The Dorothy Gales of Kansas

By J. Basil Dannebohm

Their magic must be very powerful or she wouldn’t want them so badly.” –Glinda the Good Witch

To wear the ruby slippers is a magical experience and a great honor. Just ask Dorothy Gale … or Dorothy Gale … or Dorothy Gale.

“Our Dorothys are teenage girls who go through very extensive training in the summer,” said JoAnne Mansell, Executive Director of Seward County Historical Museum, home of Dorothy’s House.

Each year 12 young ladies are selected to don the attire made famous by Dorothy Gale in the MGM movie “The Wizard of Oz” and serve as ambassadors of the museum, located in the Southwest Kansas town of Liberal.

Earning the slippers, however, does not come easily. To earn the Dorothy title a young lady must have the brain of the Scarecrow, the heart of the Tin Man and the courage of the Lion.

“They have to go through a little bit to even get interviewed,” said Mansell.

She continued. “They have to fill out an application, write an essay about why they want to be a Dorothy, make good grades, have a teacher recommendation, and then have to pass the interview.”

The process doesn’t end there. Once a candidate successfully completes the interview process, she must pass a test that requires a knowledge of the history of Kansas, Seward County, the city of Liberal and of course … The Wizard of Oz.

Should a young lady be accepted into the prestigious ranks she is paid a stipend to work at the museum as a docent. In addition to a collection of historic artifacts, the Seward County Historical Museum features an exhibit where the visitor can walk through a life sized replica of both Dorothy’s house and the Land of Oz. The grounds are adorned by a yellow brick road with many of the bricks donated by visitors including Ronald Reagan and Liza Minelli.

The role of Dorothy is far more than simply being a museum docent. Just as earning the slippers isn’t easy, neither is retaining the title.

“It’s a requirement that they give back to the community,” said Mansell.

While the ladies have service projects throughout the year, the holidays are particularly busy. During the Christmas season, the Dorothys find themselves preparing dinner and treats for local firefighters, doing projects for Big Brothers/Big Sisters, and visiting nursing homes to sing Christmas carols.

Just as Dorothy Gale once said, “There’s no place like home,” the Dorothys take deep pride in Liberal, Kansas.

“Our Dorothys really promote our community, not just the Wizard of Oz,” said Mansell.

The Dorothys have traveled far from Aunt Em and Uncle Henry’s farm, visiting several Kansas communities to promote their cause. They’ve even taken trips over the rainbow to places far more curious than Oz, namely Topeka, Kansas and Washington, DC.

While the trip down the yellow dashed road to Liberal (which sits near the Oklahoma border) may seem long and perhaps out of the way, you’ll be greeted with a hospitality that seems to say,  “We know you’ve traveled far – we’re glad you’re here.”

“The people in Liberal are so friendly! They act like they know you,” said Mansell.

The Dorothys and everyone else you meet in Liberal are wonderful examples that there truly is no place like Kansas.

Sometimes life is a little more wonderful when you journey off the yellow brick road and take a little time to smell the sunflowers. Just ask Dorothy Gale … or Dorothy Gale … or Dorothy Gale.