Disney Pin Trading In New Jersey

One of the highlights of Carol’s pin-trading year is the trip to New Jersey each Spring for the “Trade ‘Til You Fade” pin trading weekend hosted by Central Jersey Disney Pin Traders.  She just loves getting together with other traders and CJDPT always puts on a first class event!

The group was founded by John Rick in January 2002 and since then they have held regular pin trading meets.  The schedule of events is accessible on their web site at:  http://www.cjdpt.com   All of their meets are held at the Comfort Inn 255 Davidson Avenue, Somerset, NJ.  There are Friday evening events, Saturday afternoon events and two week-end-long events in the Spring and Fall each year.  John’s wife Sheila and their good friends Janis Lavender and her husband David are actively involved in all aspects of the group’s activities.

We normally travel to New Jersey with a group of Canadian pin traders, most of them from the Toronto area.  Even though I am not a pin trader, I have joined in a few times. The trip is an adventure for Carol and I.  Our travel day is usually Thursday and we often stop at the Syracuse NY Disney Store on the way; many of the Disney Stores in Canada have closed and we sure miss them! The store is conveniently located about two hours into our trek so we can stop and stretch our legs.  It’s a 364 mile trip from our home to the Comfort Inn but we have a bit of a head-start on our companions from the Toronto area who have to drive a little further, it’s about a 500 mile trip for them.

Missing pin on a milk carton

Pin trading is serious business – milk cartons showing the missing pins!

You might expect that we Canadians, since we are foreigners, travel furthest to get to New Jersey but that’s actually not the case. Folks drive from as far away as Miami FL – 1,270 miles but I think the overall the distance award has to go to the dedicated trader from Seattle WA who, a few years ago, flew 2,800 miles to trade pins!

Even though trading activities don’t officially start until Friday evening there are already some pin traders set up at the tables in the breakfast area adjacent to the lobby by the time we arrive Thursday evening.  We always stop and renew acquaintances but it’s normally a short night for us.  It has been a long drive and Carol needs a good night’s rest to get her ready for a gruelling week end!

We try to plan some other “Disney” activities for Friday morning.  This often involves a commuter-train ride to New York City’s Penn Station or a trip on the Staten Island Ferry to Battery Park in Lower Manhattan.  Over the years our adventures in The Big Apple have taken us on a couple of double-decker bus tours of Manhattan, to Times Square many times and to some fabulous NYC delicatessens for lunch.  We’ve browsed some amazing shops along 5thAvenue and taken a peaceful horse-drawn-carriage ride through Central Park.

Carriage ride in Central Park before the Disney Pin event

Carriage ride in Central Park before the pin trading event!

But, of course, we have to be back to the hotel in New Jersey by late afternoon!  The event kicks off Friday evening at 7:00 p.m. when the registration desk opens and folks line up to check-in, pick up their name-tags, goody bags and tickets for several random draws.  There are three trading areas, two hotel meeting rooms fill with traders first and once breakfast is over the trading activity spills over into the room where the complimentary breakfast is served each morning.  The Comfort Inn and their staff are extremely accommodating.  The hotel staff all join in the fun by wearing Disney themed clothing and they allow the group to post Disney posters and signs throughout the common areas of the hotel.  It is a very festive and fun filled place!  They even allow the group to bring in coolers filled with their own drinks on ice.  Most traders bring bottled water, sodas or juices to add to the communal drink coolers and there are also plenty of traders who contribute “snack-food” items which soon fill the counters in the breakfast area.  It quickly transforms from a complimentary breakfast into a veritable junk-food buffet!

The breakfast room

Carol always does her best trading on Friday nights. This year she traded from 7:00 p.m. until 11:00 p.m. and was delighted with the 20 pins she picked up.  Yes, pin traders are an oddly nocturnal group!  I have no idea what time things actually wound down but a friend reported that the crowd was thin when he left at 3:00 a.m.

Saturday morning we headed down for breakfast at 8:15. Many of the night-owls had returned, looking remarkably fresh and eager.  The two meeting rooms were open and trading was in full swing again but, of course, the breakfast room was set aside for breakfast.  Traders who want to set up in the breakfast room once the meal is done simply park their pin cases and pin bags along the wall in the corridor and establish their order in the line.  Then at 10:20 or 10:30, when the area has been cleaned up after breakfast, they are given the “all-clear” to file in.  Once they settle and get set up they are established for the day and trading resumes in earnest.

One of the meeting rooms

The traders who come to these events are not at all like some of the ones you used to meet at those tables outside Pin Central at Downtown Disney.  Many of them made their living trading pins and they could be very aggressive, sometimes ruthless.  Not so at CJDPT events.  The traders here are nice people who are anxious to help you complete your collection. Trading is easy, fun and free of stress. Carol really enjoys this week end; she looks forward to it every year.

