Come out, come out, wherever you are to the Judy Garland Festival in Grand Rapids, Minnesota! This June 10th through 12th the legendary songbird’s hometown welcomes all to join their celebration of Judy Garland’s life and films.
“The very first Judy Garland Festival was held in 1979 by Jackie Dingmann, a local artist and avid Judy fan who collected a lot of the star’s memorabilia,” said John Kelsch, curator and senior consultant for the Judy Garland Museum. “It marked the 40th anniversary of The Wizard of Oz, and it was attended by none other than Margaret Hamilton who played the Wicked Witch of the West.
“Since then several other major stars have visited to celebrate with us. In 1990 the festival made national news when we were joined by 13 of the original Munchkins. Many of them hadn’t seen each other since the filming of The Wizard of Oz, and the event helped to kick off a renaissance of sorts in their careers. Every other city wanted the Munchkins to visit after their appearance at the Judy Garland Festival!
“Sadly, those days are pretty much over. Most of the original cast is gone. But next year is a big one, because it’s Judy’s 100th birthday in 2022. That’s when we hope to host Renée Zellweger, who played our town hero in the 2019 biopic Judy. We don’t know if she’ll come yet, but we’re working hard on it!”
(At this point I assured John that Renée is certain to attend. I happen to know for a fact she is an avid Shop.Dine.Live. reader.)
“We’ll have to scale back the festivities a little this year in light of everything that’s going on, but we’re still going to throw a nice festival,” John continued. “We’ll kick off the day with a 5K run, play ‘Judy Jeopardy’ – always a crowd favorite – and maybe have high tea. We hope to screen The Wizard of Oz outdoors on the big lawn next to the museum. We’ll likely invite an author who has written about Judy to come speak.
“Everyone will be welcome to visit the museum as well. It is Judy Garland’s childhood home, faithfully restored according to eyewitnesses who visited during the 1920s. We have an enormous collection of original props from The Wizard of Oz, and the world’s largest collection of Judy’s personal belongings that people have donated to us over the past 30 years.
“Our biggest attraction is the Civil War era carriage which carried Dorothy and her friends into the Emerald City. We have one of Dorothy’s original blue dresses, as well as an elaborate Winkie Spear carried by one of the guards at the Witch’s castle.
“We have several movie quality reproductions of Dorothy’s ruby slippers. The original pair had been on display here until 2005, when they were very unfortunately stolen.”
In the highly unlikely event that your little kid isn’t interested in Judy Garland, they will still love the attached Children’s Discovery Museum. There they can enjoy the dino play area, Treesa the talking tree, the Lake Life indoor playground, the wildlife animal exhibit with more than 40 full body mounts on display, and much more.
Grand Rapids itself is a very nice place, filled with sparkling lakes for fishing, wooded trails for hiking, and delicious food for eating. Make the trip there and you’ll feel like you were magically transported from your dull Midwestern surroundings to a colorful paradise. I only wish I had some sort of fitting analogy to describe what it’s like to go to Grand Rapids.
The Judy Garland Museum is open 10am through 5pm seven days a week from Memorial Day weekend until the end of September. To learn more about it and this year’s festival, which is still tentative at the time of writing, please visit judygarlandmuseum.com. To see everything else to do during your visit, please visit visitgrandrapids.com.
By David Scheller