Once-Abandoned Wizard of Oz Theme Park to Re-Open Next Month

Courtesy of Land of Oz
Courtesy of Land of Oz

Somewhere over the rainbow in "Eastern America's Highest Town," a once-grand Wizard of Oz theme park is reopening its doors.

For a couple of short windows each year, the previously abandoned Land of Oz in Beech Mountain, North Carolina, opens its emerald-colored gate to visitors. Glimpses into this '70s-era theme park used to be rare after it shuttered in 1980, but the family-owned site is now ramping up its event schedule, with plans in the works for a brand new event this October.

Die-hard fans won't have to wait until fall, though. For a few days in June, the park will open for "Journey with Dorothy," an interactive event that started five years ago. Tickets are almost sold out, but some are still available for June 1.

"[Journey with Dorothy] has grown drastically over the past couple of years because of the demand of people wanting to attend the event," Sean Barrett, the artistic director and PR representative for the Land of Oz, tells Mental Floss. "For 2018, Journey with Dorothy will have a pop-up museum exhibit by the parking area at Beech Mountain Resort featuring many of the park's original costumes and props on display as well as the addition of the Miss Gulch character in Kansas."

Land of Oz was initially developed by the Carolina Caribbean Corporation (CCC), the same group that brought Tweetsie Railroad, a Wild West theme park, to North Carolina. Actresses Debbie Reynolds and Carrie Fisher both attended Land of Oz's opening in 1970, and in its first season, the park saw 400,000 guests, including Muhammad Ali. Billed as the "anti-theme park," Land of Oz had no roller coasters, but instead offered performances and attractions which aimed to give guests "an emotional experience."

Dorothy and other characters ride in a fake hot air balloon
Characters at Land of Oz in the '70s
Courtesy of Land of Oz

Dorothy and characters in costume at Land of Oz in 1970
Courtesy of Land of Oz

However, the park was mismanaged over the years and CCC eventually went bankrupt, according to the park's history page. Things continued to take a turn for the worse when the park's Emerald City caught fire in 1975, followed by the looting of several key pieces of movie memorabilia, including the original gingham dress worn by Judy Garland. Under new management, the park shut down in 1980.

Over a decade later, a group of former park employees decided to re-open Land of Oz for a reunion, which reignited interest in the property. That event morphed into "Autumn at Oz," which has been held each year for one weekend in September ever since. Tickets for that event will go on sale this summer.

Park organizers are keeping mum about what the new October event will entail, stating only that more details will be released this summer.

The truly Oz-obsessed may want to extend their yellow brick road pilgrimage and head to Oz-Stravaganza in Chittenango, New York, which will be held June 1-3 this year. A museum called All Things Oz is located in the same town, and there's another Oz Museum in Kansas—naturally.

Vlasic Is Working on Pickle Chips Made Entirely of Pickles

iStock.com/bigacis
iStock.com/bigacis

It's easy to find pre-sliced pickle chips in a jar, but if you prefer to eat your snacks out of a bag, your pickle options are limited. Both Doritos and Lays potato chips have released products where pickles are used as flavoring and not the main ingredient. Now, the experts at Vlasic are developing bags of chips that don't just taste like pickles, but are made from real pickle slices, USA Today reports.

Vlasic's parent company Conagra Brands confirmed during a recent investor event that crunchy, snackable chips made entirely of pickles are in the works. Instead of struggling to open a jar every time you crave pickles, you'll be able to eat these chips straight from a bag. They will be vacuum-fried, making them dry and crispy like potato chips.

Vlasic hasn't revealed when the pickle chips will be released, or where they will be available to buy. But according to USA Today, Conagra co-chief operating officer Tom McGough did reveal that they "taste absolutely fantastic."

Can't wait to for Vlasic's pickle chips to arrive in your local grocery store? Here are some products that taste and smell like pickles to try in the meantime.

[h/t USA Today]

The Helvetica Font Has Been Revamped for the First Time in Decades

Monotype
Monotype

The Helvetica font family is everywhere. It’s used on everything from subway signage to federal tax forms to advertisements for a diverse group of companies, including Harley-Davidson, Oral-B, and Target. Job seekers are also likely familiar with its clean, sans-serif characters, which make it one of the best fonts for a resume.

“If it's me, [I’m using] Helvetica,” Matt Luckhurst, a graphic designer, told Bloomberg in 2015. “Helvetica is beautiful. There is only one Helvetica.”

Until now. As Wired reports, the typeface has just been revamped for the first time in decades by Monotype, which boasts the world’s largest type library and owns the rights to Helvetica. The new and improved version, called Helvetica Now, aims to better serve modern users while also working out the kinks associated with the old design.

The new Helvetica font
Monotype

While Helvetica is still ubiquitous, several major companies—including Google, Apple, IBM, and Netflix—have dropped the typeface for branding purposes in recent years. Issues related to kerning, punctuation sizes, and scrunched characters are all common gripes with the old version.

By contrast, Helvetica Now comes in three versions to suit different needs. There’s a Micro version for small screens, a Display version for larger type sizes, and a Text version that makes use of white space to offset visually “demanding” designs. Companies will need to buy the license to the new Helvetica, but the font’s creators are hopeful that everyone will be making the switch in due time.

“Helvetica Now is the tummy-tuck, facelift, and lip filler we’ve been wanting, but were too afraid to ask for,” graphic designer Abbott Miller, a partner at design consultancy Pentagram, said in a statement. “It offers beautifully drawn alternates to some of Helvetica’s most awkward moments, giving it a surprisingly, thrillingly contemporary character.”

The original Helvetica was invented in 1957 by two Swiss designers who dubbed their typeface Neue Haas Grotesk. It wasn’t until 1961 that the typeface was renamed Helvetica, and the font’s last major facelift came in 1982 with the release of the desktop-friendly Neue Helvetica.

Of course, that was pre-internet, and Monotype’s director, Charles Nix, says everyone's font needs have changed a great deal in the intervening decades. “Neue Helvetica was the first digitization of Helvetica,” Nix said. “That was a long time ago, and so much has happened in our world since then.”

[h/t Wired]

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