This was probably about the 30th“overnight event” CJDPT has hosted and the hotel was fully booked by pin traders.  The organizers always negotiate reasonable group rates with the hotel; Carol and I had a two-room suite with a king bed and the rate was only $79.00 plus tax.  Our bill for two nights was only $181.10 including a complimentary breakfast each day!  Wow!

The Comfort Inn New Jersey Disney Pin Traders

The Comfort Inn welcomes us!

Registration fees for the pin trading event are quite reasonable as well.  Guests registered at the hotel pay a fee of $5.00 to register for all three days.  If you are not a hotel guest your fees for all three days will not be more than $18.00.  There were 97 people trading pins on Friday night and local traders who “drop in” for a few hours during the weekend swelled the total registration number to almost 200 people.  It’s a very popular event!

There are special games, activities, quizzes and raffles throughout each day and night with prizes for all the winners.  It’s non-stop trading and there is always a fun-filled diversion of some kind.  It’s not always about pins; people also trade vinylmations and other Disney collectibles!

Explaining the rules for the gift exchange

One of the highlights is the Saturday night gift exchange. It’s purely voluntary and not everyone participates but it’s always fun for those who do get involved.  It’s one of those exchanges where gifts can be “stolen” and folks can get quite aggressive and quite entertaining as they seek out their favourite gift! 

Sunday morning is generally very quiet; those who have travelled a distance are packing up and checking out to start the trip home.  We always have breakfast and yak a bit before saying our goodbyes.  We strive to be on the road by 10:30 so that we arrive home by about 6:00 p.m.   Many folks stay and continue trading until the event officially closes at noon.  Every year we see the plenty of familiar faces and several new ones.  Carol has always found the group easy to trade with and she always completes a few sets and comes home with some new treasures!

Raffle Prize

If you are a pin trader and you want experience a fun filled week end with your peers, New Jersey is the place for you.  Check out their web site at: http://www.cjdpt.com and make plans to join in a pin week end soon.

Gary Cruise

Gary Cruise

Gary is a retired banker who lives in Kingston, Ontario, Canada. He first visited Walt Disney World in 1977 and has returned many, many times over the years. Since retiring he and his wife Carol enjoy the parks a number of times each year. They especially like staying at Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground with their Shetland sheep dogs.

Here you can see Gary at the pin trading event manning the booth while Carol trades pins!

Disney Friends Keeping The Magic Alive

Disney Indy Meet 2We all know that Disney vacations are filled with magic . . . but how do you keep that Magic alive between trips? How do you enjoy Disney magic when you’re not at the parks?

One way that Carol and I have found is to share time with other Disney fans at several ‘Disney meets’ each year. We really enjoy this sort of fan get-together. For us, they are an easy way to keep the magic alive without making that long trek south!

When we talk to friends about some of the local Disney get-togethers we have attended we often hear things like:

· “I wish I had known about this, I live very close by.”

· “I would love to know when this is next year!”

· “That sounds like so much fun; I’d love to go some time.”

So if you’re looking to spend some happy times with fellow Disney fans, people who share your Disney addiction, here is a list of a few of those “non-theme park events” coming up in the not-too-distant future.

These local events can help you put the maximum “Disney Magic” in your life!

1. Southern Ontario “Canadian Disney Fan” Meets

In June 2015 twenty-four strangers met at a Denny’s restaurant in Whitby Ontario. The only thing we had in common was a love of all things Disney. We spent a wonderful afternoon talking about our happy place, sharing ideas, trading Disney pins and Vinylmations and most importantly, making new friends.

Canadian Disney Fan Meet

Canadian Disney Fan Meet 2015

That first meet was so much fun that we have continued to get together about every three months and sometimes as many as 100 die-hard Disney fans have joined us! That first event has now spawned several active groups which meet regularly at locations across Southern Ontario. Each has a Facebook page where you can find specific information about the next meet.

2. Trade ‘til You Fade – Somerset, New Jersey

This weekend-long event, organized in April or May each year by Central Jersey Disney Pin Traders, is a fun-filled experience for those who collect and trade Disney pins. There are games, raffles and even an optional gift exchange which can be hilarious! Full details are available on the Central Jersey Disney Pin Traders web site HERE.

3. Dayton Disneyana – Dayton Ohio

Another wonderful weekend-long event, however this one caters to Disneyana collectors. The Dayton “Plane Crazy” Chapter of the Disneyana Fan Club does a terrific job organizing this annual bonanza for Disneyana collectors. A hotel ballroom is chock full of vendors tables overflowing with high quality collectibles. This is not a flea market, these are real collectors selling quality product. There are always a few interesting speakers who pass on some fascinating tidbits of Disney history and gossip during afternoon and evening seminars.

Dayton Disneyana 2015

Dayton Disneyana 2015

Carol enjoys browsing through the collectibles, I enjoy listening to the speakers. When I have a chance to spend one-on-one time with Disney Imagineers, Disney artists and Disney Legends it’s like having a back door into Disney lore and legend.

There are smaller meeting rooms near the ballroom all set up with tables and chairs, where attendees can trade Disney pins or simply mix and mingle.

