17 February 2015

Disneyland is Your Land

When you are a child who grew up in the in central Florida in the 1980s Walt Disney World is the kaleidoscope that you view all things Disney through. That is especially true of thinking about other parks outside of the Vacation Kingdom. Disneyland may be Walt’s first park, but you see the same untapped potential that he did for the massive plot of land in Florida, whether or not Walt saw the park completed. When you start looking at Disneyland it is almost a Bizarro version of the set-up you have come to know, trust, and love. Although I would venture a guess that California natives feel the same way when they look across to Walt Disney World.

Today I set off for my second excursion to Disneyland. The first whirlwind tour I gave the resort seven years ago gave me a nibble of what the place is to its regulars, but that was before it received blue-sky budgeted refurbishments. It made me want to come back for more, and I’m finally getting that chance. The real question is, when you grow up with two parks, a monorail, and a handful of resorts and then watch your home burgeon with more parks, resorts, and entertainment than you can shake a stick at, how do you look at Disneyland and its two parks, a monorail, and handful of resorts? What do you look forward to?

I’ll tell you right now, I was more than a little disheartened to hear that multiple, entire lands would be closed, the castle is covered in scrims, World of Color is revamping, and attractions like Matterhorn, Peter Pan’s Flight, and the Sleeping Beauty Castle Walkthrough would be shuttered during my stay. Yet, even that was short-lived, because that isn’t why I’m so excited to walk the streets of Disneyland once again.

It is where it all began. A man with his carrousel and steam trains. These were the avenues and waterways that Walt built with his own imagination. He walked among the guests here. Sat in his place above the fire house or overlooking New Orleans Square. You can stand where he stood and dream about what he envisioned for all the tomorrows of Disneyland. Moreover, you know there were lessons learned here, you can see them in the pavement, mistakes were made. And while we can all look up to and marvel at the world Walt create, here he was just a man (no matter what he said about being the king of Disneyland).

Disneyland has a slower pace to me. You don’t have to scramble through every minute of every day just to make it memorable, you do that just by being there and sitting, watching, and reflecting. There is history and wonder here, everything is old and new at the same time, and it is a pilgrimage. A place where we all recognize something important happened.

Would I love to sit in Walt’s fire house apartment? Sure. What wouldn’t I give for a bite or two at Club 33. But those aren’t the experiences that will make this trip successful. It will be living in those immortal words, even if for only a few days, that Walt utter when he first dedicated Disneyland. “Disneyland is your land. Here age relives fond memories of the past… and here youth may savor the challenge and promise of the future.”

Now, please forgive me if I throw on Walt Disney Takes You to Disneyland and wander the lands as if it were the 1960s. If you see me in Disneyland over the next few days, I’ll be real easy to recognize. I’m the 30-something meandering about like an 8 year old boy turned loose in the park for the first time.

13 February 2015

You'll Love Me at Once

When thinking of holiday events at Walt Disney World the two that jump right out at everyone are Christmas and Halloween, in particular the special parties put on by the Magic Kingdom. Certainly, there are special meals for Thanksgiving, egg hunts for Easter, and a variety of offerings for St. Patrick’s Day, Valentine’s Day, Earth Day, and all the other holidays in between, but they aren’t given the special attention that Christmas and Halloween parties afford their namesake days. That said, that wasn't always the case.

During the early years of Walt Disney World, and dating back even further at Disneyland, special ticketed parties occurred all year long. Take, for example, this ticket for the Valentine Party from 1976.

The party in 1976 actually took place on the day before Valentine’s Day, on Friday the 13th, the same way the holiday falls this year. Like the holiday parties of today, the park would close and guests were given run of the park’s attractions and there was special entertainment. In 1976, the entertainment included performances from the gospel/soul/R&B group, The Staple Singers.

It may make me smirk that the Shooting Gallery still required an additional charge, but the overall cost of the event, $6.95, would have been a bargain any day of the week. In fact, it was roughly the cost of 5 gallons of milk that same year. How many of us wouldn't love to get into the Magic Kingdom’s holiday parties in 2015 for that same comparative price?!?!

The parties for other holidays may have faded away with the passage of time, but there are still plenty of ways to celebrate special days at the parks of Walt Disney World. Party or not, how would you celebrate the day at the Magic Kingdom with your valentine?

10 February 2015

Strong Bridges Better Neighbors Make

Sometimes we like to take advantage of how we get to where we’re going. Often when we think about bridges we worry more about lanes narrowing, the inconvenience of the bumps if the bridge has connecting segments, and possible wind gusts more so than why there is a bridge there in the first place. The most obvious reason we have to be thankful for bridges save time by creating shortcut over gaps and waterways. Don’t think bridges are that important? Let’s just examine their history at Port Orleans – Riverside.

The history of the Sassagoula River and the communities that cropped up along its banks dates back to around 1835 with the first settlement coming into existence on Ol’ Man Island. Fast forward through the establishment of Boatwright’s, the construction of Acadian House, and the recognition of the Alligator Bayou homesteads and there is a full-fledged population boom in the area. The problem as residents such as Buford Honeyworth and Colonel J.C. saw it, they had a river that could be crossed easily when it was low and slow, but many times the winding Sassagoula kept occupants from obtaining or trading the goods they needed and from socializing with one another.

Still don’t believe the bridges that span the Sassagoula were critical to the success and thriving nature of this riverside town? Just check out the official chronology of the community! The creation of the various bridges take up a whopping forty percent of the notable events!

1835Settlement of Ol’ Man Island
1850Establishment of the Colonel’s Cotton Mill
1853Establishment of Sassagoula Steamboat Company
1855Establishment of Fulton’s General Store
1857Establishment of the Cotton Co-op
1877Establishment of the Boatwright Shop
1883Establishment of the Dixie Landings Bridge
1885Establishment of the Alligator Bayou Bridge
1885Establishment of the Acadian Bridge
1889Establishment of the Oak Manor Bridge

Some of these bridges are only fit for foot traffic, while others were created with the forethought that wagons and other mechanized vehicles would need wider crossings. No matter how you look at it, the bridges of Port Orleans – Riverside not only give guests a great view and a way to get from one point to another quickly, but they also have an incredible backstory!