I grew up in Southern California, a few miles up the Santa Ana Freeway from Disneyland. Watching the old Mickey Mouse Club show on TV was a must-do way back in those formative years, and being taken, with my younger brother, for a day at the "house the Mouse built" at least once a year by our parents was a huge treat. Fast forward a couple decades and I was taking my son to the venerable theme park, just a short drive from my own home.
Even though Disneyland and the Disney Studios have gone from being the centerpieces of ol' Walt's personal empire to pieces of an international entertainment conglomerate, there's still a little bit of kid inside me, and the original Disneyland park is still a magical place. It has grown and evolved over the past four-plus decades, and a few years ago a second park (Disney's California Adventure) and a linking attraction (Downtown Disney) were constructed in what was originally and primarily a gargantuan parking lot. And while I still reside in the same general area, work less than half a dozen miles from what is now called the Disneyland Resort, and drive right past it several times a year, I hadn't visited it for at least 10-12 years.
I knew in late April that things were about to change when I was informed of plans for a Downtown Disney Salutes 50 Years of Corvette show, scheduled for Father's Day weekend, June 14th and 15th. Cool! When an entertainment giant like Disney wants to salute the Corvette, you know it's going to be something special. It's also a given that a Disney event of any sort will be incredibly well organized. (In spite of the unfortunate, socially-accepted and highly pejorative nature of calling something "Mickey Mouse," I've never seen or heard of any Disney project that hasn't been planned and executed to near perfection.)
The intent was to showcase the history of the Corvette with at least one example of every model year to the tens of thousands of people who visit Downtown Disney and the Disneyland Resort on any weekend. The prime movers were Stan Freese (a Corvette owner/collector and longtime Disney cast member, i.e. employee), Brian Pallas of the American Mid-Year Society (see "Winter Wonderland" in the Aug. '03 issue for an intro the AMYS), Don Slauson of Orange County Vettes, and Downtown Disney's General Manager, Rod T. Schinnerer, whose goal was to host, "what we hope will be one of the best (and biggest) Corvette shows celebrating 50 years of greatness."
They succeeded! In just a few short weeks, the fantasy became reality. Exemplary samples of every year of Corvette were lined up for display by word of mouth through local Corvette clubs. And, the people at Disneyland Resort did a tremendous job. They even went so far as to get Leonard Nagle (owner of the fabulous '53, '54, and '55 Vettes on the cover of our July "Red, White, & Blue CELEBRATION" '03 cover) and his sons to bring the three roadsters out for the weekend--and arranged special parking for the trio right at the main entrance to Downtown Disney. The Corvettes were arrayed in chronological order, tastefully displayed through the "District" so each car could be seen and savored from nearly every angle. Special signs were created for each Vette, identifying the owner(s) and imparting some information about the particular model year. Each car owner was presented with several "commemorative event items" like unique event shirts and caps that were NOT available to the public, and, at the end of the show, the custom sign that was fabricated by Disneyland Resort craftsmen for the specific car.
The Downtown Disney Salutes...proved to be one of the most enjoyable Corvette events I've ever attended and the melding of an American institution like Disney and America's Sports Car was a perfect match. And what could be better than to have more than 50 beautiful Corvettes--the fantasy car for millions of people--on display just a few hundred yards away from the original Fantasyland.