Two Munchkins won’t attend annual ‘Wizard of Oz’ festival

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(AP) Two top Munchkins won’t be taking the Yellow Brick Road to Chesterton’s annual Oz Festival this month because of a contract dispute.

Jerry Maren, who played the Lollipop Kid in “The Wizard of Oz,” and Karl Slover, who played the First Trumpeter in the 1939 musical, have been regular attendees at past festivals in the town about 15 miles east of Gary.

But the two former Munchkins were “disinvited” this year following a flap over their agent’s request that organizers pay his travel expenses, said Karen Spallina, president of Lakeshore Festival and Events.

Two other former Munchkins – Margaret Pellegrini and Clarence Swensen – still are scheduled to attend the Sept. 17-19 festival.

In the past, organizers have dealt directly with the former Munchkins, Spallina said. But this year Maren and Slover referred her to their agent, Ralph Zellem.

Former Munchkins receive $750 for their weekend visit, plus paid airfare, hotel and meals, Spallina said.

However, Zellem wanted organizers to pay his expenses as Slover’s traveling companion and allow him to set up a booth to sell Munchkin merchandise, said Spallina, who refused both requests.

The festival traditionally has paid for Munchkins’ traveling companions, but has a policy against including promoters, she said.

“This is a festival for the Munchkins,” Spallina said. “We want to keep our focus on that.”