Die-hard Wizard of Oz fans — and die-hard Westchester fans — might be able to tell you that it’s Peekskill that can lay claim to L. Frank Baum’s original “yellow brick road,” but the riverside Village of Hastings-on-Hudson has its own special relationship with the land of Oz.
Billie Burke, star of stage and screen and the actress to first bring the roll of Glinda the Good Witch to breathtaking color, lived in Hastings with her husband for many years at Burkeley Crest, an estate along Farragut Ave. that locals will now recognize as part of the Hastings High School sports fields. Quite reasonably, the town has never forgotten its local legend.
This month (and a little extra, in fact) the town will celebrate Burke, Baum, and all things colorized with a cooperative series put on by the Hastings-on-Hudson Village Arts Commission and the Hastings Historical Society called We’re Not in Kansas Anymore: Journeys to Places Real and Imagined. Commemorating the 80th anniversary of the film, the program will exhibit inspired works by local artists, dive into the life and career of Burke, introduce children to Berkeley Crest with hands-on activities, and ultimately bring the joy of the classic film to everyone with an outdoor screening of the 1939 classic.
All month long, guests can view a gallery of artistic works — oils, watercolors, photography, mosaic, fibers —from New York and New Jersey-based artists (of whom 10 are from Hastings), all answering the question, “Where does your art transport you?” This will be paired with a photo and written exhibit on Burke’s life and time spent in the village, all on display in the Village Hall Gallery on Maple Ave.
“We believe art is a bridge to help connect people with each other and to Hastings’ rich history,” says Chief Curator and Hastings Village Arts Commissioner Lisa Oswald. “We’re Not in Kansas Anymore honors our past and transports us to places real and imagined.”
An opening reception for the gallery will be held on Thursday, September 12 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. featuring live jazz. The exhibit will be viewable for free to the public Monday through Saturday from 9 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. through November 2.
On September 22, Hastings Historical Society President Natalie Barry will give a special lecture in Orr Room of the Hastings Library titled From Broadway to Broadway: The Magical Life of Billie Burke. The discussion will focus heavily on Burke’s career and time spent with her family here in Hastings and lasts from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. with a reception following.
The anniversary celebration culminates on October 5 with a double event. From 9 a.m. until noon at the Hastings Train Station, families can come help build and paint a papier-mâché elephant in honor of Burke’s menagerie at Burkeley Crest, namely her baby elephant Herman! The event is called “The Technicolor Pachyderm” and is hosted, aptly enough, in part by The Good Witch Coffee Bar.
That evening at 7:30 p.m., Fulton Park next to the Hastings Library will host an open-air screening of The Wizard of Oz. The outdoor movie is free and open to all, guests need only bring a blanket to enjoy the experience.
“I’m certain Billie Burke, a much-beloved former resident of Hastings, would be happy at how her iconic role in The Wizard of Oz is sparking the imagination of so many people,” says Hastings Historical Society President Natalie Barry. “We’re excited to participate in a program that combines creative artistry and village history in such a unique way.”