To Follow The Yellow Brick Road, You'll Have To Go To North Carolina
STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:
In the 1970s, there was a world full of imagination and a bit of magic atop Beech Mountain, a small North Carolina town. For a decade, the Land of Oz park gave people a chance to experience Oz and skip down a winding, yellow brick road. In the latest installment of our series on trails, we look at the effort to preserve that old American pathway. Sarah Delia of our member station WFAE has the story.
SARAH DELIA, BYLINE: To get to the yellow brick road, you have to leave Kansas, and, luckily, Beech Mountain has just the place.
(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "THE WIZARD OF OZ")
UNIDENTIFIED ACTORS: (As Munchkins, singing) Follow the yellow brick road. Follow the yellow brick road - follow, follow, follow, follow...
DELIA: The Land of Oz is a vintage amusement park based partially on the 1939 film and L. Frank Baum's literary series. It was a complete experience, a path made of 44,000 yellow bricks traced the curves of the mountain, and they're still there, although some pieces are missing.
DEVEREUX AND GREER: (Singing) If ever a wonderful wiz there was, The Wizard of Oz is one because because because because because because - because of the wonderful things he does (whistling).
DELIA: Who better to experience this trail than with Donna Devereux, one of the park's first Dorothys, and Jana Greer, the park's current one? A fire destroyed part of the area in the '70s and poor business decisions forced it to close in 1980, but this yellow path still remains. The park is on private property and accessible by appointment only, except for an annual event called Autumn at Oz. So many people wanted to experience the magic next month, they capped the weekend event at 7,000 attendees.
CYNDY KELLER: All right. Come on in. I'll try to crank this back up here.
DELIA: As property manager, Cindy Keller does more than oversee the maintenance and organize private tours. She lives in Dorothy's barn. When the park is open, the barn serves as a museum. There's plenty of "Wizard Of Oz" memorabilia and tchotchkes, like a set of legs poking out from underneath her bed.
KELLER: These are wooden carved legs for the Witch of the East and those are her vintage red slippers.
DELIA: And part of the reason she lives there with her husband and two dogs is to protect the property. Since the 1990s, Cindy has worked for the out-of-state family that owns the land. But they still have to deal with the vandalism from afar. What's the most sought after item?
PAGE LEIDY: The yellow bricks are the go-to thing for sure.
DELIA: Page Leidy lives in New York. His grandfather purchased the property in the 1960s. He says thousands of yellow bricks have been replaced. The family has added a barbed wire fence and a security system and, still, people come.
Back on the yellow brick road, Jana Greer sports red sparkly sneakers and a ponytail. She often turns people away who wander up the mountain. And she says they aren't always happy about it it.
JANA GREER: It blows my mind that so many people just feel they can do what they want when they want.
DELIA: Donna Devereux, one of the original Dorothys, bends down and plucks weeds between the yellow bricks. Preserving the trail honors her past. In 1970, she was 18, away from home for the first time, just like a certain female protagonist.
DONNA DEVEREUX: If I ever go looking for my heart's desire again, I won't look any further than my own backyard because if it isn't there, then I never really lost it to begin with. And I must have said that thousands of times (laughter).
DELIA: She half smiles and looks down at the 45-year-old brick road. This path just doesn't hold the park's history - it has hers. And she doesn't want to see it slip away, brick by brick. For NPR News, I'm Sarah Delia in Beech Mountain, N.C. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.