Strolling Down the Yellow Brick Road... in Waterford!
Joe Cunningham owns and operates a business complex on Route 19 south of Waterford. There's a strip club. There's a beer distributor, and there's a wedding reception hall. All of those things are for adults. However, Cunningham has also created a wonderful outdoor area for children.
It's a playground just behind Bison Beer. Kids can swing, climb, slide, and have the time of their lives. Just a few feet away from the swings and slides is a magical place. Children can take a stroll down the Yellow Brick Road. They can see amazing, life-sized wood carvings of many of the characters from the Wizard of Oz.
Cunningham already had about 60 various wood carvings on display throughout his strip club and beer store. Last year, he and his staff decided to bring some art to the playground area. They had a specific goal in mind.
"Let's do something cool for the kids,” said Joe.
There’s eleven carvings on display. There's Dorothy and Toto, the Scarecrow, the Tin Man, and the Cowardly Lion. The Wicked Witch of the West is also here along with her kindly counterpart, Glinda, the Good Witch.
Yes, the talking tree is here. Also a flying monkey, a Munchkin, and the Great Oz himself. And, if you are very observant, a big surprise awaits at the end of this Yellow Brick Road. A house sits on top of the legs of the Wicked Witch of the East.
"A lot of people don't see the surprise ending because they are in such awe coming through. They kind of go the other way. Sometimes I have to remind them, 'Look to your left.' It's definitely a surprise," says Joe.
The characters were carved by chainsaw artist Blain Blakeslee, of Union City. He did five last fall. He then spent the winter at his taxidermy business. He finished the collection last month. Blain never went to school for any kind of art training and he's been doing chainsaw art for only four years. He admits he was intimidated by the Wizard of Oz project for Joe.
"The more scared I am, it seems like the more I put into the carving and the happier I am when I am done,” says Blain.
Blain is happy he did the Wizard of Oz project. He hummed songs from the movie while doing the job. His only complaint is that he can't get those songs out of his head.
"Oh well, comes with the job I guess,” he said.
The public is invited to visit the playground and the artwork free of charge. Visitors must sign-in at Bison Beer.
The next project for children at the complex is a catch and release fishing pond which will be opened next year.