Walt Disney World turns 40!

Before I begin, I just wanted to note that this is my 100th blog post!  Can you believe it?  A milestone post about a milestone anniversary…seems fitting.

Our day started very early.  We left our house about 6 am, and after a quick stop at a gas station, we pulled into the Magic Kingdom parking lot around 7.  For getting up so early, we were rewarded with SUPERB parking spots literally right across the street from the Transportation and Ticket Center.  We took the monorail over to the park entrance made it though bag check, and were standing at the turnstiles before 7:30.  Very quickly, a cast member approached us and handed us our commemorative 40th Anniversary buttons.  Free souvenirs!  Loved it!

Behind us, people started lining up to get into the entry plaza.

Although we had to wait awhile for them to open the turnstiles, I found dealing with the morning crowds relatively painless.   We really arrived at the perfect time because we just kind of breezed through the whole process.  This was all luck though, because I really didn’t have much of an idea of what to expect.  We decided to go into the day thinking we would just go with the flow with limited expectations as far as how the crowds might affect us and what we might get to do and see, and it worked out well.

They opened the turnstiles about 30 min before rope drop, so we grabbed a spot near the right-hand gate and hung out some more.

At 9:00, the rope drop show started above us in the train station lead by the Mayor of Main Street USA.  Soon the characters arrived on the train.  It was really cute and charming.  Tadd and I are NEVER at the parks early enough to see this show, so it was fun to finally get to see it.

After the show, the rope dropped and we were allowed into the park.  Everyone was making their way quickly towards the castle to get a spot for the rededication ceremony.  The ladies from the Main Street Bakery came out to greet us.  Everyone was saying “Happy Birthday Walt Disney World!”  The park was all decked out in beautiful fall decorations.  The atmosphere was very festive.

Let me just stop at this point and say that the weather was as gorgeous as it looks in the pictures.  In the 70s, low humidity, and sunny.  This is probably part of the reason we had such a pleasant experience with all the crowds and the waiting around.  It was Orlando’s first true taste of fall, and we were loving it!

As I said, we made our way to the castle and got a great spot very close to the front.

And the crowds quickly filled in behind us.  Everyone seemed to be in a great mood and really enjoying the day.  People were sharing stories about working for Disney or about memorable past trips with those around them.  It was really nice.

Soon the rededication ceremony started with some songs by the Main Street Philharmonic.

Then the characters arrived, as they played music from past parades and celebrations.  There were so many characters, there wasn’t enough room for them on the stage.  They were everywhere!

The speakers at the rededication ceremony were Meg Crofton, President of Walt Disney World, and Phil Holmes, Vice President of Magic Kingdom.  Phil Holmes was actually an opening day cast member back in 1971, so it was neat to hear him talk about taking tickets at the Haunted Mansion on the very first day of operation 40 years ago.  You could tell it was a day that was personally important to him.

The ceremony ended with Main Street’s barbershop quartet, The Dapper Dans, leading everyone in singing “When You Wish Upon A Star”.

Of course, the finale of the show included some fireworks shot off of the castle and some streamer guns shooting out into the crowd.  A small cloud of streamers landed directly on me and Tadd snapped this shot right before the people next to me snatched the streamers out of my hand (for scrapbooking purposes, I suppose?  Not sure why they needed them so badly…), nearly taking my fingers off in the process.

After the ceremony, we met up with some friends and toured the park pretty much in the manner we always do.  We did Space Mountain (which was playing the retro pre-ride video from the 80s while you were waiting in line), Carousel of Progress, Haunted Mansion, Pirates of the Caribbean, Philharmagic, and just for kicks, Tadd and I even did Country Bear Jamboree, which I hadn’t seen since I was very very young.

They had a special version of the Wishes fireworks display in honor of the anniversary that night with 180 degree perimeter fireworks, which was amazing, as always.  Unfortunately, after that was the only negative crowd experience of the day.  We ended up in a crazy crowd bottleneck on the bridge from the hub into Liberty Square.  But with some patience and perseverance we were able to get through in one piece.  Luckily it was a cool night because I have been in similar bottlenecks in Magic Kingdom on summer nights and it is no fun when you can’t escape the crowd and it’s so humid you can barely breathe.

We had a great day at Magic Kingdom and I am so glad we attended this event.  Of course, a big part of what made the day so great was the stellar weather.  I’m so thrilled it’s that time of year where we love being Floridians again!

And it was neat to get to be a part of a historic day not only for Disney, but also for Orlando.  I truly believe that if it wasn’t for Walt Disney World, I probably wouldn’t live here.  Indirectly of course, as my dad worked for a software company that transferred him here back in 1990 when I was 9.  Orlando was barely a blip in the map before Disney got ahold of it.  For better or for worse, Disney as an employer of thousands created the need to set up all of the infrastructure that makes Orlando what it is today, and also gave it the notoriety it needed for the general public around the country to take notice.  Over time other companies too saw Orlando as a great place to move hubs and headquarters of business, and in turn, the people came to live here in droves.  The weather, and amenities, and relatively low cost of living makes for a great quality of life here.  And it’s times like these when I feel really lucky to live in a city that people come from all over the world to visit.

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5 responses

  1. How fun!!

    Even though I sometimes hate that all people think of when it comes to Orlando is the house of mouse — I DO appreciate what they’ve done for our city, and the venue it bring!

    I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for Disney/tourism industry – so I hope that WDW has a very happy 40th 🙂

    • Totally agree with you. WDW used to really irritate me when I was younger, but now I have gone the other way and embraced it as part of our local culture and history. It is more important than people sometimes give it credit for. 🙂

  2. Pingback: My 2011 blog year in review. « Sunshine and some tea.

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