Journey back to the Land of Oz
North Carolina’s most infamous failed theme park, Land of Oz, is going to reopen for six days in June.
In a surprise move, the park's website says it is offering one-hour guided tours every Friday that month, as well as Saturday, June 30.
The tours are a variation of live action role playing, with guests invited to play key characters from the "Wizard of Oz," says the park.
"With Dorothy as your guide, you will skip down the yellow brick road through the magical Land of Oz," the park's website states. "You or other members in your group are randomly selected to play the characters of the Scarecrow, Tin Man, Lion, Witch and Glinda. This is a completely immersive interactive experience."
Multiple short scenes will be acted out at specified stops on the Yellow Brick Road, and participants will be provided with a character hat and script to participate, said park officials.
Land of Oz, located on private property in Beech Mountain, is internationally famous in part because of curiosity generated by an Internet fad called “urbex” for urban exploration.
Adventurers seek out spooky, deserted places and post eerie pictures of their expeditions on sites specializing in what is called “ruin porn.”
The fad has been troublesome for the Land of Oz, because more than a few visitors have stolen bricks from its signature Yellow Brick Road. (The third-of-a-mile road is paved with 44,000 bricks.)
One thing the park wants to make clear: It is not abandoned. It's just, sort of, in a hibernation state that has lasted more than 35 years.
The park officially opened in 1970, with the intention of becoming a re-incarnation of the Land of Oz featured in the classic film "The Wizard of Oz." On opening day, actress Debbie Reynolds cut the opening-day ribbon as daughter Carrie Fisher ("Star Wars") stood by her side.
The park would literally become an overnight success, with 400,000 visitors in its first season.
That success was short-lived, however. A combination of factors, including a national gas shortage, cut into attendance and reduced profits at a rapid pace in the mid '70s.
In December 1975, a fire was set to the Emerald City, destroying the amphitheater and its contents, as well as damaging the surrounding shops and restaurant.
The park closed in 1980s, and has been open only sporadically in the years since.
Tickets for the June tours go on sale April 20. Details are at www.landofoznc.com/journeywithdorothy. Tickets are $25 (+taxes and processing fees). Parking will be at Beech Mountain Resort.