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Lodi Loves Disneyland

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Posted: Sunday, August 3, 2008 10:00 pm

It's a place children go to be themselves. And the place adults go to uncover their inner child. It's where you can eat a five course meal at a Club 33 (if you have a connection), or you can eat a gigantic turkey leg while waiting in line for "Indiana Jones." With summer at its peak, so is Disneyland. The lines are long, crowds wear mouse ears by the masses and it's not exactly cheap admission. But nothing can keep some Lodians away from Disneyland.

Lodi High art teacher Tom Nardinelli has been going to Disneyland since the year it first opened. He says it might be that his grandmother's name was Minnie, but he's in love with all things Disney. He has a massive Disney collection, and he even makes clay Disney sculptures and figurines in his classroom. On trips to Disneyland, he's had numerous memorable experiences, from being locked in a store with stars to gaining access to the exclusive Club 33.

When Roy Collins met his wife, Sandy, he found someone who loved Disneyland as much as he does. When he proposed, she even made him promise that he would take her to Disneyland as much as possible. It's been almost 24 years, and they still go as often as they can.

Throughout Lodi, mantles are decorated with photographs of the family in funny hats and bright T-shirts. Couples are planning their next Disney vacations - even if they aren't taking the kids with them. And others are dedicated to chatting with online friends who are just as enthusiastic about Disney as they are.

Here, Lodi residents explain what it is about Disneyland that makes them believe in fairytales, true love and dreams coming true.

Lodi bride and groom carried away in Cinderella's carriage

Submitted by Diana Reitz

My favorite Disneyland moment was the marriage of my daughter, Ashley, to her husband, Justin Quarisa , at Disney's Rose Court Garden on August 16, 2007. Our family and the groom's family spent a few days before the wedding riding rides and dining at all of Disney's fabulous restaurants as we celebrated the upcoming nuptials.

The ceremony was held that day 11 a.m. in front of 60 family and friends. Rev. Glen Barnes officiated and Pastor Dane Burg and his wife, Joan, played the beautiful music during the ceremony. Trumpeters announced the bride's arrival as she was escorted to the ceremony in Cinderella's horse drawn carriage. My husband walked our daughter down the aisle lined with pink rose petals. After the ceremony, the bride and groom rode off in Cinderella's carriage.

The reception was held at the Disneyland Hotel. Disney created a fairytale reception with a buffet of amazing entrees, side dishes and fancy desserts. Disneyland made this special event truly enchanting and magical. We have wonderful memories of this special time in our lives that we will remember for a lifetime. It really is the happiest place on earth.

Disneyland through a child's eyes

Submitted by Suzan Meyer

Several years ago, when my daughter was almost five years old, we went to Disneyland. I had been telling her what it was like when I was little. I guess in her mind I lived in the world of black and white. When we finally walked in the front gate and she saw the beautiful flowers and train station, she looked up at me and said, "Was it in color when you were little?"

That is one of my best memories of Disneyland; and yes, it was in color when I was little!


Chandler Milligan, Amanda Collins, Roy Collins, Will Collins, Sandy Collins, Danny Mason and Carolyn Collins visited Disneyland to celebrate Carolyn's 20th birthday. Roy and Sandy Collins have been going to Disneyland since they were children. (Courtesy photo)

Wife makes husband promise her never-ending Disneyland; going strong after two decades

Submitted by Roy Collins

Both my wife, Sandy, and I have been going to Disneyland since our early childhoods. She, with her mom and dad, and I with my mom. When we met almost 24 years ago, Sandy was my travel agent. When I asked her to marry me, she made me promise that she could have five kids and that I would take her to Disneyland as often as we could go.

What's a guy to do?!

I promised both.

We only had three wonderful kids, but we have visited "The Happiest Place on Earth" countless times in the past years. When people ask me why we go there so often, it's easy to say we like the rides, the shows and the southern California weather. But what really keeps us going back is an intangible that can be hard to express. For us, Disneyland is more of an attitude than a destination. I know it sounds terribly corny, but there is a magic to this wonderful place. When we are there, we let ourselves be taken in by the joyful atmosphere, and no matter what is going on in life, stress falls off us at the the front gate and we feel like kids again. Disneyland makes us feel young. And now, we get to relive that wonder all over again through our children.

We have several fond memories and stories about our trips to the park: The time several women from China mistook me for Santa Claus to the time that our son William was lost in the park, only to be found at Mickey's house. He told us that he was sure that Mickey could find his mommy.

