Cowardly lions, "a ton of wicked witches" and the Munchkin coroner from "The Wizard of Oz" paraded through village streets Saturday to salute the native son who wrote the classic children's story.
Thousands of visitors jammed the rural village of Chittenango to view the 10th annual Oz Parade, a tribute to L. Frank Baum, the author of "The Wizard of Oz." The book was turned into a film in 1939 that has scared and delighted children ever since.For at least some onlookers, the parade showed there's no place like Baum's hometown on a Saturday in May.
"Ah, it's perfect. It's incredible," village Police Chief Richard Carbery said of the bright blue skies and warm temperatures. "There were a ton of wicked witches."
Carbery estimated the number of marchers and watchers at up to 10,000. Town officials organized the parade and festival in the memory of Baum, who was born May 15, 1856, and wrote 91 books, parade chairwoman Beverly Brickner said.
The hourlong procession kicked off in Triangle Park at 11 a.m., with floats representing scenes from the movie and local residents in costumes portraying its main characters, such as the Cowardly Lion and the Wicked Witch of the West. Also on parade were clowns, dogs, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, a motorcycle group and a marching band.
Among those waving to the crowd was parade guest of honor Meinhardt Raabe, 71, of Penney Farm, Fla., who played the Munchkin coroner in the film.
Raabe, dressed for the event in his coroner's black cape and hat, reminisced about making the film classic, which was his only movie.
"I've always been a little boy, but I was a youngster at that point," Raabe said, remembering "the thrill" of working alongside Judy Garland, who played the character Dorothy.
"All of the big stars at MGM came in to visit us," he said. "They brought their children in to see our little Munchkinland, and the children would ask for our autographs and we would get the parents' autographs."
"When she (Dorothy) came back to reality, she said, `There is no place like home,"' Rabbe recalled. "In other words, this is the big message for the children today, that regardless of what we dream about, or wish we were, there is no place like home."
Chittenango, which features yellow brick sidewalks and the Emerald City bowling center all year long, is about 15 miles east of Syracuse.