A Festival Fit for a Kingdom

Recreational and Sporting Goods IndustryAmusement and Theme ParksTourism and Leisure IndustryOlivia Pope (fictional character)Society

The streets of Disneyland were deluged with golden ears Sunday as thousands of fans — along with legendary entertainer Art Linkletter and other opening-day patrons — converged for the park's 50th-anniversary party.

"I didn't have the heart to tell Walt that this idea wasn't a keeper," Linkletter, 93, who emceed Disneyland's opening on July 17, 1955, told the crowd, describing a meeting he'd had with park founder Walt Disney in 1953. "But then, two years later, we were here and ready to go."

Other featured speakers at the official 10 a.m. ceremony in front of Sleeping Beauty Castle included company Chief Executive Michael Eisner; Disney's eldest daughter, Diane Disney Miller; and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who described the theme park as "an engine that drives California tourism and our economy" before being presented with a gold-colored motorcycle.

At the heart of the celebration, however, were the thousands of fans who officials said had begun lining up outside the gates at 3 a.m.. Each had been given a special commemorative set of gold-colored Mickey Mouse ears upon entry to the park.

"I wasn't here the first day, but I was here in 1955," said Henry Stanny, 54, of Los Angeles. "I grew up with Disneyland — it was important in my life."

Wendy Kaiser, 41, of Newport Beach said that at 16 she got a summer job as Goofy in the Electrical Parade and as an attendant at It's a Small World.

"Once when I was Goofy, I hit the Matterhorn," Kaiser said, "so they wouldn't let me drive that float anymore¬Ö. Disneyland is a great realization of one man's dream, and it reminds us all to follow our dreams. It's a common bond among people who grew up at [a certain] time."

Brenda and Randy Moran, both 54, said they began visiting Disneyland in the late 1950s and early '60s respectively, spent their honeymoon at the park in 1970 as well as at least two vacations annually ever since, and this week had traveled from their longtime home in Colleyville, Texas, to be here for the 50th-anniversary bash.

"We had to add a room to our home to house her Disney collectibles," said Randy Moran, wearing a T-shirt with images of Mickey, Goofy and Donald as well as a Disney-themed baseball cap beneath his golden ears.

"It's something we'll get to tell our grandkids," Brenda Moran said of the party.

Jason Moore, 27, of San Diego and Johnathan Safford, 29, of Tampa, Fla. — who said they'd just met in line — found they had something in common: a passion for one of Disneyland's most fabled and popular rides, Space Mountain, which had reopened a couple of days before, after two years of what park officials characterized as being "re-Imagineered" for the 21st century.

"It was awesome," said Moore, describing himself as a big fan of the new landing sequence. "It's a lot better now. It took my breath away; I can't put it into words."

Added Safford: "It's smoother and faster than before."

Both also admitted to being Disney aficionados who'd felt a need to pay homage on this special day. "It's one of those landmarks," Moore said, "the golden year. I've loved Disneyland since I was a toddler, and my [4-year-old] daughter loves it too."

Which is one of the reasons, many guests said, that they keep coming back: the intergenerational appeal that acts as a bridge over time.

That bridge was on the minds of the Morans as the end of the official anniversary ceremony was marked by the release of hundreds of white doves and a splurge of daytime fireworks.

Would they be attending the park's 100th anniversary?

Not likely, Brenda Moran said. "But we hope that our kids will bring their kids' kids here."

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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