Full details are available on the Dayton chapter’s web site HERE.

4. Pacific Northwest Mouse Meet – Lynnwood Washington

Carol and I have not attended this annual event held near Seattle; it’s a long way from where we live! But we’ve heard very good reviews from friends who have been there. There are always some top-notch speakers and interesting activities.

Bob Gurr

Bob Gurr – PNWMM

You can read about arrangements and plans for upcoming events on the PNWMM web site: HERE

PNWMM Marty Sklar

Marty Sklar – PNWMM

5. Indy Disney Meet – Hamilton County 4H Fairgrounds Noblesville Indiana

This is another event Carol and I have not attended but it sounds wonderful. It’s family oriented, it’s free and they have raised a lot of money to support Give Kids The World. It sounds like a great way to have fun and support a worthy cause, all at the same time. Check out their web site HERE

Indy Pin

Indy Pin

6. Swap ‘til You Drop – Somerset New Jersey

Another fun-filled weekend-long event, organized in October each year by Central Jersey Disney Pin Traders. The format for this event is very similar to the Trade ‘til You Fade event held each spring. Refer to their web site HERE.

So . . . if you’re feeling blue because you can’t get to one of the Disney parks . . . why don’t you plan to attend one of these locally organized fan events!

Disney fans always make a fun-loving group; imagine how easy it is to make new friends when you are surrounded by kindred spirits.

Maybe Carol and I will see you there!

Gary Cruise

Gary Cruise

Gary is a retired banker who lives in Kingston, Ontario, Canada. He first visited Walt Disney World in 1977 and has returned many, many times over the years. Since retiring he and his wife Carol enjoy the parks a number of times each year. They especially like staying at Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground with their Shetland sheep dogs.

Disney Group Cruising – It’s More Fun With Friends

Castaway Cay Fantasy
Have you ever wondered what it’s like to cruise with a group? Well I can tell you, based on our experience, that it’s fun!

Carol and I have cruised a few times on our own; we’ve cruised with a few friends several times and we’ve cruised as part of a large group four times. Our experience has been that the larger group adds a new dimension to the cruise experience. We really like it!

La Piazza 2

A group cruise is simply a cruise vacation which is organized by a person or company and is then offered to people with common interests. The organizer often arranges group activities which individuals can elect to participate in if they wish. There is no pressure to participate, it is purely voluntary.

What are the advantages of a group cruise?

The diversity of the group. Carol and I enjoy the opportunity to mix and mingle with old friends we see on the ship and we like to meet new people as well. The group cruise gives us this opportunity.

Photo Walk 5

You can be as involved and active as you like or you can just kick back, relax and ignore all the group activities. There is no truant officer!

So what are some of these group activities? Let me give you some examples from one of our group cruising adventures. We sailed on the AllEars Disney Fantasy Cruise which took place in May 2012. The group activities were all arranged by AllEars.net. There were 125 cruisers in our group and we occupied 52 staterooms on a seven day eastern Caribbean cruise.

Group Cruise

The whole gang!

On Saturday we boarded the Fantasy and one of the first stops was the AllEars registration desk where we registered, picked up our AllEars Navigator (schedule of events) and our scavenger hunt questionnaire. We also received our “Welcome Gift” . . . a backpack full of a variety of swag! Disney Cruise Line gives some pretty nice swag to returning cruisers, members of the Castaway Club, but not nearly as nice as the AllEars swag we received. It was a high quality AllEars backpack full of trinkets and treasures.

After settling into our stateroom and attending the mandatory lifeboat drill we headed up to deck #12 for the sail-away party. Our group all met in the same area for a ‘meet & greet’ while the sail-away festivities were in progress. This was our first chance to mix and mingle with others in the group.

Ice Cream Social 1

There was a scavenger hunt which required cruisers to answer some very challenging trivia questions about the Disney Fantasy. The door decorating contest ensured that some of the stateroom doors were quickly transformed into lavish art displays!

Each of the three “sea days” AllEars.net founder Deb Wills invited everyone to join her at 8:00 a.m. for coffee and chatter at the Cove Café. These meets were always well attended. Even Carol attended a few times and she is not normally a ‘morning person’.

Cove Cafe 3

Cove Cafe Meets

Sunday afternoon there was an Ice Cream Social. We met at Eye Scream Treats on deck #11 and everyone helped themselves to a self-serve ice cream treat. Yum! Everyone enjoyed it!

Some people really enjoyed it!

And of course they traded pins and Sorcerer Cards!

Pin Trading 1

Pin Trading

Sunday evening we met for cocktails in La Piazza on deck #4, a few impromptu photo-ops ensued!

Pin Trading 2

Monday morning, after coffee with Deb in the Cove Café, we gathered in The Tube on deck #4 for some pin trading. Carol was busy manning the pin board for the full 90 minutes and answered a lot of questions for some newcomers to pin trading. Once folks had done a pin trade (or two or three) out came the cards and the traders spread out all over The Tube.

