1pm


Nancy Roberts
Writer, voice over artist, information achitect, very curious person.