In celebration of Walt Disney World’s 45th Anniversary, the WDW Radio Blog Team members are sharing their Walt Disney World “love stories” about the moment they became lifelong fans.
I guess my story is a bit different than most. I did not grow up visiting Walt Disney World with my family each year like so many die hard Disney fans do. My dad was a detective and was often called out on cases during holidays, family parties or when we just happened to be sitting down to dinner. When my dad did have vacation time, he enjoyed staying home and relaxing with the family. When I graduated from high school, my gift was a trip to Walt Disney World with some of my friends. Our parents all got together and planned a wonderful trip for us. It was amazing! Looking back, I’m sure I did not appreciate all that the parks had to offer. I was happy and had a great time, but I was just a kid.
When my first son was about two, there was another trip. Most of my time was spent making sure he was covered in sunscreen, behaving, enjoying himself and meeting all of his favorite characters. As any parent knows, it can be a “working” vacation. Again, I loved it, but still wasn’t “getting” it.
When my three kids were all in elementary school, my parents (dad long retired), suggested a family trip. We packed our bags and headed to Orlando. Watching my parents act like big kids themselves and seeing the magic through my children’s eyes is what did it for me. From the parades, to the character interactions, the balloons on Main Street, U.S.A. and my daughter’s first glance at Cinderella Castle, I was hooked! This is the magic everyone talks about!
It took me a long time and several trips back with the family to fully grasp the genius of Walt Disney. With each visit, I was in awe of what one man’s dream had become. I would wander the parks and think to myself, “What would Walt say about all of this?” I cannot imagine a better place to visit with my family. With each trip, I know that I am helping to create memories that will last a life time. We have celebrated birthdays, anniversaries and graduations at Walt Disney World. My daughter celebrated her Sweet 16 in the parks and was able to meet her favorites…Cinderella and Rapunzel. My youngest son overcame his fear of the Yeti, and we conquered Mt. Everest together (screaming all the way, of course!). My oldest boy is in the Disney College Program and working in his favorite park, Disney’s Hollywood Studios.
Hopefully, there will be many more trips and good times ahead. I know that I have instilled a love of Disney in all of my children. I can only hope that they continue what we have started, that they take their children and think of the times we have all shared. I finally “got it” now. Walt Disney World is the place where magic happens, dreams come true, happiness is shared and memories are most definitely made!
(Photos are from the author’s personal collection.)
Maureen Petrone is a mom, avid Disney fan and elementary school teacher from Long Island, New York. When she is not in the “House of Mouse” with her family, she can be found in her classroom. She calls herself a “TeachEar.” She loves the thrill and wonder of the Disney experience. The educational opportunities are endless! Walt Disney was a visionary, who taught us all to think big and dream bigger. It’s a wonderful message for her students.