Ionia Gets Ready for First ‘Wizard of Oz’ Festival

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IONIA, Mich. ( May 9, 2014) — It’s a film that has been passed through generations, and is a staple of American cinema history. Ionia’s Downtown Development Authority Director Linda Curtis said that next month’s Wizard of Oz Festival will be more than just about celebrating a film, but also taking the community back in time.

“It was released in 1939. It’s a great time to kind of bring back that family movie. It’s a great time to bring your family to a festival and event not only because of the history, but because of all of the family things that go into it,” said Curtis.

Curtis said that while growing up, her daughter fell in love with the movie and would take part in other events with Wizard of Oz fans.

“We took her to a number of festivals in Indiana. There are a number of festivals throughout the United States and this year is a big comeback for them because it is the 75th anniversary,” said Curtis.

While visiting other festivals, Curtis was able to meet actors from the original film.

“I’ve met several of the munchkins, wonderful, wonderful people. Unfortunately many have passed away. Jerry Marin is the only living munchkin at this time,” said Curtis.

The Ionia Theater, built in 1931 is host to the first annual Wizard of Oz Festival, adding a nostalgic touch on the film experience.

“It was a great time to be building theaters throughout the United States. This is the original. It’s the art deco style and as you saw when you came in, it’s very original, very preserved and we work daily to make sure that we keep it in this type of prestige condition,” said Curtis.

The best part is the price. Admission to the film is just 25 cents, the same price it was back in 1939 when the movie opened.

“People can remember the feeling of going to a theater for a lot of reasons. When they were a child, their first date, when they brought their children, so it’s going to be a lot of fun bringing all of that back to the forefront,” said Curtis.

Curtis said that the city’s goal with the festival is to bring a few new faces to downtown, hoping they fall in love with Ionia as well.

“We are reaching out everybody across Michigan and the Great Lakes to come and visit Ionia. Once they’ve been here, they’ll remember us and it will be a place that they want to come back to,” said Curtis.

The actual events take place on June 20th and June 21st in downtown Ionia.

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