Over 40 years ago the Land of Oz theme park on Beech Mountain, NC was a top destination spot for families in the Southeast. Now a devoted group of Wizard of Oz enthusiasts keep the legacy and magic of the Land of Oz open just a few times a year to an anxious public who try desperately online to get a ticket to somewhere over the rainbow.
Cindy Keller, Property Manager of Land of Oz
I use the word hokey but I’ve grown to appreciate the word hokey. People like simple things and family things.
Cindy Keller calls Kansas her home. Not the Kansas you and I know, but Dorothy Gale’s Kansas, from The Wizard of Oz.
Technically, Keller lives and works at the amusement park Land of Oz in Beech Mountain, NC. She started working at the park about 20 years ago to help with the development of the property, and now she is the self-proclaimed “Keeper of Oz.”
Keller will tell you things have changed since the park’s hey-day in the 1970s, when it was fully operational.
“It was a little mom and pop theme park that brought jobs and opportunity,” Keller said. But the park was shut down after the 1980 season due to poor attendance, high cost of upkeep and other issues early on in the park’s lifespan. That is until a reunion of the original cast members in 1994 led to the idea of re-opening the park once a year, with Keller at the helm of the comeback. As a result, today the park is open select times throughout the year, namely during their annual September event, Autumn at Oz.
The park is a popular destination in its new era, and what tickets are available, sell out fast. People from all over come to the Land of Oz to explore its attractions, and maybe see a character perform one of their favorite songs from the movie.
“The thing that probably stands out in more people’s minds than anything is the cyclone,” Keller said. “They remember going in and getting disoriented and tossed into an upside-down house.”
The park was created by the same family that ran Tweetsie Railroad, and the man at the forefront was Mr. Grover Robbins, who passed away six months prior to the park’s opening.
“The word I’ve heard him described as a number of times is ‘visionary,'” Keller said.
Visitors at the park will find a gate to OZ and different locations from the movie, including, of course, the yellow brick road.
“There are 44,000 yellow bricks, I am told,” Keller said. “They were made in Winston-Salem, and they were glazed or fired four or five times to give them the enamel. I mean when the sun hits those bricks, it’s quite impressive, you know.”
Keller’s view of the Land of Oz experience is that it’s a lot of fun for the whole family.
“I use the word hokey but I’ve grown to appreciate the word hokey. People like simple things and family things,” Keller said. “I would hope that at the end of the day that everyone has sung a happy song and leaves with a smile on their face.”
Visit Landofoz.com for more information.