Follow the Yellow Brick No V
Originally offering the experience of everything from Kansas to tornado, meeting the characters on the yellow brick road to Oz and more, the park quickly grew to be nothing more than a tired amusement soon to be tossed aside and practically forgotten. Though much of the world has fallen to waste as we become more and more akin to a prodigal society, I believe that we can still find a kind of unique and surreal beauty in these parts of our world. What does it take? Does it take the eyes of an artist? A curious mind? I mean, when you get right down to it, it’s almost like some sort of dark dream world brought to life –only some minds can be aware of this surreal dream world while others continue to trash and discard the history. Being wasteful as a society will only continue to make society itself waste away and we will one day be left with nothing.
Grover Robbins had opened the park in 1970, and attracting over 20,000 visitors on opening day, the Land of Oz quickly became a number one stop for southeast tourist attractions during the course of its first year. The actual costumes used in the film, bought directly from MGM, were put on display within a small museum/shop on the property. Much interest was generated for the famed artifacts throughout the park. Sadly, Grover Robbins had passed away only 3 months before the park’s opening date and he was never able to see the joy this park brought to so many. I suppose he was not missing out on too much, as it would not be long before this would change greatly.
On December 28, 1975, Emerald City went ablaze, destroying the original dress worn by Dorothy in the film. Some believe this was the doing of angered park employees in an act of arson, due to the fact that they had been dismissed from their employment. The park remained fully operational until 1980 when the park was officially closed to the public, only to remain a quiet and empty place for years to come. On July 4, 1991, the park was re-opened for the day as part of Beech Mountain’s Independence Day celebration, but it was not until later years that more life would slowly be eased back into the park. Originally planned to be a year-round attraction, the park now lacks many attractions at all, including the original characters, like it had in its previous lively years. We did, however, end up meeting a couple very unique characters who joined us on our morning ventures.
In the late 1990s, former employees began to host the “Autumn at Oz” event as a sort of commemoration to its glory days – those days when life was lush and the air was fresh. The road was rich with a yellow glow, welcoming visitors to step deep into the enchanted forest. Later, this would become an annual event. In 2009, the festival had over 8,500 people attending. Though the annual even has grown in popularity, the park still sits mostly quiet and abandoned. The park is set to open this weekend, and has been completely sold out since earlier this year. It’s great to see this history staying alive in at least one way.