Honoring a Minnesota Legend

Northland Uncovered: Judy Garland Museum

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She’s a Hollywood legend born right here in the Northland.

“We often quote Frank Sinatra who said, “we will all be forgotten but never Judy” and I’m pretty sure he had The Wizard of Oz in mind when he said that,” said John Kelsch, Executive Director of the Judy Garland Museum. 

Judy Garland was born in Grand Rapids, Minnesota and now a museum stands next to her childhood home to honor the star.

“It really puts Grand Rapids on the map,” said Kelsch. 

The Judy Garland Museum was started 40 years ago in 1975 by a local artist, Jackie Dingman.

“The power of Judy Garland, the power of The Wizard of Oz, is just amazing,” said Kelsch. 

The Wizard of Oz movie came out in 1939 and is highly featured in the museum.

“It’s close to 2,000 pieces of Wizard of Oz memorabilia,” said Jon Miner, treasurer of the board of the Judy Garland Museum. 

Along the yellow brick road, you can see the  test dress Garland wore and the carriage pulled by the horse of a different color.

That carriage was built for Abraham Lincoln and made many other movie appearances, too.

“It also appeared in 200 motion pictures. Every Hollywood director wanted this for their Civil War look 39 If you’ll ever watch Turner Classic movies you’ll see this carriage pull up in front of some southern plantation,” said Kelsch. 

An original pair of ruby slippers worn by Garland in the movie also used to be on display, but they were stolen in 2005. 

“I think they thought if they stole the ruby slippers it would take the magic away from the museum. (and did it?) It certainly did not. We’re stronger than ever,” said Scarecrow. 

Although a prized possession is gone, the museum is still moving forward.

“We’re the smallest town in the United States with a children’s museum. We also have more assets than any small museum in the United States because of the items we’ve collected over the years,” said Miner. 

Field trips are given year round and the tours bring in kids from 11 counties.  

“We put them through the museum, let ’em see Abraham Lincoln’s carriage, have a study of the presidents, we talk about the resources of Minnesota,” said Miner. 

“We’ve had fun with people from around the world. We’ve had Alaska, we’ve had Australia and we’ve even had England. People come right around to the museum,” said Scarecrow. 

Next door is a historic home. The home Garland was born in.

“It’s been painstakingly restored to how an upper middle class home looked in 1925,” said Kelsch. 

It’s a tribute to one of the stars of the century.

The Judy Garland Museum is open seven days a week through September from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and is located on Highway 169. 

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