Via Get Rural Kansas

Via Get Rural Kansas

By Alex Dalenberg

March 13, 2013

Dad’s post on Oz the Great and Powerful brought back memories of a long-ago family road trip that brought us over the rainbow to Liberal, Kansas.

What’s that? You’ve only heard of arch-conservative Kansas? Well, I haven’t looked at the precinct data, but being that it’s in the far southwest corner of the state, almost bordering Oklahoma, the rural town of Liberal is likely that in name only.

Politics aside, tiny Liberal has attempted to carve out an identity over the years as a kind of Wizard of Oz tourist destination. In 1981, it claimed the mantle of Dorothy’s hometown and was officially recognized as such by none other than the governor of Kansas. If nothing else, it’s a decent pit stop if you’re driving across the interminable Kansas prairie. In the sense that anything is a decent pit stop if you’re driving across the interminable Kansas prairie.

See the attached screen cap from Google Maps, taken from an area just north of Liberal. You get the idea.

Near Liberal, Kansas. Via Google Maps

Near Liberal, Kansas. Via Google Maps

We went through Liberal either on a trip to New Mexico. Dad and I both remember the Yellow Brick Road being overgrown; the Scarecrow, Tin-man and Cowardly Lion being off exhibit due to repairs, leaving three metal skeletons in their place; and the only actual relic from the movie being the miniature house shown spinning around in the tornado that whisks Dorothy to Oz.

Given the shape it was in during our visit, probably 10 years ago, Dad kind of doubted that the museum is still there. And he hasn’t seen a roadside billboard for it in years. But an official website is still live and I also tracked it down on Google Street view.

The address: 1-599 Yellow Brick Road, Liberal, KS.

Via Google Maps

Via Google Maps

Looks fun, huh? The shed holds a walk-through Oz landscape which I recall as being more than vaguely creepy.

Via the Website:

The Land of OZ consist of 5,000 square feet of animated entertainment – good and bad witches, the Munchkins, talking trees, winged monkeys, and of course, Dorothy, the Scarecrow, Tin Man, the Cowardly Lion, and Toto, too

Dorothy’s house, on the other hand, is a legitimate 1907 farmhouse, which is quite comforting after a hellish voyage through Oz. Maybe this intentional, not every Kansan is happy with the state’s longtime association with the movie. At least according to the Kansas Historical Society, Kansans have long bristled at the film’s depiction of the state as flat and drab. 

The sad thing is, Dorothy’s House is not even Liberal’s best tourist attraction. That would be Pancake Day, in which women, ages 25 to 52, race through the frozen streets clutching pancake skillets.

A little more about Liberal, according to the town’s official website:

Residents of Liberal enjoy an unhurried life-style with a cosmopolitan flavor. Golf, swimming, soccer, tennis, polo, fishing, and some of the best pheasant hunting in the country are just a few of the recreational opportunites available.

And this gem.

Everyone enjoys watching the Liberal BeeJays, our local semipro baseball team play opponents from across the nation.

Liberal BeeJays! I guess there really is no place like home!