By Stephen E. Lipken
Pelham Reads OzFest Family Kickoff Extravaganza began in Pelham on Saturday, November 4 through literature, art and film at the Town of Pelham Public Library, Pelham Art Center and Picture House.
“Pelham Reads Oz is a Town event in which we have the community read a book. This time it is The Wizard of Oz and the entire week we will have events related to the Wizard of Oz, including movies at the Picture House and talks at the Library. This event was organized and donated by the Friends of the Library,” librarian Oz Coto-Chang, dressed as the Wizard stated (Oz is actually his first name).
Festivities began with a Scavenger Hunt across the Esplanade where students followed clues to seven stations, representing the colors of the rainbow, manned by the Scarecrow; Dorothy; Wicked Witch; Witch with Flying Monkeys; Munchkins and the Tin Man who challenged the children with games and quizzes. At each activity, participants received stickers to place on souvenir bookmarks.
The Scavenger Hunt led to the Library, with outdoor Oz-inspired Crafts and Activities. Inside, Pelham Middle School students, “Voices of Oz,” read passages from L. Frank Baum’s Wizard of Oz to children.
“Oz Meets Improv at the Picture House” saw Pelham Middle School and High School students improvising on outrageous topics suggested by the audience such as “How to Walk an Armadillo;” “How to Put Your Baby Brother to Bed;” “Bad Applicants Interviewing for a Job at Oompa-Loompa” and Body Building, “Sweaty Ankles,” accompanied by shouting and screaming reminiscent of hilarious Saturday Night Live skits.
Then writer, translator, book reviewer and Hunter College Professor of Literature Zoe Slutzky lectured on the “Real Oz Revealed.” Slutzky mentioned that author Henry Littlefield in his essay, “The Wizard of Oz: Parable on Populism” sees Oz as an allegory of Populists’ failed attempt to reform our country in 1896.
Slutzky averred that Littlefield suggested Baum depicting Dorothy as Miss Everyman, walking in silver slippers down a golden road (William Jennings Bryan advocated a bi-metallic gold/silver standard); Scarecrow, Kansas farmers unaware of their power; Tin Man the de-humanized laborer; Lion, Bryan and Wizard, Presidents from Ulysses S. Grant to William McKinley.
Baum himself maintained that his stories were written solely to please children.