Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Indiana Oz Festival Recap

Jean Nelson, founder of the festival and Joshua Dudley

This past weekend I finally attended the 26th Annual Indiana Wizard of Oz Festival in Valparaiso, IN. I had a completely wonderful time.
Thursday we were met at the airport by Carla Sellers and her mother Sandi and two beautiful limousines. Riding in the limos with us was John Henson, who works with Broadway Bears and the Broadway Cares foundations, Jerry Marren the lollipop kid and his wife, Elizabeth and Roger and Charlene Baum.
Roger is the great grandson to L. Frank Baum and also an Oz author. We were all surprised to find out that we had purchased Cairn Terrier puppies from JackiesPups, which is a great distance for both of us to travel. It’s such a small world!
We attended the welcome dinner that night where my manager Tim and I saw some familiar faces from past festivals including, John Fricke and Donna Stewart-Hardway, which is always a pleasure. I was also very pleased to meet Brenda Maynard, the director of the event and the woman responsible for my attendance. Everyone we met, of course, was a pleasure.
Friday morning was probably the most pivotal moment in my entire weekend. Tim and I got to meet our ambassador for the weekend, Janet Korzow. Janet has fought off many challenges in her life and in the short time we spent together, I feel she gave me a new outlook on the world. I was truly blessed to have her this weekend. We also had her husband Nick as an ambassador, he was also a great companion and always ready to help. Tim found solace in Nick as another sports fan and they had many great conversations, while I would chat with Janet about Oz! Two amazing people who will forever be in our hearts.
Friday evening was the Gala and we enjoyed many beautiful moments including a performance by John Fricke. I sat at one of the head tables of the celebrities and was the first to be interviewed. I was terribly nervous as I knew very few people. Luckily John Fricke went easy on me and I was able to answer my question to the best of my knowledge and share a wonderful memory about myself and my grandmother, to whom my first book was dedicated. The night was beautiful and so was the event. Tim and I returned to the hotel, eager to rest and prepare for the next day.
Saturday morning opened a bit chilly and we shivered our way through the parade, twice. Seeing the smiles on all the kids faces made me think about when my parents would take me to parades and I jump into the street after candy. We then moved into the celebrity court, that I shared with the munchkins, John Fricke, John Henson and Michael Sieward, who displayed his beautiful Judy Garland dress collection. The event was a smash and I got to meet some great new fans of the book. Some had already read it and discussed their thoughts with me. It was truly one of the most awarding experiences I’ve had.
Sunday started with the breakfast with the munchkins and we were again interviewed. This time I was asked about the sequel, Lost In Oz Rise of the Dark Wizard, which I decided to be more discreet about and create a feeling of mystery (haha). People who saw the cover artwork for the second book were very impressed which made me feel great. I love writing but I also love creating my own artwork for my books. I’m working with a new illustrator for the second book and I can’t wait to reveal some of his work.
At the end of the festival, I almost shed a tear thinking of all the fun I had, but I was happy to return home. After all, “there’s no place like home.”

--Joshua Patrick Dudley, 2007

No comments: