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Thousands celebrate 80th anniversary of Wizard of Oz premiere in Oconomowoc

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OCONOMOWOC, Wis. (CBS 58) -- Thousands were off to see the wizard in Oconomowoc Thursday night. The city is home of the Wizard of Oz world premiere, and they had a huge celebration for its 80th anniversary. 

Thousands of people watched the movie downtown on their lawn chairs and blankets Thursday night. Some claimed their spot as early as 11 a.m., all to watch the film in the same area where people first saw it in 1939.

The Oz Plaza was unveiled in the city's downtown area. People took pictures with the new Dorothy, Toto, Cowardly Lion, Tin Man, and Scarecrow statues. 

When it comes to Oconomowoc, there really is no place like home. Oconomowoc was the first city to officially show the Wizard of Oz in theaters back in 1939. 92-year-old Carol Stuebe saw the movie all those years ago. 

"It started black and white, and when they got to Oz it was color, we were very impressed," she said. 

Oconomowoc, Kenosha, and Cape Cod were the three test markets for the film. 

"They were trying to find an Americana kind of community to really share that and showcase, and really test market it before they did it at the Grauman theater in LA," said the city's Director of Economic Development, Bob Duffy.

MGM chose Oconomowoc to be the first to premiere it, but the Kenosha Historical Society says according to newspaper articles, it was shown in Kenosha first. 

"We can only assume that other movie houses took those reels, and MGM intended for it to be in Oconomowoc, and chose to have it have screenings outside of the timeframe that MGM authorized them to," Duffy said. 

The statues will remain a permanent attraction in Oconomowoc to honor the city's connection to the iconic film.

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