A Heartfelt Farewell to the Magic Kingdom Rose Gardenby Chris Barry, contributing writer
Disneyland will never be completed. It will continue to grow as long as there is imagination left in the world. – Walt Disney
The quote above is one of Walt's most famous and most popular. It's been one of the guiding principles of The Walt Disney Company and the Imagineers, the creative geniuses behind the Disney parks. Disneyland is always in a state of change and always in perpetual growth. The same, of course, can be said for Walt Disney World. As Disney fans and as Walt Disney World and Disneyland aficionados, we pay very close attention to these changes. Indeed, websites like MousePlanet exist partially so that we can keep track of all of these changes, big and small. We want to know when they'll happen and how they will affect our next visit to our favorite place in the world.
Now, I'm not just a MousePlanet staffer. I'm also a MousePlanet reader and I get most of my Disney news right here like the rest of you. On Tuesday March 4th I checked in with the Walt Disney World Resort Update, just like I always do. While Jeff Kober's photo of my beloved Muppets in topiary form certainly made me smile, there was some very disappointing news in this update as well. Following the example set forth in the aforementioned Walt quote, Disney plans to make some major changes to the Magic Kingdom's Central Plaza, commonly referred to as the hub. Essentially the hub will be expanded to ease congestion and accommodate more guests during parades and the fireworks in front of Cinderella Castle. On the surface this seems like a fair idea. We've all been there and sometimes it's hard to believe just how crowded that area can get at those times.
So, this would seem to be a positive change for everyone… correct? Well… almost correct… and almost everyone. You see, as Adrienne Vincent-Phoenix so succinctly stated in her update, "Unfortunately, the construction also means the removal of the rose gardens on the Tomorrowland side of the Plaza, considered to be one of the most peaceful and beautiful spots in the Magic Kingdom."
That's the news that hit me hard, for, to me, this is not just a peaceful and beautiful spot. To me, this spot has an enormous amount of personal significance.
The beauty and tranquility of this garden is well documented. I've even hinted at this spot's significance in an article that ran here about two years ago. The Plaza Rose Garden was my number one pick for my Top 5 Magical Spots in the Magic Kingdom. Yet, despite the fact that it's just steps away from one of the most popular icons on the planet, Cinderella Castle, I'd wager that the majority of Magic Kingdom guests have never even ventured down this beautiful path. But on one particular night in the spring of 2010, my wife Diane and I had a life-changing moment in this special place and it's for that very reason that the loss of the rose garden is really going to affect us. Now that the garden is being removed, it's time to tell the tale.
Around that time, in the fall of 2009, Diane and I had hit what would seem to be an insurmountable wall in our lives. Our marriage nearly imploded. Thankfully I can use the word nearly in that sentence. We fought hard and worked hard and brought our relationship back from the brink of destruction. It was a testament to what we knew was hidden underneath all along, namely a deep love and appreciation for one another that was pushed down, but thankfully and wonderfully unearthed and brought back to life by the two of us.
Three months passed, and on Valentines Day 2010 I presented her with a card. In it was an invite to our first adult's only trip to Walt Disney World. We'd leave the kids at home and spend four days and nights at the Wilderness Lodge reconnecting, acting like kids, and being alone… albeit as alone as you can be in the busiest travel destination on Earth. Planning a Disney trip, as many of you know, is an experience all in itself, and this trip was no different. One evening, while thinking about our dinner reservations, we had one of those moments between two people that just solidify, without a doubt that you belong together. Almost simultaneously we looked at each other and decided that we would get remarried at Walt Disney World on this upcoming trip. After all we had gone through, we knew that it was time to make it official, and what better place to do so than in one of our favorite places.
The next morning, I took to the Internet and tried to research just how we could make this happen. People get married at Disney all the time, don't they? We see them strolling through the parks in those bride and groom Mickey Mouse ears grinning, pardon the pun, from ear to ear. But the fact of the matter was, this wasn't about white dresses and Cinderella carriages. We didn't want a big overblown Disney thing. We just wanted it to be us, together in one of our favorite spots, which, if you haven't already guessed...was the Magic Kingdom Plaza Rose Garden, basking in the glow of Cinderella Castle. Of course, it had to happen at night, and it had to happen just as Tinker Bell was about to fly over our head. It had to happen right before the beginning of Wishes. When else?
But would Disney officially do this? Did we need to get Disney to officially do this? After much thought and discussion, we decided to "go rogue." After all, what could they do? We weren't breaking any laws. It wasn't a marriage with a certificate and a justice of the peace and a big crowd. It was just two people in the rose garden recommitting to each other and hopefully a third "officiating." By the time anyone saw us, it would probably be over and we were certainly paying customers. Besides, how un-Disney of them would it have been to stop us and make a big deal out of it? So, the decision was made. We just had to find someone to remarry us.