While we had great weather, a brief rain Monday afternoon dampened plans for the Mini Golf meet on deck #13, Goofy’s Sport Deck. Maybe next time . . .

Most of our group selected the early dining option and we were all seated in close proximity in the dining rooms. This gave yet another opportunity to see the new people we met and was especially fun on Pirate Night when we got to see everyone’s costumes! Argggh!

Pirates 2

Thursday morning, after coffee with Deb in the Cove Café, we gathered in the atrium on deck #3 for a photo-walk. Barrie Brewer was our leader and expert photographer. She explained what a photo walk was all about, then we broke into two groups and got started. We simply walked around the ship taking pictures. I led one group which stayed in the atrium and did our best to capture some interesting images there. Barrie Brewer and Linda Eckwerth took the other group and headed to Europa, the adult entertainment area on deck #4. My group rejoined them there and the larger group swarmed Europa taking pictures. The mosaic murals of toreadors and flamenco dancers in the restrooms were an extremely popular subject!

Photo Walk 1

Friday at Castaway Cay many of us convened for a group lunch at the Serenity Bay barbecue. It’s funny but even with all the fine dining available on the ship, this barbecue on Castaway Cay is always one of my favourite meals!

Then came the grand finale! The AllEars farewell party on Friday afternoon. The cruise was coming to an end, we debark tomorrow. Dang! We met in The Tube on deck #4. A slide show of pictures from many of our meets was playing on three large screens behind the stage and we were treated to complementary beverages and snacks!

Farewell 8

Deb Wills thanked us all for joining her on the cruise and for participating in so many on-board events. These events were scrolling behind her in the slide show so we relived them as she spoke.

Soon the prizes were handed out for the scavenger hunt and the door decorating contest. Then the raffle tickets were drawn. Every time you attended any of the events or meets during the cruise you were given a raffle ticket. There were over a dozen prizes and some very happy winners.

After the prizes were all awarded we had a surprise visitor, Captain Mickey came and posed for pictures with all of us! What a treat!

Captain Mickey 2

So that’s what a group cruise is all about. There is always a nice variety of activities which you can elect to participate in but they do not interfere with other things you want to do. We attended almost all the group activities but we were still able to see every show in the Walt Disney Theatre. We spent plenty of time lounging around the pool, enjoyed shore adventures and did all the other things we enjoy while cruising. The bonus was we met some very nice people and made some new friends while we were doing it!

Sail Away 5

So if you think a group cruise might appeal to you why not take a look at the Pixie Dust Fan cruise coming up soon ?  Francine assures me that it’s going to be great!

Have you done a group cruise before?  Are YOU booked on the Pixie Dust Fan Cruise?

Gary Cruise

Gary Cruise

Gary is a retired banker who lives in Kingston, Ontario, Canada. He first visited Walt Disney World in 1977 and has returned many, many times over the years. Since retiring he and his wife Carol enjoy the parks a number of times each year. They especially like staying at Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground with their Shetland sheep dogs.

The Tickle Trunk – A Big Box of Disney Memories

Carols_Tickle_Trunk_coverMy wife Carol has a Tickle Trunk. It’s filled with wonderful Disney memories!

Most Canadian readers will remember Mr. Dressup, Casey, Finnigan and that magical Tickle Trunk . . . but for those of you who grew up somewhere else, I will explain…


Mr Dressup, Casey and Finnegan

Mr. Dressup was the star of a children’s television show which ran on the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation network from 1967 to 1996.  His sidekicks were two hand puppets, Casey and Finnegan, a child and a dog who lived in a treehouse in Mr. Dressup’s back yard.

In most episodesMr. Dressup would pull a costume out of a big, brightly-painted steamer trunk which he called his Tickle Trunk.  The costume might be for an animal, policeman or fireman. Donning the costume (after all, he was Mr. Dressup), he would play the role suggested by the outfit.

The Tickle Trunk appeared to be charmed – it always had the right costumes, in the right sizes, neatly folded at the top.  That simple steamer trunk really was mystical and magical; it transported a few generations of Canadian children to some very imaginative places for three decades!

Mr. Rogers Neighborhood aired in Canada too, but if you ask any Canadian kid of that era they will assure you, “Mr. Dressup was waaay more fun! 

Like many Disney fans Carol saves every piece of paper from each Disney trip.  Tickets, park maps, resort check-in packages, brochures, flyers, napkins . . . you name it, she probably has it!  When she gets home all of that material finds a permanent spot in a big wooden trunk – Carol’s Tickle Trunk!


Carol’s Tickle Trunk

Of course, Carol’s Tickle Trunk is mystical and magical too!  Whenever she opens the lid we are instantly transported to our happy place!  The best of memories come floating out!

As you might expect, the trunk has been full for years.  It takes some management!  When we get home from a trip some new treasures go in and some older treasures get culled and placed in new homes.

Disney Club News January 2003

Disney Club News January 2003

When Carol started collecting pins in earnest in 2001 she scoured the Tickle Trunk and pulled out some classic old pins. They now have a special place of honor in her pin collection.

