For this week's Throwback Thursday, I'm reprinting a piece I originally wrote on December 3, 1996 - 3 days after the Main Street Electrical Parade ended its 24 year run at Disneyland. In last week's Throwback Thursday I talked about how the Summer of 1996 was the apex of Disneyland live entertainment, and the "Glowing Away" year of the Electrical Parade is one of the big reasons why. Of course, being the Disney dweeb I am, I was there for the final parade and I wrote about it on something called "Doobie's Disneyland Home Page" three years before LaughingPlace.com was born. These day's you'd call it a blog, back then we called it a home page. In any case, I hope you enjoy this look back and will share your own memories of that time (if you were even around waaaaay back then).
That's me on the left. John Frost of The Disney Blog is in the brown.
The Final Parade Electrical Parade
As I sit here writing this I'm thinking of where I was exactly 192 hours ago. Sitting on Main Street right in front of the Emporium waiting for the final two public performances of the Main Street Electrical Parade. That's me above on the right. John Frost (second from the right) arrived at the park at opening just in case. Turns out we didn't need to grab our spot until about noon. We parked it near the corner of Town Square and Main Street right in front of the Hunchback displays at the Emporium. And we waited, and we waited, and we waited. Actually the time passed pretty quickly between Uno, Gin and taking turns. A reporter from the Arizona Republic also came by a few times to interview us. There weren't too many special things in the park for the final parade. About the only things we noticed were a photo spot at each of the parade's entrance/exit doors, face painters on Main Street (mostly members of the Festival of Fools cast), and a lot of media. Finally the time for the first parade drew near and the real festivities began.
First came a small parade of characters and some of the Main Street vehicles carrying some of the children who are benefactors of the light bulb sales. Then Paul Pressler gave a speech, presented a check for over $700,000 to the charities and he and the kids threw the switch to start the first of the night's parades. The children were given a perfect seat right in front and Chip and Dale accompanied them as they watched the parade. Of course all the performers saw them there and gave them special performances. From what I hear Mickey was there at the exit door to wave goodbye as they went off, but I didn't see that part.
Then the first parade ended and the realization came that there was only one more left. A special announcement with Mickey and Paul Pressler announced it then the MSEP made its way back up Main Street for the final time. As it passed us we grabbed our stuff and got behind it, along with hundreds of others, and walked it up and out the door.
Saying Goodbye to the Electrical Parade
Those are the facts, here are my feelings:
I'm glad it's over. I wasn't attached to the MSEP the way so many others were. I remember it from my childhood, but wasn't especially fond of it. When I started going to Disneyland again last year I saw it a few times and appreciated it more, but it couldn't hold a candle to my favorite show, Fantasmic! When Disneyland announced it was leaving, I felt sad for all of those who loved it so much, but felt it was the right thing to do. I remember seeing sparse crowds lining the parade route last year. I think the time was right for a change.
I know many of you hated the crowds this year, but I for one loved the atmosphere at Disneyland as thousands of people came to say goodbye. It was touching to see how "thousands of sparkling lights" could affect so many. This feeling built to a climax on November 25 when thousands of fans came out to say the final goodbye. I expected it to be a sad night, but it wasn't. It was a fun night. Everyone was a huge Disneyland fan. Everyone was in a great mood. Despite the long wait, no one was impatient, no one was pushy. We all applauded, cheered and waved like never before. Before the second parade four of us got M-S-E-P painted on our foreheads in glow in the dark paint. After the second parade we all followed the parade down the street. There were hundreds or even thousands of people following the parade in a very small space, yet no one complained. No one got pushy. Our group was even able to stay together. Each time the parade would leave a zone and the final fanfare played the crowed went nuts. It was a feeling like I've never had a Disneyland. A truly magical feeling. And when the parade finally left by Small World and the lights went out, no one wanted to leave. Cameras and camcorders were everywhere. We sang songs, did the na na na na na thing, it was something special.
I've always said I wouldn't miss the MSEP. I was wrong. I'm very excited about Light Magic. But after November 25, I can say without any doubt, there will never be another Main Street Electrical Parade. Ever. Nothing can fill the place the MSEP held in thousands of people's hearts. The MSEP was a symbol of all that is good about Disneyland. Children watching in awe. Adults becoming children again. Characters dancing and shaking hands. Waiting on the curb. Brazzle Dazzle. Even a touch of patriotism. And the view down Main Street from the Train Station as the parade files down with the Castle in the background is one of the most beautiful sights I've seen. I look forward to Light Magic, but I already miss The Parade.
Do you have any memories of the Main Street Electrical Parade's finale season or the parade in general?