Wizard of Oz Convention Held in New Jersey

Wizard of Oz fans reveled in the three day celebration this past weekend in New Jersey. The International Wizard of Oz Club acknowledged the 150th birthday of L. Frank Braum, author of “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz” and the rest of the Oz series, during the 39th annual Munchkin Convention.

Lawrenceville residents, Chris and Sharon Warkala, have been organizing the event for the last few years. Dozens of members of the International Wizard of Oz Club attended, along with other Oz fans. Performers were on hand, dressed as the main characters. Honorary citizens of Oz got the opportunity to meet Clarence Swensen, now 88, who played one of the Munchkin soldiers in the film classic.

Said Swensen, “It’s the public that makes the picture,” explaining how much he enjoys these appearances. Swensen lives in Austin, Texas with his wife, and makes 12 to 15 public appearances each year.

Other activities included Oz memorabilia. Fans were able to peruse the collection from the mythical land, which included old books and collectible items, as well as participate in an auction. Authors and illustrators were also present. Michael Patrick Hearn, author of “The Annotated Wizard of Oz,” commented on why the series has become everlasting. “There is this alternate world where everything seems to work out for the best, where good conquers evil.”

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