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Disney World turns 50 today

Disney World opened its Magic Kingdom 50 years ago on Oct. 1

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Bronze statue of Walt Disney and Micky Mouse in front of the Cinderella Castle at the Magic Kingdom.

Guests watch a show near a statue of Walt Disney and Micky Mouse in front of the Cinderella Castle at the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. Disney World celebrated its 50th anniversary on Oct. 1.

John Raoux, Associated Press

Disney World celebrated its 50th anniversary on Oct. 1, representing a major moment in the history of the world’s biggest theme park.

The park opened on Oct. 1, 1971.

Disney wanted to create a theme park to reach more people. By the time Disney World opened, Disneyland had been opened for almost 16 years. So, Disney decided to build a park to bring in visitors from the East Coast.

Rick Foglesong, professor emeritus at Rollins University and author of the book, “Married to the Mouse,” told NPR that the park’s proximity to the highway was most important.

“Roads were all important to the Disney company because they wanted to build a park that would be 10 times the size of Disneyland in California,” Foglesong told NPR. “That meant, that if they were going to build such a big park, they would have to import tourists from afar, from down the East Coast, from the Midwest.”

When Disney World opened, Orlando was a farm town where oranges were in full bloom. The land where Disney World was eventually built was basically a swamp.

The park opened with 10,400 people entering the park. That’s a small number compared to the thousands who visit now.

Clearly, things worked out and the park has become a mainstay for the American public.

So now, Walt Disney World will celebrate its 50th anniversary with a slew of new events this month, which is being called “The World’s Most Magical Celebration.” For this event, Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse will appear throughout the Magic Kingdom park in new costumes.

The anniversary will start with “Disney Enchantment” festival, which “will take you on a journey filled with adventure, wonder and empowerment,” according to Disney. 

And its event will “feature music, enhanced lighting, stunning fireworks and, for the first time, immersive projection effects that extend from Cinderella Castle down Main Street, U.S.A.,” per Disney.

“We have some surprises in store for our guests. ... I think it’ll be a day for the memory books,” Melissa Valiquette, vice president for Magic Kingdom, said Thursday, per The Orlando Sentinel.

“I think there is a core of happiness at the Magic Kingdom. And we feel so honored to be able to celebrate so many of our guests’ special milestones in life,” she said, according to The Orlando Sentinel. “That is something that was true 50 years ago and will always be true in the future.”