July 22, 2024
Marker for the first-ever premiere of "The Wizard of Oz," which took place in Oconomowoc on August 12, 1939.

Oconomowoc celebrates 80 years since “Wizard of Oz” premiere with a festival, yellow brick road, and public movie screening Thursday

Yellow Brick Road start for the Wizard of Oz 80th anniversary.
To “follow the Yellow Brick Road” in Oconomowoc, just start here. It’s right along Wisconsin Avenue, the historic U.S. 16 and Watertown Plank Road through downtown.

There’s no place like home, right? And there’s no place like Oconomowoc. This lovely city in Waukesha County’s Lake Country is where the legendary film “The Wizard of Oz” had one of its first premieres. It took place at the Strand Theater on August 12, 1939; a marker commemorates this downtown on the site where the theater stood until 1953, right along Wisconsin Avenue – the historic U.S. (now Wisconsin Highway) 16 through the city.

Wisconsin Avenue through downtown Oconomowoc, which was Highway 16 before the bypass was built. Signs still guide you through. This was once U.S. 16, which ran from Detroit to Yellowstone National Park. This is also the original route of Watertown Plank Road, completed in 1853.

But with the 80th anniversary of this premiere happening now, Oconomowoc is upping the ante by creating its own “Yellow Brick Road” for people to follow. Literally. The anniversary celebration includes a festival right now and an outdoor, public screening of the iconic film Thursday, August 15th. We’re all invited!

Moonlit Movies, which hosts outdoor public movies throughout the summer season, will turn downtown Oconomowoc into the “Land of Oz” as Wisconsin Avenue – the main drag – will close so you can line up your lawn chairs in front of a giant screen. The infamous characters will be out on the streets. Enjoy free activities, entertainment and vendor sales until the movie begins at dark.

Find out more from Downtown Oconomowoc, because there are more events to follow!

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