For our twentieth anniversary, we took our family to stay in the new Grand Californian Hotel. What my wife was unaware of was that I had arranged for over 50 of our closest friends to be there. On our anniversary morning, our kids had left early to go to breakfast. As we began to dress, we found our closet had been raided and the only clothes left were a long black evening gown for my wife and a black tux for me with matching Mickey and Minnie wedding ears. As we entered the lobby to Goofy's Kitchen, we were surprised by all our friends. During our breakfast party, our friend Roger, an ordained minister, conducted a wedding vow renewal right there in the middle of the restaurant. How many people can say that they had Goofy, Chip and Dale, Bell and the Beast at there vow renewal?!

Believing there really is magic in the air

Submitted by Robert Rodriguez

During one of my first trips to Disneyland, while my family and I were waiting for The Main Street Electric Parade, I found a penny on the floor. I showed my finding to my mother and asked her if I could go buy something. I was about 7. My mom, not wanting to dampen my spirit by telling me that there is no way I would be able to purchase anything, told me that I could go to a kiosk close to where we were sitting, and where she could keep and eye on me, to try to find something. With my penny in hand, I circled and circled the kiosk trying to find something I could afford. I would pick something up, view the price and with much disappointment place the item back on the shelf. A Cast Member must have seen me do this several times because she came over and asked if she could help me. I told her that I had found some money on the floor and that my mother told me I could buy something with it. She asked how much I found. I showed her the dull coin.

She then said, "I think we can find something for you."

With that said, she took my hand and we walked a few feet to a penny stretching machine. She took 50 cents out of her pocket, and placed our coins in the machine. We watched as the machine stretched and stamped the penny and made me fall in love with Disney in a matter of seconds. I had that penny for many years.

Years later, I decided to take the stretched penny back to Disneyland with me. I walked over to Snow White's wishing. I held my cherished penny in my hand. I made a wish that day. I wished that Disneyland would forever make people "Believe … There's Magic in the … air" at Disneyland and let my wish join the countless others at the bottom of the wishing well.

Since my first trip to Disneyland in 1987, I have taken countless trips with family and friends. It never ceases to amaze me the feelings that come over me when I enter the gates of Disneyland.

As I pass through the tunnel that acts as the portal into the most magical place on Earth, I take in the plaque that reads, "Here you leave today and enter the word of yesterday, tomorrow and fantasy."

I am home.

Lodi woman has secrets to Disneyland, getting through lines with a splash

Submitted by Megan Brannon

For a family that doesn't have many traditions, the few that we do have become all the more precious. The chief among those is the yearly (often more than once a year) tradition of "The Disneyland Trip." In 19 years, I have racked up over 30 visits to the "happiest place on Earth," and my mother and I have become walking encyclopedias of all the back stories and Disney secrets there are. We can even recite the Ghost Host's speech for the Haunted Mansion ride by heart.

But my most precious Disneyland memory was one of the more recent.

October is an unpredictable month, as far as weather goes. Safely above the Pirates of the Caribbean within the Disney Gallery, easily past 9 p.m., my mother and I heard a commotion outside. We ran to the balcony, and found that the shouting was caused by a sudden, light shower. Instead of staying inside where we were dry, we ran out without umbrellas (or rain protection of any kind) and rode Splash Mountain with only a five minute wait.

By the time the park closed we had ridden nearly ever ride with unbelievably short lines. We might have been wet to the bone, but at least our mouse ear hats were dry.


Jerry Diaz took this photo of his daughter Gracie during the parade. (Courtesy photo)

Nothing but pure excitement

Submitted by Jerry Diaz

My daughter Gracie first visited Disneyland when she was 18 months old. It was great to see the excitement in her eyes in everything she saw. Her eyes - and mouth - were wide with excitement as she watched the parade with her mom, Marcy.

It all started with a vision

Submitted by Chuck Springer

The main reason we love Disneyland is because of Walt Disney's vision - to have a place where parents can take their children to be safe, clean and happy. A place where children and adults alike can enjoy themselves. Once you are in Disneyland, the rest of the world does not exist. It is truly the happiest place on earth. Seeing children and children-at-heart enjoy themselves is worth the trip.

One of our favorite times was when our family and my sister's family flew down and spent Christmas Day in Disneyland. The beauty at Christmastime was awesome.

Another experience we've had is spending our grandson's birthday at Disneyland with the characters. He was able to decorate his own cake. On one trip, our grandson got to pilot the Mark Twain ship.


Luke Irwin and Erin Graddy pose with Pluto at Disneyland. (Courtesy photo)

"Pirates of the Bean"

Submitted by Jennifer Irwin, Luke Irwin's mother

I loved Disneyland because I could go on "Pirates of the Bean" (Caribbean) and the "Spooky Mansion."

- Luke Irwin, 3 years old.

