Eighteen years ago, Oz historian and author, John Fricke emerged onto the scene of the Chittenango Oz Celebration. At that time, the festival lasted for just one day. Today, Oz-Stravaganza! is a weekend long event that has a little something for everyone.
John Fricke was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. At the age of five, he watched MGM's "The Wizard of Oz" and fell in love with both Oz and Judy Garland. By the time he was eleven, Fricke was a member of the International Oz Committee and at twelve, he owned all thirty-nine Oz books (written by Chittenango's very own L. Frank Baum).
In 1974, Fricke graduated from Medill School of Journalism and moved to New York City. Since then, he has written four books, co-produced a special (for which he won an Emmy Award), received a Grammy Award nomination, and conducted countless interviews on Baum, Oz, and Judy Garland.
Fricke also serves as a consultant for The Land of Oz Preservation Company in Syracuse, N, which promotes L. Frank Baum and for The Judy Garland Heirs Trust, which is made up of Judy Garland's three children, who oversee anything having to do with their mother.
For 18 years John Fricke has come to Chittenango to play a major role in this exciting event. When asked why Chittenango is so unique when it comes to Oz celebrations, Fricke replied, "No other place can claim to be the birthplace of Oz. Chittenango's native son who permeated the world -- and that deserves support. There are a handful of people who dedicate their time to make this event happen. Not only is it good for the town, but it's good for the people." It's true; there really is "no place like home."
If there is one thing that Fricke wants the public to know about Oz, it's that everyone needs to "get out there, [pick up Baum's] books, and share them with their children. You can't go wrong cultivating the imagination and individuality of your child and Oz does that."