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Column: A Wizard of Oz lover has special spot at museum grand opening

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CAPE CANAVERAL, FLA – While as a guest author, I attended the grand opening of Oz collector and scholar Fred Trust’s The Wizard of Oz Museum in Cape Canaveral, Fla. on Friday, Feb. 11, and I imagined Dorothy’s house floating in a tornado near rockets at nearby NASA.

Little did I know I would be among the hundreds of visitors in an immersive, virtual experience within one of four rooms of the museum which started in Dorothy’s home in drab Kansas. Via a tornado, we were transported to and plummeted to scenic, colorful Oz. All these projected CGI scenes surrounded us on all four walls, giving a three-dimensional or virtual reality effect.

” A TWIST’A! A TWIST’A!” Dorothy’s house has taken off in the tornado in the immersive experience in The Wizard of Oz Museum in Cape Canaveral, Fla. Photo by Ron Baxley Jr.

Not only this, but we were soon sitting or standing among impressionistic, giant sunflowers projected on the walls from what appeared to be many LCD projectors. In fact, many sunflowers, because of a spell from the witch Mombi, appeared before some characters in one of original Oz author’s L. Frank Baum’s books to disorient the characters. Nevertheless, the sunflowers were not intended to be a true Oz scene in the museum. The sunflowers, in fact, as were the landscapes, were immersive versions of the paintings of Vincent Van Gogh.

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Once inside, the guests were able to not only participate in the immersive experiences, but they saw exhibits that ran the gamut or “Gump-it” (The Gump being a Baum character made of an elk-like head, couches, rope and palm fronds and brought to life with Powder of Life.) As they walked through, they saw puppets and snow-globes and books… oh my! (And so much more!) For those who wanted a lot of specific information about the items in the exhibits at the museum, QR codes were placed on or beside exhibit cases which could be scanned with smartphones for guests to hear the narration with nformation about each case’s contents.

I personally loved seeing first-edition L. Frank Baum covers and placards in the entranceway depicting them and many of the vintage and antique toys and collectibles within the museum. I also enjoyed seeing editions of Baum’s books – some of which were even in foreign languages. Seeing all those ran neck and neck with a Sawhorse race with the immersive experiences.

Various editions of L. Frank Baum’s “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz”, the first of Baum’s 14 Oz books, are on display in a case to the right of a case with Jim Shore Oz and various M.G.M. Oz collectibles. A plethora of Oz collectibles, toys, costumes, and books are on display in the museum. Photo by Ron Baxley Jr.

Dressed as my character O.Z. Diggs VII, I signed and sold nice stacks of that title, quite a few books in my O.Z. Diggs VII series, and many of my children’s picture books, “Goldey Goosey of Oz.” in the children’s room from 11-4 during the day. My Ziggy graphic novel is for ages 10 and up, and the picture-book is for ages 4 to 9, so both of those were great fits for the children’s room. (My satirical, Southern fantasy books with Oz content, “O.Z. Diggs Himself Out” and “O.Z. Doesn’t Diggs G.C.C. at Emerald City,” are intended for older young adults and adults as they have some mature content. All are from YBR Publishing.) The children’s room had a vintage Oz table for children to sit and play at (with chairs which emulated some of the original M.G.M. Oz cast) and various paintings, including a limited-edition print of the China Girl from Disney’s “Oz the Great and Powerful.” The room also had miniature paintings of Oz illustrations from Ruth Plumly Thompson’s Oz sequels on a Chinese screen. There were also various traditional Oz books there for the children to read on some other tables.

Special guest author Ron Baxley, Jr., dressed as his character O.Z. Diggs VII from the series of the same name is shown donating an original oil painting from Vincent Myrand and the original watercolor from the cover of his graphic novel “Ziggy Zig-zags the Light and Dark Fantastic”, Vol. 1 to Fred Trust, owner of The Wizard of Oz Museum in Cape Canaveral, Fla. Photo by Ron Baxley Jr.

While at the museum, I donated an oil painting by Maine-native artist Vincent Myrand of two stage actors in costume as the Scarecrow and Tin Woodman. They were in the original stage production by L. Frank Baum of his first book, “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.”

 I also donated the watercolor and inked cover I designed and Myrand drew and painted for my internationally-award winning fantasy, Corgi graphic novel (which partially takes place in Oz), “Ziggy Zig-zags the Light and Dark Fantastic,” Vol. 1. Myrand illustrated the graphic novel, and I did the story, design, and scripting for it. Volume 2 in the series is scheduled for publication in 2023, and Volume 3 is scheduled for 2024.

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I felt honored and humbled to be a special guest author at The Wizard of Oz Museum and truly blessed by God and thankful to Fred Trust to be among a crowd of over a hundred who were at the ribbon cutting around 10:30 a.m. The young mayor of Cape Canaveral, Wes Morrison, other officials, and a number of members of the Cocoa Beach Regional Chamber of Commerce, attended. The mayor gave a short speech in which touting the museum as an asset to the city.

Game store owner and Oz fan LaShel Norman, friend of author Ron Baxley, Jr., stands in front of a custom-painted Oz motorcycle from Daytona Beach, Fla. about 30 minutes before the Grand Opening of The Wizard of Oz Museum in Cape Canaveral, Fla. Friday, Feb. 11. Museum owner Fred Trust and Storyland Collectables online owner Karen Armstrong Owens can be seen among others in the background. Photo by Ron Baxley Jr.

Trust’s family was beside him and assisted in the cutting of the ribbon as well. A motorcycle painted with Oz scenes was brought to the ribbon cutting by a gentleman from Daytona, Florida for the event, and the many people in the crowd who were either dressed as Oz characters or in regular clothes were marveling at it. One might even say they were Professor Marvel-ing at it. Those dressed as Oz characters were allowed free admission for the day.

For more information on The Wizard of Oz Museum, see their Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/wizardofozmuseum or visit wizardofflorida.com.

For more information on my books which I took as a special guest to the museum, see my author page at: https://rbaxley37.wixsite.com/ronbaxleyjrofoz or my books for sale at: http://www.ybrpub.com/shop.

Ron Baxley is an author and correspondent for The Augusta Press.

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