We're not a very religious couple. Actually, we're not religious at all. But this was going to be a spiritual moment for the two of us, and we wanted the right person. It didn't have to be a clergy per se, but we wanted something more than a justice of the peace-type person. Of course, they had to know something about the Disney parks. We wanted them to know their way around and understand the significance of the garden and Wishes and Tink flying overhead. That's when being a member of this wonderful Disney online community pays off in different ways. An email and phone-call to a fellow MousePlanet staff writer from the Orlando area put us in touch with the perfect person. She spoke to us individually and together. She got to know us and discussed what we went through and said she would put something together for us and to trust her. We did and before we knew it we were sitting in Artist Point at The Wilderness Lodge toasting ourselves and what we were about to do.
It was a beautiful spring night, warm but not summer swelter. It was a perfect night really. We slowly made our way over to the Magic Kingdom We strolled down to the hub area together. Diane secured the perfect spot in the rose garden just above the old Swan Boat pavilion with a great view of the castle. I went back down Main Street to find our new friend. The sight of this woman wandering around the Magic Kingdom entrance area holding up a sign that said "Chris and Diane" was something I'll never forget. It was a great way to finally meet.
We headed back to the rose garden and began our little "ceremony." I was a little nervous that we were doing something wrong; that we hadn't gotten Disney's approval and that they were going to stop us. However, once I had Diane's hand in mine, everything else sort of melted away. Our new friend absolutely nailed her speech. In the short time that we spoke to her prior to this night, she read both of us like a book and said all of the right things. It was just perfect. We exchanged new rings, and it was at that point that I happened to notice that quite a few people were happily watching us. I can't imagine that this happens that often and I'm quite sure that we are one of those Disney stories to a dozen or so guests that were around us that night. "Remember when we saw that couple getting married in the rose garden?"
Diane and I each wrote some words to say. She thought it wise to quote Walt himself in his rose garden. It's one of my favorite quotes from a man who was such a success, yet suffered many setbacks as well. "You may not realize it when it happens, but a kick in the teeth may be the best thing in the world for you." We took our kick in the teeth and here we were five months later remarrying in the rose garden at the Magic Kingdom! Walt always seemed to know what he was talking about. It's no wonder he's quoted as much as he is.
Once we were "officially" remarried and I was given permission to kiss my bride, we were both a bit embarrassed at the amount of localized applause that burst out! I had a slight inkling but Diane had no idea that we had pretty much become part of the show. Our priestess quietly faded into the background and disappeared and as if on perfect cue, we immediately heard the Blue Fairy's voice and those sweet, angelic children's voices began, "Starlight… Starbright… first star I see tonight." I get chills just thinking about it. She timed things perfectly. Imagine experiencing one of the most romantic moments of your life and then… real fireworks begin on cue!
Once we heard Jiminy Cricket's voice, I'm sure we each had tears in our eyes. He was a favorite of our best friend Robert who had passed away the previous year. Emotions were running high in the rose garden that night, but what a perfect way to celebrate this moment, with fireworks, beautiful music and a wonderful message that all your wishes really can come true.
We made a vow on the boat ride home to the Wilderness Lodge that night. We said that we would always return to that very spot and experience Wishes together and that there was no other place to be at that moment each night when we were in the Magic Kingdom. Each time we've returned since then we've done just that. It'll never be exactly like that memorable night. How could it be? But, it's always been a magical spot for us for sure.
And that, of course, brings us up to date. The fact is, that this spot that means so much to us… is going away for good. Indeed, almost as quickly as we reported this in our update, the construction walls have come up and it seems that work is well under way. I was hoping to get one more Wishes there together, but that doesn't look like it's going to happen. Unfortunately, we have no plans to head down there that quickly. At best, this summer or maybe this fall would be the soonest and judging by the speed of which the construction walls went up… the change is happening rapidly.
So while I have always subscribed to Walt's original theory that his park will never be finished and that it will always be changing… I am nonetheless heartbroken that I can only revisit that moment in my mind, that we won't get the chance to relive it in that same spot anymore. Inevitably, things will change, especially in a place like Walt Disney World. But I really thought I'd have that spot to revisit and hold Diane's hand at least once a year. Now, I'm just glad we will always have that moment in our hearts and in our minds
The plans do look great. I'm sure it's going to be done well and, at the same time, it will probably alleviate many of the problems that exist in that very busy area of the park. But it doesn't mean that I won't miss this hidden gem of a spot that was right there and yet off the beaten path. It was a place where you could escape the crowds and find some solitude. It was a place where you could literally, stop and smell the roses.
Most importantly, however, it was a place where we actually did wish upon a star and we really did make our dreams come true.
As always, click on the link below, let me hear your thoughts and I'll see you next time with more Top 5's and more Disney Stuff.