Her collection of Disney buttons, acquired over the decades, now live in a button bucket!

The resort registration packages from each Disney trip, along with park maps, timetables, and plenty of other paper now fill a filing cabinet drawer.  Each trip is in its own folder.


Magic Years Magazine Winter 1993

But there’s still plenty of treasure in that magical wooden trunk!

Carols Tickle Trunk Open

Inside the tickle trunk

A year or two ago I was writing a blog about Disney park tickets, so naturally we had to go to the Tickle Trunk to find a few old ones.  On the way to the bottom of that trunk, where those Walt Disney World tickets from 1977 live, we uncovered some buried treasure!   

What did we find?  Here’s a small sampling:

Ten Old Copies Of The “Walt Disney World News”

This four-page newsletter was produced by Disney, a fresh copy each month in the early years, and included in check-in packages at all Disney resorts.  The tabloid sized papers are full of fascinating information!


Walt Disney World News January 1981

Walt Disney World News 1992

Walt Disney World News 1992

Magic Kingdom Club/Disney Club Membership packages

Who knew Disney had so many clubs . . . The Magic Kingdom Club, the Magic Years Club and the Disney Club. Carol has old membership cards, brochures and magazines for all of them!


Club Membership

Dinner ála Disney & Breakfast ála Disney Tickets

Before there were character meals there was Dinner ála Disney! Dinner was served in the Trophy Room at the Golf Resort, now known as Shades of Green.  Breakfast ála Disney was served aboard the Empress Lily, which later transformed into Fulton’s Crab Shack and is now known as Paddlefish.  There were no character meals in the Magic Kingdom in those early years.


Dinner a la Disney

River Country / Discovery Island Tickets

River Country was the original Disney water park, located beside Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground.  Two slides dropped guests into a man-made pool. The rest of the water adventures took place in the natural waters of Bay Lake.


River Country


River Country Tickets

Just across the water from River Country was Discovery Island, a tropical paradise filled with exotic birds and blossoms.


Discovery Island Tickets

Disney Matchbook Covers

In days of yore cigarette smoking was allowed in most areas at Walt Disney World and most resorts and restaurants had matches available for guests.  Carol’s collection lives in a pretty metal box in the Tickle Trunk.


All the match books!

Children’s “Wonders of Walt Disney World” Books

This program of day-long seminars was offered by to children from 10 to 15 years of age.  Son Rob went on two of the four seminars they offered in the early 90’s and Carol has the proof!

Disney Wonders Brochure


Disney Post Cards

Yes, there are postcards. Lots and lots of Disney postcards.

Disney postcards

Disney Postcards_2

But there’s something all those things have in common.  All of that stuff, all those oddities and curios which remain in that trunk; they are all filled with fond memories of happy days.  Sweet recollections from magical Disney trips!

You probably have a Tickle Trunk too! To paraphrase William Shakespeare, “A Tickle Trunk by any other name holds memories that are just as sweet.”

What’s in your Tickle Trunk?

Gary Cruise

Gary Cruise

Gary is a retired banker who lives in Kingston, Ontario, Canada. He first visited Walt Disney World in 1977 and has returned many, many times over the years. Since retiring he and his wife Carol enjoy the parks a number of times each year. They especially like staying at Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground with their Shetland sheep dogs.

The Windows On Main Street USA

When you’re standing on the curb waiting for the three o’clock parade do you ever stop to look at the windows on Main Street USA?  Did you know that each of those windows pays tribute to someone who has a significant place in Disney history . . . and each window tells a story. 

When Walt first imagined Disneyland, almost 70 years ago, he wanted Main Street to resemble the commercial hub in a turn-of-the-20th-century American town.  Harper Goff was one of the early Imagineers who played a key role in designing that magnificent park entrance at Disneyland.  It reflects Walt’s memories from his younger years in Marceline Missouri and Harper Goff’s recollections from his formative years in Fort Collins Colorado.  Walt Disney said, “For those of us who remember the carefree time it recreates, Main Street will bring back happy memories.  For younger visitors, it is an adventure in turning back the calendar to the days of their grandfather’s youth.”

Disney Windows

The storefront windows display goods on sale in the shops along Main Street, but if you look at the second story windows you will see some make-believe businesses.  Walt decided to use those windows, and those imaginary businesses, to honour the many people who helped him make his Disneyland dream a reality.

When Walt Disney World opened in Florida in 1971, the Magic Kingdom included Main Street USA and more of those special tribute windows. In fact, every Disney park around the world has a Main Street.

Let’s take a look at a few windows:

Walt referred to Ken Anderson as his “jack-of-all-trades”. He was an artist and had a background in architecture.  Those factors made him an invaluable resource for Walt as Disneyland was being designed and built.  The Ken Anderson window, above the Market House in Disneyland, also shows Walt’s tongue-in-cheek sense of humour.  Anderson was an avid fly fisherman . . . and everyone knows that fly fishermen do not need bait!

