‘Oz,’ Woodstock were pair of significant milestones

Today marks the anniversary of two American cultural milestones.

It’s the 75th anniversary of the Hollywood debut of “The Wizard of Oz” and the 45th anniversary of the start of the Woodstock Music and Art Fair.

After sneak previews in Kenosha, Wisconsin, Oconomowoc, Wisconsin, and Cape Cod, Massachusetts, “Oz” officially debuted at Grauman’s Chinese Theater in Hollywood on Aug. 15, 1939 and has gone on to become one of the most beloved movies in history.

It’s a standard by which children’s films are often judged but which adults enjoy watching “The Wizard of Oz” as well. Experiencing the adventures of Dorothy Gale as she travels “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” have become a rite of passage for children.

The tale by L. Frank Baum was brought to the screen with the incomparable Judy Garland as Dorothy Gale, a girl who leaves the black and white world of Kansas for a trip to the colorful land of Oz.

“The Wizard of Oz” storyline has been retooled, for example by a cast that included Michael Jackson and Diana Ross in the 1978 film “The Wiz” and the Broadway musical “Wicked” in the 1990s. But the original holds its own special spot in the hearts of many throughout the world.

Woodstock was a 1969 gathering in upstate New York at Max Yasgur’s farm, bringing together some of the biggest musical icons in the world, performing at a festival designed to promote peace and love in the midst of the clash that resounded around this country at the height of the Vietnam War.

The poster for the event reads “Woodstock Music & Arts Fair presents an Aquarian Exposition in White Lake, N.Y., 3 Days of Peace & Music.”

And the music was amazing, from 32 acts like The Grateful Dead, Creedence Clearwater Revival and Jimi Hendrix performed for crowds estimated up to 400,000 who celebrated through the rain and the mud an unmistakable highlight of the counterculture movement.

Recordings and a documentary film keep Woodstock alive as a seminal moment in American history.

The modern-day versions of the music festival – from Bonnaroo in Tennessee to Coachella in California, to Lollapalooza in Illinois – are much more commercially minded, but at the heart, still bring to tens of thousands some of the most important musical artists of the times.

Both “The Wizard of Oz” and Woodstock have lived on in many ways, cultural touchstones that will be discussed for generations to come as unique moments in American history.