Stars may head to Hollywood to make their careers, but their hometown fans don’t have to travel far for the festivals that celebrate them. Regional fests are taking place throughout the country this summer to honor showbiz legends Lucille Ball, Judy Garland and Dean Martin.
Since 1975, Grand Rapids, Minn., (pop. 11,000) has celebrated Garland, and the film that made her famous, with the Wizard of Oz festival. This year’s 39th annual fest includes her son, Joe Luft, as guest of honor, and features carriage rides on a yellow brick road with a horse of a different color and an outdoor screening of the film. The town has restored Garland’s childhood home and built a $3 million Judy Garland Museum next door. “Our community is very proud that their native daughter … starred in the world’s most beloved movie,” says John Kelsch, the museum’s executive director. Kelsch expects as many as 5,000 people to attend the fest.
In Jamestown, N.Y., (pop. 31,000) the Lucille Ball Comedy Festival includes 50 events over a five day span, with Jay Leno as the headliner. “This festival is a mix of contemporary comedy and nostalgia targeted to Lucy fans,” says Journey Gunderson, exec director of the Lucy Desi Museum & Center for Comedy. Last year, 13,000 people representing 37 states attended, with visitors from as far away as Australia and Japan. A vintage fashion show featuring Lucy and Desi’s clothing from the museum’s archives, emceed by costume designer Ret Turner, will make clothes-hounds redheaded with envy.
Also, taking place for its 5th year is the Michael Jackson “King of Pop” Tribute Festival of the Arts in his hometown Gary, Ind. (pop. 80,294). This year the fest’s theme is “Art for Life” and will showcase undiscovered talent in a celebration of the Jackson 5’s breakout success from their beginnings in Gary. The three-day festival will include a dance competition, exhibitions and live performances.
And Dino fans will unite in his hometown of Steubenville, Ohio, (pop. 18,000) for the 18th Dean Martin Festival, a music-centric event that contributes scholarships to local high school music students. There’s a karaoke contest, complete with Martin impersonators. Bottom’s up!