Ruby slippers

This is the pair of ruby slippers that were worn in the Wizard of Oz that were stolen in 2005. File / News Tribune

This year, 50 years after her passing, from June 20 – June 22, 2019, The Judy Garland Museum will celebrate Garland, the iconic star the world came to know and love best as Dorothy in “The Wizard of Oz” with a three-day filled festival of events.

Fifty years ago, on June 22, 1969, Judy Garland passed away in London at the age of 47. She began her life here in Grand Rapids as Frances Ethel Gumm, born June 10, 1922 at the Itasca Hospital in Grand Rapids. She made her debut at the age of two and a half in her father’s theatre, The New Grand on Pokegama Avenue. This building, now the home of Computer Enterprises, stands next door to the old Rialto Theatre – soon to become the Pokegama Brew House.

Although the family left when the singer was four years old, by then she was a seasoned performer having sung with her sisters, then known as The Gumm Sisters, on many stages throughout the area. The family moved to Hollywood, sending Judy Garland on to fame, but she and her mother returned to Grand Rapids for a visit in 1938, shortly before the making of her most loved film, “The Wizard of Oz.” Much later, Judy returned to town anonymously to show her son, Joe Luft, the place which, as she put it, she’d had “the only normal, carefree time in my life.”

On Thursday, June 20, from 3-4 p.m., the festival will open with a showing of Judy Garland’s December 1962 appearance on The Jack Paar Show. “With a Laugh and a Smile and a Song” will be hosted with comments by John Fricke. This event is free with museum admission or membership. Then, from 7-8:30 p.m. will be “Judy in Jazz” with Josh Gallagher at the Piano. Gallagher, a native of Eau Claire, will present an exciting program of better and lesser known Garland songs. Tickets are $10.

On Friday, June 21, there will be a full day of events at the Judy Garland Museum. From 10:30 a.m. - noon, “Judy Jeopardy” will be played with loads of fun in the Art Room. Tickets are $5. From 1-2:45 p.m., “Judy in the Movies” - John Fricke presents film clips and anecdotes in a program he created for the 2014 Turner Classic Movie Festival in Los Angeles. It’s a motion picture history of Judy from childhood to maturity, and glimpses of her work with everyone from Fanny Brice to Mickey Rooney, Fred Astaire and Maximilian Schell. Tickets are $10.

From 3:30-4:45 p.m., Fricke will host a much more personal program on Judy Garland titled, “Powerful, Sincere, Fragile, Triumphant, Joyous, Iconic, Legendary.” In this program, Fricke will present backstage and behind the scenes memories of Judy from fans, friends and strangers she met across the years. Plus, there will be thoughts and remembrances of people during the last five decades since her passing. Tickets are $10.

Friday night concludes the celebration with a grand event at The Reif Center: “From Gershwin to Garland in Concert with Richard Glazier and Joan Ellison.” This program puts the spotlight on two of the greatest figures in American Popular Song: George Gershwin and Judy Garland. It’s a multimedia event which includes the songs of Gershwin and his contemporaries, stories and rare film footage, including Gershwin home movies. Glazier has performed around the world and received awards for his three nationally broadcast PBS specials. Ellison has performed her one-woman Judy Garland show throughout the U.S. in theaters and with symphony orchestras. This is a concert you won’t want to miss. A reception at the Reif follows. The show starts at 7 p.m. Tickets are $20 and must be purchased at the Reif Center.

Saturday, June 22 will be a fun-filled day of interesting programs. At 10:30 a.m., the Judy Garland Museum will host the final John Fricke talk with Judy in Concert, with a video compilation with Judy as Judy – the best of the best. Tickets are $10.

Because “The Gumm Family’s Grand Rapids Bus Tour” has sold out, the museum is hosting a free showing of the first episode of Judy’s 1962 television series, “The Judy Garland Show” with guest star Mickey Rooney. This is a great nostalgia show during which Judy and Mickey reminisce about many of their films and sing the songs they made famous. This event is from 1:30-2:30 p.m. Admission is free with museum admission or membership.

“Singing in Judy’s House” with Richard Glazier at the piano will be great fun. Once again, the walls of the Gumm home will ring with the sounds of music, including favorites from the Garland Songbook. This event will be from 3-4 p.m. Tickets are $5.

Saturday evening, from 5-9 p.m., the Judy Garland Festival will conclude at the Timberlake Lodge, 144 SE 175h Street in Grand Rapids, with the “Grand Finale Banquet… & Reminiscences from ‘The Judy Family of Fans’ about the Fascination & Uplift She Inspires.” A buffet dinner will be served. It is advised that those interested reserve and pay in advance. Tickets are $35 per person.

All tickets for events other than the Reif Center may be purchased from the Judy Garland Museum, 2727 Pokegama Ave., or by phone or online. Tickets for the Reif Center concert must be purchased at The Reif. Tickets will be sold the night of the performance.

For more information, call the Judy Garland Museum at 218-327-9276; e-mail, or visit their website:; or


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