A once-abandoned amusement park based on the 1939 musical fantasy film ‘The Wizard of Oz' is set to re-open this summer to mark 80 years since the movie classic was released.
Land of Oz, in Beech Mountain, North Carolina, was opened by the Carolina Caribbean Corporation to huge fanfare in 1970, with actress Debbie Rynolds and her daughter Carrie Fisher cutting the ribbon.
Designed as a way of bringing guests to the ski resort outside of the winter season, the park became the top attraction in the Eastern United States in its first year with 400,000 visitors, including legendary boxer Muhammad Ali.
Guests to the park could experience their favorite moments from the Oscar-winning movie, such as going inside Dorthy's house, walking down the yellow brick road and visiting the wizard in Emerald City.
But Land of Oz was blighted by tragedy even before it opened. The park's development had been orchestrated by Grover Robbins, who had previously launched the successful Wild West theme park, Tweetsie Railroad, in North Carolina in 1957. He died of cancer in March 1970 just weeks before the park opened, and without his influence the park became a lesser concern to the Carolina Caribbean Corporation.
Five years after opening, the company filed for bankruptcy after a bad deal in the Caribbean. Later that same year, on December 28, 1975, the Emerald City Amphitheater and surrounding gift shops caught fire, leading to two buildings being destroyed, along with a number of costumes, equipment and props. At the same time, a number of valuable MGM movie items were stolen from the park's museum such as Judy Garland's Dorothy dress.
Land of Oz struggled to recover from the disasters and eventually closed in 1980. The park fell into disrepair, with much of the attraction either vandalized or stolen. Only the yellow brick road, a few munchkin houses and some of the witch's castle were preserved.
In the 90s the owners of the land began restoring the park, as well as hosting the annual ‘Autumn at Oz' event, first as a reunion of the original park employees before growing into an annual public event with thousands of people attending.
This summer, to mark the 80th anniversary of the movie's release, two special events are being held in the park.
The interactive ‘Journey with Dorothy' experience will allow visitors the chance to play a character from the movie and explore the park with Dorothy as a guide, according to the Land of Oz website.
Tickets are $27.50, with the experience taking place on June 6-7, 13-14, 20-21, 26-28 and July 5, 2019.
The "Autumn at Oz Festival" will also be taking place again in September, being held over the weekends of 6-8 and 13-15 with prices starting from $45. The festival is set to feature a petting zoo, pony rides and a finale show held in Emerald City.
Sadly, Land of Oz won't be accessible for all. The park notes on their website that “Unfortunately, Land of Oz is not wheelchair or stroller friendly due to uneven pathways, staircases, and steep ramps built within the natural terrain of Beech Mountain.”