Blowing out the candles in Disneyland

Submitted by Karen Olsen

I just got back from celebrating my fiftieth birthday in Disneyland. I had a fabulous weekend. My sister and I have been annual pass holders for most of twelve years, as we love spending time at the happiest place on Earth. On Christmas in 2006, my sister and I were having dinner at Napa Rose, which is located at the Grand California Hotel. I said to my sister, "Whether or not anyone comes with us, I want to celebrate my fiftieth birthday at Disneyland and have dinner at Napa Rose."

Two months before my birthday, I called to make reservations. They informed me that July 11 was booked for a private party. I was very disappointed but made a reservation for July 12 for 10 people. My sister knows someone who has a contact with a connection to Disneyland's exclusive Club 33 located in New Orleans Square. Dinner reservations were made. I was very excited.

July 11th arrived. I was very excited - no kids, just adults. The weather was perfect, the crowds were down as we could just about walk on any ride - and we were having dinner at Club 33. It was a perfect day as I was dreading hot weather. Typically I do not go to Disneyland in the summer as the weather can be hot and the crowds huge. We arrived at Club 33, rang the doorbell to announce we had reservations and they let us in. We had a fabulous five course dinner with champagne and a bottle of wine. What was really special was they had made a special dessert, wrote happy 50th Birthday on the plate and gave me a copy of the menu to commerate my day. After dinner, we finished off the evening by watching the fireworks on Main Street. It was a great day.

July 12th was another wonderful day at the park. Five adults acted as if we were teenagers riding the rides. We walked onto all the big rides. It was great. It doesn't matter how old you get, the rides are still fun. The faster the big rides go, the better. It is even better if you get to sit in the front row.

I am looking forward to the next trip which won't be until December. You think I was a kid about the age of five or six going to Disneyland for the first time. It is one of my favorite places to go. I truly believe it is one of the Happiest Places on Earth!


Disneyland became a family tradition when Mitch, Kaelyn, April and Andrew Taylor first moved to California. (Courtesy photo)

Move to California reveals magical world of Disney

Submitted by Taylor family

I didn't grow up going to Disneyland, but after moving my family to California seven years ago, Disneyland quickly became a family tradition. What I like most about Disneyland is that it allows us to step out of reality and into a magical world that every member of my family can enjoy. From the nostalgia of Main Street, to the thrill of Space Mountain, to the incredible fireworks display each night, we create memories that my family will cherish forever. I remember how my son would go up and measure himself every time we went to see if he was tall enough to ride the "Indiana Jones" ride. I'll never forget the look on his face when he finally got to go on it!

We have food traditions in my family as well, certain places that we "have to eat at while we are there" (the funnel cakes at Bear Country are always a favorite). But I guess what I love most about Disneyland is that, while it is a different experience every time, each visit is special in its own way, and sharing those special memories as a family is why, to me, Disneyland will always be the "Happiest place on Earth."


Willys and Dorothy Nitschke sit in a Tea Cup with their grandchildren surrounding them. The entire family went to Disneyland to celebrate a family birthday. (Courtesy photo)

Celebrating "50 Years with Vicki and Mickey"

Submitted by Emily Nitschke

My parents, Willys and Dorothy Nitschke, were married in 1954. With the arrival of their children - two daughters, Vicki (1955) and Jenny (1956) and two sons, Willys Jr. (1960) and Dan (1965), Disneyland became a favorite vacation spot.

To celebrate Vicki's fiftieth birthday, the entire family (our parents, their children and spouses and their grandchildren - 16 people in all), traveled to Disneyland in March 2005. Since it was also Disneyland's 50th anniversary, we all purchased golden mouse ears and wore specially designed T-shirts that read, "50 years with Vicki and Mickey." What a fantastic time we had as we paraded through the park and had a commemorative picture taken in front of Sleeping Beauty's Castle, underneath the statue of Walt Disney and Mickey Mouse. We enjoyed it so much that we all went back in 2006 to celebrate Jenny's fiftieth birthday.

Now that some of the grandkids are married, maybe we'll return in 2010 with four generations!


Carly Casey and Chris Baldwin got engaged at Club 33. (Courtesy photo)

Lodi couple gets engaged in exclusive Club 33

Submitted by Kate Casey, as dictated by Carly Casey

Disneyland, the happiest place on Earth. Well, the happiest place on Earth has helped make me the happiest woman alive! My boyfriend of two-and-a-half years, Chris Baldwin, came upon two tickets to Disneyland's infamous Club 33, which has a 10-year long waiting list and is the hot-hub for many Hollywood faces. As ecstatic as I was to simply be setting foot in the club, it was Chris' proposal that made the night perfect.

"Sweetheart, I love you and want to spend the rest of my life with you. Will you marry me?," he asked.

Needless to say, I said yes. We stepped out to the balcony to celebrate with a director's seat for the Fantasmic Parade. A happy ending to a happy night. I try love Disneyland!


