By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN
BG Independent News
The yellow brick road leading into Wood Haven’s dining room was the first indication that something was different on Wednesday.
Inside, the staff had taken on the roles of Dorothy, Aunt Em, the Wizard of Oz, the Lion, Tin Man, Scarecrow, witches and even a flying monkey.
The food followed suit, with the menu including Aunt Em’s famous fried chicken, Tin Man tater tots, Scarecrow stuffing, Flying Monkey mashed potatoes, Emerald City green beans, Yellow Brick Road corn – all topped off with Toto’s treats.
“I tried to get all the characters in the meal,” said Sue Smith, dining services manager at Wood Haven Health Care.
The Wizard of Oz celebration on Wednesday was the brainchild of Smith.
“I love to plan theme dinners. It’s kind of my big forte,” she said. Such events allow Smith to combine her two loves of art and food. “It’s my passion.”
In preparation for the Oz event, the residents had a chance to revisit the 1939 movie classic.
“I rented it at home this week, just to get psyched up,” Smith said.
“I’m excited about it, can you tell? Food and people and events – that’s my passion,” she said.
Smith served lunch in her cowardly lion costume, while Dorothy skipped around the dining room with her basket and Toto – who is actually Smith’s terrier named Maximus.
“They are excited. I think they like it,” Smith said of the residents.
“This is fun. There are lots of smiles,” said Christina Stearns, Wood Haven community relations director, who was dressed as a good witch.
In one corner of the dining room, an evil witch’s feet stuck out from under a cardboard house. And songs from the movie played in the background.
“It’s been a very good time,” said Hazel Rehm, a Wood Haven resident. “I think everyone’s enjoying it, and the costumes are great.”
As residents dined on their Wizard of Oz meal, Amanda Smith as Dorothy entertained by singing “Over the Rainbow.”
Desserts completed the meal – some in the shape of Toto. Smith had to purchase a dog cookie cutter for the occasion.
“I definitely get into this,” she said.
So did much of the Wood Haven staff, with nurses, aides, therapists, administration and maintenance workers dressing their parts. The Tin Man, one of the maintenance men, was not only missing a heart, but also any food since he was unable to bend his arms.
This was not Smith’s first theme lunch. Earlier this year, she organized a 1920s celebration with glitzy decorations and a menu featuring items like “mafia meatloaf.”
She has plans to visit every decade of the 1900s, focusing on themes like the big band era, “Happy Days,” and disco.
Smith said she is always looking for fun ideas for meals, such as when she recently found a palm tree at a yard sale. “I’m gonna buy that,” she said, with her wheels churning out another idea to combine food and fun.