EagleHerald/Rick Gebhard
Garry Parrett uses his foot to press a button on his Wicked Witch of the West Halloween decoration May 16 at the Land of Oz Museum in Wausaukee. The witch talks and moves her head when activated.
EagleHerald/Rick Gebhard

Garry Parrett uses his foot to press a button on his Wicked Witch of the West Halloween decoration May 16 at the Land of Oz Museum in Wausaukee. The witch talks and moves her head when activated.

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WAUSAUKEE — Wausaukee has been home to a unique museum for the past 10 years. Visitors have come from all over the world to witness first-hand the vast collection of Wizard of Oz memorabilia displayed at the Land of Oz Museum and to learn about the history and stories behind it.

Owner Garry Parrett said his collection began with a single plate on Christmas of 1989. The plate was a collector’s item celebrating the 1939 Wizard of Oz film’s 50th anniversary. From there, Parrett continued to collect Wizard of Oz memorabilia until he had enough to open his own museum, which opened in 2009.

Parrett is a life-long Wizard of Oz fan. He first fell in love with the 1939 movie starring Judy Garland when he was a kid.

“I loved the movie and couldn’t wait for it to come on TV, every year,” Parrett said. He said he loves all things Wizard of Oz, but the classic film is still his favorite. “Judy Garland’s just perfect as Dorothy. No other actress even comes close to her performance.”

Parrett’s collection showcases merchandise and products from as many versions of the Wizard of Oz as possible, not just the 1939 movie.

Every inch of the Land of Oz is utilized to showcase Parrett’s vast collection of Oz memorabilia. The museum has several rooms, many of which are dedicated to a specific theme or type of merchandise. Among others, Parrett has a toy room, an education room and an “Oz and Ends” room. The Oz and Ends room has things that don’t quite fit in other parts of the museum, such as ice cream buckets with Wizard of Oz characters.

The Land of Oz Museum no longer has bathrooms, because even they have been converted into display rooms. The renovated bathrooms are now filled with Halloween and Christmas items. In the Christmas room, Parrett has a colorful display of Christmas trees, filled with Wizard of Oz ornaments.

“I have about 2,000 Christmas ornaments,” Parrett said. He has as many Christmas tree colors as possible to represent a rainbow, an important theme from the story.

Parrett is a retired teacher, and education is still important to him. Even now, he still works closely with the school and often allows teachers to take their students on field trips to the museum as part of their Wizard of Oz unit. Parrett said it was his time as a teacher that granted him the opportunity to read the books for the first time.

“I was able to read them when I was a teacher. I taught a section on Wizard of Oz,” Parrett explained. Now, Parrett collects the Wizard of Oz books with as much enthusiasm as he does everything else. He has 500 copies of the classic tales in English as well as international copies from several countries. 

“I’m asked why I have so many copies of the books, when the words are the same. This is true, some are abridged and some are the full story, but each version has different illustrations,” Parrett said. “They’re all unique.”

The oldest copies of Wizard of Oz books in Parrett’s collection are about 100 years old.

As a member of the International Wizard of Oz Club, Parrett said he has made connections with other fans over the years. He has visited Oz conventions, met with other collectors and has even met several of the munchkins from 1931 film.

“I’ve met 27 of the munchkins over the years,” Parrett said. “All of them are gone now.”

One actor, Meinhardt Raabe, who played the munchkin coroner in the movie, actually visited Parrett at his house, twice.

“I met him at a convention once, and he asked me where I was from. I said ‘oh, you don’t know where I’m from.’ He asked me again, so I told him, ‘well, I live in Wisconsin.’ He asked me where in Wisconsin, and again, I told him he wouldn’t know where it was. He insisted, so I told him that I live in Wausaukee. He told me he knew exactly where that is, Wausaukee is on the way he takes to Iron Mountain where he has family,” Parrett explained.

Raabe was originally from Wisconsin and he used to work as an Oscar Meyer salesperson, so Parrett also has a small section of his museum dedicated to Oscar Meyer memorabilia in Raabe’s honor. Parrett also has a replica of Raabe’s coroner costume in the museum. The costume was created by a designer named Shawn Ryan, who recreated the costume using the original measurements. Parrett won this piece in an auction: However, Parrett received this costume after Raabe’s death in 2010, and he regrets never having the opportunity to let Raabe try it on.

Parrett has several items from the 1931 film as well. Among his collection include a page from Jack Haley’s (the Tin Man’s) script and a piece of the Wicked Witch’s hat. He also has a replica of the ruby shoes, which were once held by Margaret Hamilton (the Wicked Witch of the West).

“I don’t have my picture of Margaret Hamilton holding them displayed yet,” Parrett said. “But I want to blow it up and display it behind the shoes so I can prove she touched them.”

The Land of Oz Museum also showcases other versions of Wizard of Oz and related media. Parrett’s collection includes everything from largely unknown 20th Century cartoons to more popular contemporary interpretations.

Several of the items in the museum are one-of-a-kind. On display are crocheted blankets, large paintings and replica costume items which cannot be found elsewhere. He even has a prototype board game from the United Kingdom, which was never commercially produced.

The Land of Oz Museum has a room full of toys, game and crafts. He said he believes he has every board game based on movies and cartoon from the 1960s but there are still a lot of Wizard of Oz themed toys he doesn’t have.

One contemporary interpretation of Wizard of Oz that Parrett enjoys is the 2003 Broadway musical Wicked, based on a book by the same name, written by Gregory Maguire.

“I’ve seen Wicked six times,” Parrett said. “Five times in Appleton and once in New York City.”

From his Wicked collection, Parrett has several items used in Broadway and tour productions of the show. He has shoes worn by Carol Kane, who played Madame Morrible on the first U.S. tour production, a piece of the Fiyero costume and a bottle of the green elixir. Fiyero’s costume and the elixir are from Broadway productions.

Everything in the Land of Oz Museum is part of Parrett’s own collection. Many of the items were purchased by Parrett while others were gifted or donated to the museum from friends, family and other collectors. Nothing in the museum is for sale.

The Land of Oz Museum is located at 319 1st St., Wausaukee. It is open by appointment and the only cost is a freewill donation. Anyone interested in visiting the Land of Oz Museum may call 715-927-0767. Parrett asks that anyone calling in regards to the museum first text or leave a voice mail with a message.