Liberal — Oz needed only one Dorothy to free the country from wicked witches; however, Liberal has 20 at its beck and call.
Nearly half of these Dorothys are new to the job. All are excited at the prospect of the difference their roles will make in the community and in their lives.
The Dorothy program includes both junior high and high school girls.
It began in 1981 when a select number of young women were chosen from the community to do little things: ribbon cuttings, personal appearances and working at the gift shop at the Land of Oz Museum.
The program grew to include more structure and training.
Today, the Dorothy program has gained national and international attention for the community.
“One of our Dorothys received recognition from (U.S. President Barack Obama) for her community service this year,” said historical society and Land of Oz executive director JoAnne Mansell. “We really feel that the Dorothy program is one of the best in the country.”
Potential Dorothys, though, have to be determined to get to the Land of Oz. The process requires many of the same things any other job would ask: paperwork, references and an interview. It doesn’t require the Judy Garland-look, and Dorothy can be any color.
“We have girls from every walk of life there is in this town,”
Mansell said, who loves the cultural diversity on the Dorothy roster.
“Being African-American and also a Dorothy will help me face racial adversity,” Kyana said, “and, hopefully, this experience will help me grow as a person.”
Kyana is not alone. Myrna has found that her Hispanic background opens up a whole new aspect of her job.
“Sometimes ... I have to translate (my tour) to Spanish. But I like to do it because I want everyone on my tour to understand what I’m saying,” she said.
Becoming a Dorothy
The Dorothys experience a two-week training period to learn their many responsibilities. They learn the history of Seward County, Liberal and the many ghost towns in the area in order to give tours through the Coronado Museum. This includes information about the Native American people who lived here before the pioneers and cattle ranchers arrived.
They memorize interesting facts about the movie “The Wizard of Oz.” The Dorothys need to know the Land of Oz well enough to talk as if they have been there, as if they are Dorothy Gale herself. They must be able to talk about Dorothy’s House as if it’s their own home.
Mansell has also incorporated training in comportment and etiquette into the Dorothy curriculum.
“Dorothys are expected to comport themselves in a lady-like manner at all times whether they are in uniform or not,” Mansell stated.
The training offers a well-rounded spectrum. One of the sessions includes a visit by a KBI officer, who covers safety issues for young women.
During the training, future Dorothys are called “ducklings.” The term was adopted after Mansell looked out her window and saw a Dorothy leading a trail of trainees along the Yellow Brick Road.
After the two weeks are up, the ducklings complete a 100-question test over all the material they must know to be an authentic Dorothy Gale. The girls must score higher than 90 percent to begin Dorothy-hood.
“The test isn’t multiple choice, either,” Mansell said. “They have to know the answers to become a Dorothy.”
Once a duckling passes, her work has only begun. Each girl must have her own community service project. In years past, Dorothys have adopted senior citizens, gone caroling at nursing homes, worked with Big Brothers Big Sisters and given gifts to children in foster care.
“These young ladies are special,” Mansell said. “And this year’s Dorothys are just exceptional.”
The diversity of the Dorothys lends a freshness to the museum. Even though the facts are the same, each Dorothy’s tour is unique. Each one adds a little of her own personality and perspective to her tour style and technique. No Dorothy wants her tour to be boring.
“I can’t wait to make my tours my own,” Josephine, a Dorothy in training, said.
The Dorothys form a tight-knit community, marked by a “once a Dorothy, always a Dorothy” attitude.
“A Dorothy represents the Wizard of Oz and girls, every girl, who wants to go somewhere over the rainbow,” Shelby said.