2005: Follow the Yellow Brick Road...
In the summer of 2005, while planning for the 24th Annual Chesterton Wizard of Oz Festival, the event committee discovered the festival had grown so large that a second group of costumed characters had become necessary. The festival's entertainment chair immediately thought of the three-year reigning champion of the Scarecrow Look-A-Like Contest, Zoe Allen. She reached out and asked her to pull together a troupe of “Junior Costumed Characters” for the upcoming festival. If this new cast was a successful addition, they would become a regular fixture. Zoe immediately set to work. Thus, The Spirit of Oz was born. However, the group did not coin its name in its founding year; in fact, the name would not come about for a four more years.
Of course, the characters looked somewhat different in their first appearance. Zoe was given a matter of weeks to pull together a cast, costumes, props, and even a 30-minute musical revue! The original cast was comprised of Zoe as the Scarecrow, a high school drama classmate as Dorothy, two local theatre actors as the Tin Man and Lion, and Zoe's mother, Roxanne, stepping in as the Wicked Witch at the last minute. Originally, a Chesterton High School student was selected to play the role of Glinda but came down with the flu the night before the festival. A die-hard Oz fan was plucked right from the festival crowd to fill the role and, luckily, the costume was a perfect fit! Committee members' children were recruited to take turns as the Winged Monkeys.
Despite the expedited genesis, the group was well-received and by the end of the festival's first day, the committee had already asked the team, then dubbed "The Kokomo Kids," to return for the 25th Anniversary Festival. Zoe and her cast began planning immediately, but little could they have known that their journey down the Yellow Brick Road was only just beginning.