Ken Anderson window

Ken Anderson Window

The Disney family is well represented in this window above Crystal Arts in Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom.  It honours Walt’s nephew Roy E. Disney, his wife Patty and their children Roy Patrick, Abigail, Susan and Timothy.  The entire family were avid sailors!

Roy Disney

Roy Disney and Family Represented

Look above the Emporium in Florida for Card Walker’s window. He was President, CEO and finally Chairman of Disney before retiring in 1983.   The reference to psychiatry and justice of the peace attest to Walker’s skill at keeping the many divisions in a large and ever-growing organization moving in the same direction.

Card Walker

Card Walker’s window

Charlie Ridgeway worked in Disney’s Publicity Department from 1963 until 1994.  His book, Spinning Disney’s World, details his career and gives some fascinating glimpses behind the scenes.  It should be part of every Disney fan’s library.  Look for Charlie’s window in Florida, above The Arcade.

Charlie Ridgeway

Charlie Ridgeway’s Window

There’s an interesting story behind Marty Sklar’s window at Disneyland and Marty himself tells the story in the Foreword he wrote for Chuck Snyder’s book “Windows on Main Street”.  It seems that Marty was still working, as Executive Vice President and Imagineering Ambassador, at Disney in about 2008 when they proposed a window for him at Disneyland; that created a bit of a dilemma!  You see there are very clear rules about the windows at Disneyland, and Marty Sklar was responsible for enforcing them.  The rules are: 1) Only retired employees, 2) Only the highest level of service/respect/achievement and 3) Agreement between individual park management and Walt Disney Imagineering.  The awarding of windows is a bit less rigid at other parks; Mr. Sklar already had windows at Disneyland Paris, Hong Kong Disneyland and The Magic Kingdom.  But when the Disneyland window was offered he was still working and he respectfully declined. His magic day came July 17, 2009; the day he retired his Disneyland window was dedicated.  You can find Marty’s window at Disneyland’s City Hall.

Marty Sklar

Marty Sklar Window

There are several books about the windows lining Disney’s Main Streets and the one pictured above, written by Chuck Snyder and published by Disney Editions, is part of my Disney library.  You can buy the book online through Amazon.com or pick up a copy in the theme parks.

Windows On Main Street Book

Windows On Main Street Book

Ub & Don Iwerks have a Magic Kingdom window, above The Bakery.  Ub was a gifted animator who was with Walt from the beginning and helped create both Mickey Mouse and the multi-plane camera used in those early days of animation. Ub’s son Don was a Disney cinematographer for over 35 years and helped perfect the Circle-Vision camera.

Jim Cora has two windows, one at Disneyland, above Disney Clothiers, and the window pictured below which is in Disneyland Tokyo.  Jim began his Disney career in 1957 as a part-time attraction host at Disneyland and by the time he retired in 2001 he had risen to Chairman at Disneyland International.

Jim Cora

Jim Cora Window

Marc and Alice Davis are the only husband and wife team to have windows.  Look above the Disneyana Shop in Disneyland.  Marc was one of Walt’s “Nine Old Men” of animation.  He joined Disney in 1935 and spent his entire career there.  His achievements are too many to review here, but you can see evidence of his talents in The Enchanted Tiki Room, It’s A Small World, Haunted Mansion, Jungle Cruise and Pirates of the Caribbean.

Mark and Alice Davis

Mark and Alice Davis Windows

Marc and Alice are both Disney Legends.  During the mad scramble to design and build those four famous exhibits for the 1964 World’s Fair in New York, Alice worked with Mary Blair to create more than 150 costumes for “It’s A Small World“.  She continued designing costumes for audio-animatronic figures, live action movies, even animated characters until her retirement in 1974.

Owen Pope and his family were the only people to ever live in the Disneyland park.  Mr. Pope was a horseman; he bought all the horses for Disneyland, he trained them, built their saddles, he even built the wagons and coaches used in Frontierland. In 1971 Owen Pope and his wife Dolly moved to Walt Disney World where he managed the Tri-Circle-D Ranch at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort and Campground.  Tri-Circle-D Ranch is home to all the Magic Kingdom horses!  Look above the Magic Kingdom’s car barn for this window.

Owen Pope

Owen Pope Window

Wally Boag is another Disney Legend and you’ll find his window near the Carnation Café at Disneyland.  Walt Disney sat in on Mr. Boag’s audition in June of 1955 and offered him a two-week contract to perform as Pecos Bill at Disneyland’s Golden Horseshoe Revue.  The show opened July 17, 1955 and Wally Boag performed there until he moved to Walt Disney World in 1971.  He directed and performed in a similar show at the newly built Diamond Horseshoe Revue before returning to Disneyland in 1974.  By the time he retired in 1982 Wally Boag had performed close to 40,000 shows in Disney parks!

Wally Boag

Wally Boag Window

Walt even honoured his father Elias Disney who founded his contracting business in Chicago in 1895.  You can spot Elias’ window above Uptown Jewellers in the Magic Kingdom and above the Emporium at Disneyland. 

