Who goes to a Judy Garland festival? Naturally, “we get quite a few gay men,” John Kelsch explains, “and we get the families that are traveling, mostly from the Twin Cities area–but we get people flying in from Alaska to see the ruby slippers. Last year we had people from Belgium, and the fan club in England usually sends a delegation.” Kelsch is executive director of the Judy Garland Children’s Museum, located in the town where she was born, Grand Rapids, Minnesota. The restored Garland homestead, which added a memorial garden last year, lies two miles from the museum. “The garden was a $40,000 project,” Kelsch says. “It includes fifty Judy Garland roses. It’s an orange rose with a yellow tip.”
More than 3,000 fans made the trip last year. “They’re not all there at once, they kinda come in waves, don’tcha know,” Kelsch says in his “Fargo” accent. Most visitors tour the house and museum, which includes Garland memorabilia such as signed checks, a Dorothy dress, her Tony award and the carriage she rode through the Emerald City.
Kelsch promises a heady lineup June 25-27 for Garland and “Wizard of Oz” fans, including a parade—barring rain. June Allyson will greet fans at the Central Square Mall Cinemas before a screening of “Girl Crazy,” in which she costarred with Garland. Attendees also will have a chance to “Mingle With The Original Munchkins,” including the Coroner, played by Meinhardt Raabe, Sleepy Head Margaret Pellegrini and Lollipop Kid Jerry Maren. Author Aljean Harmetz will talk about her “The Making of the Wizard of Oz.” A gentleman named Toni Landini will again be on hand with a pair of his authentic ruby slippers. There will be time to shop and trade for a plethora of Oz collectibles.
But this, Kelsch emphatically insists, is a Judy Garland festival, not a “Wizard of Oz” get-together. Garland daughter and son Lorna and Joe Luft will be on hand. Lorna will greet fans and sign copies of her first-in-the-family book about “mama,” “Me and My Shadows: Living with the Legacy of Judy Garland.” “This will be Lorna’s fourth year,” Kelsch enthuses, “we just saw her in Minneapolis and she was signing her book and someone asked her, ‘What do you think of the museum in Grand Rapids?’ and she said, ‘it’s a wonderful concept and everything they’re doing up there is great.’”
Will Liza be there? “No,” says Kelsch, “that’s always the question, both locally and from visitors. She’s always been invited, but it’s been a matter of her busy schedule. I’ve been told that she doesn’t share about her mother with people in public.” No matter, there will be enough of Judy to go around for everyone else. (Richard Knight Jr.)
For directions and other info, call (800)664-JUDY or surf to judygarland.com.