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Lollipop Kids Reunite For 'Oz' Fest

Kathleen Sorbello DiScenna poses inside a replica of Dorothy's house from "The Wizard of Oz" while setting up an exhibit at the New York State Fairgrounds in Syracuse, N.Y., Thursday, May 18, 2006 in honor of the 150th birthday of native son and Wizard of Oz creator L. Frank Baum. (AP Photo/Kevin Rivoli)
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This weekend's Wizard of Oz festival got under way Friday at the state fairgrounds in Syracuse with some attendees dressed as favorite characters from the famous film and with seven of the original Munchkins who signed autographs and posed with fans for photographs.

Among them are 90-year-old Meinhardt Raabe, who played the coroner in the 1939 movie and came from Florida to attend "Oz-Mania." He tells the Syracuse Post-Standard, "Living in a retirement home can be very boring. Coming up here, spending time with friends and making new ones is a lot better than sitting at home, rotting."

Says Margaret Pellegrini, who was 15 when she played both a "flower pot girl" and a "Sleepy Head" in the movie, "It was the first time I'd met so many little people. ... What a great experience and to think I'm here today to tell about it."

Highlights of the celebration include appearances by eight of the original Munchkins from the 1939 movie "The Wizard of Oz" and presentations about

Baum and his work by the author's great-grandson and great-granddaughter.
There also will be lectures by Oz researchers and historians; costumed characters reading excerpts from nine of Baum's 14 Oz books; screenings of three of Baum's silent Oz movies; and performances from Oz stage, screen and television productions.

Baum was born May 15, 1856, in Chittenango, in neighboring Madison County. When he was 6, his family moved to Syracuse.
Baum moved from the Syracuse area in 1888 at age 32. His first Oz book, "The Wonderful Wizard of Oz," was published in 1900. He died in 1919.