Elias Disney

Elias Disney Window

The final window to look for is Walt’s.  He has two at the Magic Kingdom but the one he’d be proudest of is above the Train Station.

Walt Disney Window

Walt’s Window

Those are just a few of the hundreds of windows; this blog has barely scratched the surface.  If you want to read more about the amazing people hidden behind those windows on Main Street I recommend that you buy one of the handful of books on the subject!

I wonder if Disney would ever accept nominations for new windows?  If they did, I know who I would nominate . . . Oscar Martinez! 

Oscar began his Disney career on Dec. 29, 1956 and in 2011 he was honoured as the one-and-onlyemployee to record 55 years of continuous service in any Disney company. During those 55 years at Disneyland he trained thousands of cast members and became a favourite of many guests, including Carol and I.  We always made sure we stopped to visit with Oscar every time we went to Disneyland.

Oscar Martinez and Gary Cruise

We always made a point to visit Oscar

To commemorate Oscar’s 2011 milestone of 55 years service The Walt Disney Company created a special Snow White-themed service award. It’s unlikely that anyone else will ever achieve this milestone, so Oscar’s award is destined to remain one-of-a-kind!

Oscar Martinez Retires

Special Award For Oscar

Oscar retired September 27, 2017 with almost 61 years of service and he still drops into the Carnation Café from time to time . . . it seems he just can’t stop being an ambassador for Disney!

Oscar Martinez Disney Window

Thank YOU Oscar!

What do you think?  Doesn’t Oscar Martinez deserve a window?

I’ll end this blog by suggesting a new game you can play at any of the Disney parks!   

In an article written for the Summer 2005 issue of Disney Magazine Diane Disney Miller quoted her father Walt, “…if people were waiting in line, then you had to create more entertainment to keep them happy.”  That explains the wonderful interactive queues we all experience in the theme parks, and it also suggests a second reason for those Main Street windows.  They can help keep you entertained while you wait! 

So . . . the next time you’re waiting along Main Street for the three o’clock parade take a minute to look around at those windows.  Some of the names you may recognize immediately. But – when you see a name that isn’t familiar, pull out your smart phone and search the name on the internet.  Involve your family; make it a game to see how many of the people honoured in those windows you can identify!



Gary Cruise

Gary Cruise

Gary is a retired banker who lives in Kingston, Ontario, Canada. He first visited Walt Disney World in 1977 and has returned many, many times over the years. Since retiring he and his wife Carol enjoy the parks a number of times each year. They especially like staying at Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground with their Shetland sheep dogs.

Disney Camping – Paradise Found

Fort Wilderness Meadow Trading Post

Are you looking for a change of pace in your Disney vacation?  Do you find that you’re spending less time running from one thrill ride to the next . . . and spending more and more time just enjoying the magical atmosphere at Walt Disney World?

Maybe it’s time for you to consider a trip to Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground!  My wife Carol and I have stayed in almost all of the Disney resorts and Fort Wilderness is clearly our favourite!

Fort Wilderness Outpost Entrance Sign

Welcome to Fort Wilderness!

What makes it our favourite?  Why is a stay at Fort Wilderness so different from all those other resorts?

When I try to explain it to people, I begin by saying, “It’s like stepping back in time. Back to an era when people stopped to say hello to their neighbours.  Back to a time when things weren’t always so rushed and hectic.”

When we stay at one of the Disney hotels our attention is always focused on the theme parks, no matter how nice the resort is we’re always in a rush to get away from it.  When we’re at the campground it’s much different . . . we enjoy just being there!

Every morning at Fort Wilderness you will wake up to the gentle sound of boat whistles in the distance.  As you sit in a lawn chair outside your camper and sip your first coffee of the day don’t be surprised when a flock of wild turkeys wanders past.  Squirrels and cardinals scamper and flit in the nearby trees and bushes and other campers, many of them out for a walk with their dogs, often stop to say good morning. Sometimes you will hear the clip-clop of hooves as a horse-drawn carriage or a hay-wagon ride passes your camp site.  Although it’s located right in the heart of all that Disney magic and excitement, ‘The Fort’ is a serene place; a place to relax and unwind.  There seems to be a real sense of community among the campers at Fort Wilderness.

Imagine seeing this beautiful heron when you’re out walking your dogs in the morning.  How cool is that?

Fort Wilderness Resort and Campground Heron

The campground is huge; it covers about 750 acres of pine and cypress forest.  To put that in perspective, Fort Wilderness is about seven times the size of the Magic Kingdom.  There are approximately 799 campsites plus 409 wilderness cabins arranged in 21 campsite loops and 8 cabin loops.  Up to 10 people can stay at each campsite and up to 6 in each cabin.

