In 1970, Grover Robbins a developer and creator of "Tweetsie" in Blowing Rock walked with Jack Pentes on top of Beech Mountain, NC to discuss potential plans for 16 acres. Pentes a well known designer from Charlotte immediately thought of only one plan for Robbins. He saw "The Land of Oz" as the only choice in using the land. Both men were very aware of not harming the mountain top and only one tree was cut down during the construction of the park. Daniel Boone IV was hired to create the iron works throughout the park as well as many local artisans to build Oz. "The Wizard of Oz" celebrity and star Ray Bolger who played the Scarecrow in the movie, used a special "Land of Oz" shovel to break ground for the park.
Opening of The Land of Oz
Actress and movie star, Debbie Reynolds cut the ribbons on opening day in 1970. Spencer Robbins states "my brother Grover died before the park opened." Jack Pentes said recently that "Grover Robbins did see the park completed before he passed away." Over 400,000 visitors showed up at the "Land of Oz" during the first year. According to Spencer Robbins on opening day "the traffic problem was horrific from Banner Elk all the way up the mountain to Beech." "It was far more than anyone had expected or planned for" states Robbins. Jack Pentes is the man that should receive credit for the creation of the "Land of Oz." If it was not for him, Oz would never have been built! He states "no where else could the Land of Oz have been built except for Beech Mountain." When the "Land of Oz" closed down, it affected Mr. Pentes probably more than anyone else.
The Land of Oz from 1970-1980
During the park's operation there were many problems that plaqued it. Carolina Carribean Corp. that owned the Land of Oz made poor decisions in management. In 1976, a fire destroyed The Emerald City and many of it's buildings. During the winter original costumes and props from the movie "The Wizard of Oz" were stored in a building in the Emerald City. Perhaps the most prized possession was one of Judy Garland's original blue gingham dresses from the movie. It was also destroyed in the fire. Cindy Keller, caretaker of Oz states "parts of Dorothy's dress were found burned laying in the nearby woods." During the 1970's inflation was out of control, there were major gas shortages and lines at the pumps which also contributed to the demise of the "Land of Oz." Carolina Carribean Corp. filed for bankruptcy and lost the park to a bank. It was decided that too much money would have to go back into restoring the "Land of Oz" so the park was closed in 1980.
The Land of Oz Today
Many people ask everyday "whatever happened to The Land of Oz," states Cindy Keller. Today the property around the park has been developed by Emerald Mountain Properties and it's a private gated community. Residents have access to the park and are seen regularly walking on the Yellow Brick Road. Cindy and Andy Keller have work hard to restore what is left of the "Land of Oz." Dorothy's house has been remodeled and is offered for rent. Guests can spend the night or week in her home and have private access to the house and park.
Autumn at Oz
Fans of the "Land of Oz" are able to attend the two day annual festival when the park is opened to guests again this year on October 2 and 3rd. In just a few weeks thousands will descend on the top of Beech Mountain for this event. Many will be coming back for a repeat visit of previous Autumns at Oz or to see the park since they visited it back during the 1970's. Adults that visted the park as children are now returning with their own children to share the magic of the "Land of Oz."
Dorothy will be in costume as well the scarecrow, tin man, cowardly lion and wicked witch to greet guests. Only 7,000 tickets will be available this year, which is a small quantity and they expect to sell out quickly. Guests will be able to go through Dorothy's farmhouse, the barn and travel down the Yellow Brick Road. There will be vendors selling original "Land of Oz" souvenirs, "Wizard of Oz" memorabilia and other arts and crafts. You can buy tickets online in advance this year or at the park. Tickets are sold at a discount if you purchase them in advance.
Even, I will be there this year selling a limited edtion photography book on the history of the "Land of Oz" park. The book called "Land of Oz" Over the Rainbow at Beech Mountain, North Carolina sold during the festival is a very special hand signed and numbered edition. If you want a copy of the book, I will be set up near Dorothy's house to welcome guests this year.
Fine Art Photography of The Land of Oz & ordering for 2010 Land of Oz 40th Anniversary book
Photographic prints of The Land of Oz and pre-orders for a copy of my new limited edition signed and numbered book: "Land of Oz" Over the Rainbow at Beech Mountain, North Carolina available by the photographer: http://gregoryhughleng.zenfolio.com/ or mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org?subject=Land%20of%20Oz%20Signed%20%26%20Numbered%2040th%20Anniversary%20Book
Contact Information on renting Dorothy's Farmhouse and Visiting The Land of Oz
More information on renting Dorothy's house and events at The Land of Oz are available through Cindy Keller: http://emeraldmtn.com/
Boone, North Carolina travel tips and things to do in the area