The Garcia family visited California Adventure and Disneyland. (Courtesy photo)

Even husbands can have fun at the happiest place on Earth

Submitted by Ana Garcia

We had so much fun at Disneyland. It was amazing. We all had our favorite moments, like when I saw Princess Jasmine (she's my favorite). Or when my husband and I went on Splash Mountain together. There are too many great memories to single out the best. I was just happy that we were all together and we all have smiles on our faces - even my husband!

Getting into Club 33, going to Disneyland weeks after it opened are equally awesome experiences for one Lodi man.

Submitted by Tom Nardinelli

I remember my first trip to Disneyland. It was the second week it opened in 1955. I still have my Mickey Mouse ears. My second trip to Disneyland was 1961 and 1962. We went to the park twice, the first for a day trip and the second was on New Year's Eve and we stayed at the old Disneyland Hotel.

I have also chaperoned three Grad Night trips - in 1975, 1977, and 2003. I carried both of my sons for five days in a front pack at the park and enjoyed every day.


Daniel, Mary, Joseph and Tom Nardinelli visited Disneyland in 2005. (Courtesy photo)

Once, my family was locked in the old Disneyland Store with Billy Ray Cyrus for over a half hour. Talking to Tom Hanks with his wife, Rita Wilson, in Frontierland was fantastic. Listening to Rod Stewart sing "Yo Ho, Yo Ho, the Pirates Life for Me" in the Pirates of the Caribbean queue was awesome. Talking to Nicholas Cage and sitting right in front of him on Star Tours was a blast. Taking nine different visits to the park in 2004 was wonderful.

My wife took my family to Disneyland for my fiftieth birthday, where we stayed at Disney Paradise Pier Hotel and had a panoramic view of the construction of California Adventure. Taking my family to the Disneyland Hotel for several of our trips was really fun. Staying at the Grand Californian Hotel during five of our trips was an unforgetable experience.

Going to the park and being there two weeks after the opening of California Adventure was almost as good as being at Disneyland two weeks after it opened in 1955. Making reservations (and being the sixth person to get a confirmation number) a year and a half before the Jully 17 anniversary was incredibly exciting. Being at the park on July 17, 2005, to celebrate the fiftieth was also incredible. Probably the most exciting, memorable and unforgetable moment has been dining at "Club 33" three times since last October. Having the opportunity to dine there is an experience most will never have, so I consider it to be my top experience of all. Had I been older in 1955, I think my first experience would have been very comparable to dining at Club 33.

Disneyland cast members gives the other side of the story - the side with long lines and stinky teenagers.

By Alison Massey

What is Disneyland?

It's the Happiest Place on Earth, right?

Wrong! Who am I to say this? I am a Disneyland cast member who has been with the company over seven years. I have worked both days and nights in every land, both onstage and backstage. Backstage, by the way, is any Disney property that is not accesible to guests.

Why is a Disneyland trip not always what it's cracked up to be?

From my experience, there appears to be a direct connection between the overall happiness of an average guest and the park attendance.

Does a one hour wait for a five minute Dumbo ride sound like fun? How about a ten minute line for the ladies restroom? How about inching through Adventureland elbow to elbow with tourists while angry mothers are shoving strollers into your ankles? How about waiting in line for Thunder Mountain behind a group of high school boys who haven't been introduced to deodorant? How about eating your ten dollar lunch outside in 95 degree weather because all the seats inside were taken? How about being at Disneyland for twelve hours but only riding on eight attractions?

Did you know … ?

Lodi wines, including Clay Station's Old Vine Zinfandel and Viognier are served at Disneyland Resort restaurants, such as the Napa Rose, Club 33, Steakhouse 55, Yamabuki and Golden Vine Winery

Does this sound like fun? To most people it doesn't. The sad truth is, Disneyland is very crowded. It is crowded the majority of the year. If you or your family want to have any fun at the "Happiest Place on Earth," I highly recommend you avoid the following days at all cost:

• All Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays.

• All of spring break

• All of summer

• The week of Thanksgiving

• The entire month of December

According to my rough calculations, only eighty-eight days of the year are ideal for a trip to Disneyland. That means that if you choose a day at random, you have only a 24 percent chance of attending a park that isn't packed with people. Your chances of having a great time at Disneyland are essentially 24 percent!

I'm not saying you shouldn't go to Disneyland. I have wonderful memories of Disneyland. It is a place of great times and cherished memories for the whole family.

Just a word of caution: Choose wisely. Don't go on the wrong day. A trip to Disneyland costs a lot of money. Look at your trip like any other big purchase you make. You wouldn't spend fifty dollars to take your family to a movie you knew would be awful. Would you? Look at your trip to Disneyland the same way.

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