Sunday, May 10, 2015

The Walt Disney World Opening Day Parade - 1971

By Keith Mahne

Walt Disney World Resort opened its doors to guests on Oct. 1, 1971, however the official grand opening and dedication took place on Oct. 25, 1971. The dedication plaque was read aloud by Roy O. Disney with Mickey Mouse at his side. Roy O. Disney said “May Walt Disney World bring joy and inspiration and new knowledge to all who come to this happy place … a Magic Kingdom where the young at heart of all ages can laugh and play and learn together.” The official dedication parade, called Walt Disney World on Parade, traveled through Magic Kingdom Park that day. It included 5,000 performers lead by Mickey Mouse playing the world’s largest bass drum at the time.

The pinnacle of the parade was a performance by a 1,076 piece ceremonial marching band. Although I wasn't alive in 1971, this is one of those days in Disney history I would have loved to been in attendance as I'm sure most, if not all, of us would. No worries though, today we are going to travel back and have a look at this wonderful moment in Walt Disney World history. Continue after the page break for more...

The opening of Magic Kingdom Park in 1971 was a joyous occasion – with a three-day grand opening ceremony to match! One of the highlights was the park’s official Grand Opening Parade, which stepped off with style at 2 p.m. on October 25. First up, a small marching band dressed in red and white uniforms played “The Mickey Mouse Club March,” while Mickey Mouse kept the beat on an over-size drum.

A large cast of Disney characters followed, including: Dumbo, Queen of Hearts and White Rabbit, Thumper and Flower, Gepetto and Honest John, Snow White, the Seven Dwarfs, the Aristocats, and Winnie the Pooh. A fleet of marching toy soldiers followed, trailed by waltzing alligators and hippos from “Fantasia.”

A highlight of the parade took place when the Herald Trumpeters of the United States Army Band lined the top of the buildings on Main Street, U.S.A., to signal the arrival of a 1,076-member marching band. This line of marching musicians, directed by “The Music Man” composer Meredith Willson, stretched from the park’s main entrance all the way to Cinderella Castle and played “76 Trombones.” A mass choir then appeared on the castle stage to join the band in “When You Wish Upon A Star.”

During the last verse, larger-than-life drums that lined the parade route were opened to release 50,000 multicolored balloons. Simply amazing!

What a wonderful day this must have been! Would you believe that some of the cast members who originally designed this parade still work at Walt Disney World more than 40 years later? Check out the video below to see what one had to say about this must-see moment in Walt Disney World history:



Keith Michael Mahne is the owner and editor of Disney Avenue and the host of the Disney Avenue Podcast. He has made countless trips to the Walt Disney World resort since his first trip in 1989 at the age of four. 

Keith has a strong passion and respect for Walt Disney, the parks and resorts, and the men and women who help create them. He started Disney Avenue as a way to inform and entertain readers and to repay all those who make dreams come true every day.

You can find all of Keith's articles here.

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