Sabino Juarez went to Disneyland Sunday expecting only to “ride all the rides” with his visiting relatives, he said. But the Los Angeles plastics factory worker found an extra attraction waiting for him alone: a 1985 Cadillac, for being the park’s 3-millionth visitor this year.
“It feels great. I can’t believe it,” an excited Juarez said after hearing of his good timing.
As part of its 30th anniversary celebration, Disneyland has given cars to the 30,000th, 300,000th and 3-millionth visitors.
But Juarez said he was unaware of the giveaway, and his first thought when the commotion began was anything but happy.
“I thought I had done something wrong,” he said. The turnstile locked; lights started flashing; Disneyland employees ran over to him, and a fanfare was played. Juarez, his wife, Raquel, 10-month-old daughter and relatives from Morelia, Mexico, were ushered to a Cadillac inside the park for pictures and interviews, and Juarez began to realize the car was his.
Juarez, speaking through an interpreter, said later Sunday that he had been to Disneyland twice before, but that his visiting relatives--his mother and father, three sisters, brother, sister-in-law and nieces--had never been there.
“They can’t believe it either,” he said. “It’s been a very emotional day so far.”
Disneyland spokesman Al Flores said the 3-millionth-visitor mark was hit earlier this year than ever before, “so we’re on track now for a record breaker.” That is especially gratifying since last year’s attendance, hurt by the Olympics, reached only 9.97 million, the lowest since the 1974 gas crunch, he said. In 1955, Disneyland’s opening year, attendance totaled 3.5 million, Flores said.
Disneyland officials hope to have 12 million visitors this year and, if the attendance goal is met, will give 400,000 prizes totaling $12 million and ranging from free passes to Cadillacs.
Juarez, an assistant to a foreman in a plastics factory, now drives a 1969 Chevrolet Malibu. “And he says he going to continue to drive that car to work,” Flores said. “He says he’s just going to use the Cadillac on weekends.”