For Carol and I the magic begins as we enter Fort Wilderness and pull up to the security gate.  The cast member manning the rustic-looking gate-house gives us a warm greeting and a “Welcome home!”  This is where we begin to feel the serenity!  I am sure that many years ago, when Walt and the Imagineers were designing the Magic Kingdom, Walt said, “Build me a campground that duplicates a fort from the days of the pioneers on the western frontier.” And that’s exactly what they built.  Carol and I are quickly transported to another world, in another time, and that’s where we make our vacation home.

From the security gate it’s take a short drive to ‘The Outpost’, a log and timber drive-through registration area that replicates the main gate of that old western fort.  The theming is consistent throughout the resort, winding tree-lined roads, wooden-rail fences, wood footbridges; even the shelters at the bus stops are rustic log structures.

Disneys Fort Wilderness Resort Outpost Drive thru Check in

Once campers have registered and been assigned their campsite it’s time to get set-up.  It doesn’t take long for each family to transform a campsite into their unique home.  Almost all of the 799 sites have a level concrete pad, water, sewer, cable-TV and electric connections with a clean, modern “comfort station” nearby.  The comfort stations contain restrooms, showers, a laundry, an ice vending machine, soda machine, house phone and a posted list of daily activities.

Disney's Fort Wilderness Resort and Campground site 712

When we arrived in our RV the first chore was the utility connections, then we began to unload our barbecue, lawn chairs, doo-dads and decorations . . . “Aaaah – now we’re home!” The last thing to set up was our Mickey Mouse lamppost.  Every avid Disney camper just has to have one of these!

Mickey Mouse Lamp

Who doesn’t want a Mickey Mouse lamp?

What is there to do at ‘The Fort’?  The short answer is “Plenty”.  There are three main roads through the campground and two large areas for shopping and recreation.  You enter the campground by passing through the area called ‘The Outpost’ and follow Fort Wilderness Trail toward ‘The Settlement.’  Along the way, in the middle of the campground, you pass ‘The Meadow.’

Fort Wilderness Meadow Trading Post

At ‘The Meadow’ you will find a trading post, the bike rental barn, swimming pool, water slide, kiddie splash zone, hot tub, tennis courts and Chip & Dale’s Theatre where the free nightly campfire and sing-along is followed by a marshmallow roast and a movie under the stars.

Meadow Water Slide Fort Wilderness

Meadow Water Slide

It’s about one mile from ‘The Outpost’, where you enter the campground, to ‘The Settlement’.  At The Settlement you will find another trading post.  Each of the trading posts carries a variety of basic groceries, camping supplies and, of course, Disney souvenirs.  The Trail’s End Buffet offers both dine-in and take-out options and Pioneer Hall is the home of the Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue.

Settlement Pioneer Hall

In front of Pioneer Hall you can take a ride in a horse-drawn carriage or hay-wagon.  Crockett’s Tavern serves frosty beverages which you can enjoy in the comfort of a rocking chair on the veranda!  The Tri-Circle-D Ranch is just a few steps away.  This is where all the horses that work in the Magic Kingdom are stabled.  The ranch will be moving to a new location at Fort Wilderness in the autumn of 2019 as construction of the new Reflections Resort progresses next door.

Fort Wilderness Settlement Horse and Carriage

Just a few steps beyond Pioneer Hall you find the beach and marina on Bay Lake.  At the marina you can rent a SeaRaycer or a pontoon boat or charter a fishing boat for some ‘catch and release’ fun.  At the dock you can take advantage of free transportation; board a cruiser or a launch and enjoy a scenic ride to the Magic Kingdom, the Contemporary Resort or the Wilderness Lodge Resort.  The boats run every 20 minutes.

Fort Wilderness Settlement Dock

Settlement Dock Fort Wilderness

At the Outpost you will find the main office where you can rent a golf cart or visit the Guest Services desk to make dining reservations.  A few steps away is the Trail Blaze Corral where you can pick out your horse and take a trail ride.  The main bus stop is also located near The Outpost; people arriving from the theme parks or Disney Springs transfer from the “park bus” to a “campground bus” to return to their campsites.  There are three different bus routes within the campground with bus service every 20 minutes and convenient bus stops close to all of the camping and cabin loops.

Those Wilderness Cabins I mentioned earlier, well, they’re not really all that wild!  They look like a rustic log cabin on the outside but inside they have all the amenities of regular resort guest rooms plus a fully equipped kitchen.  They each sleep up to six people in complete comfort.

The campground has a number of rivers, streams and canals running through it and you will often see people fishing along the shore.  Just remember, it’s ‘catch and release’ only and there is no fishing from docks or bridges.

With so much to do at the campground and with the theme parks and water parks so close by, you are probably wondering, “How do they ever relax?” Well, we do!  Believe it or not, there are days where we don’t visit a theme park, we simply stay and enjoy the campground.  Our neighbours are all certified Disney nuts just like us, so there’s always someone to chat with.  We take our bicycles along with us and often take a leisurely ride around the grounds.  We like to explore and there are some very interesting spots to see if you go looking for them.  There are plenty of walking trails and lots of designated “dog walk” areas, many of them along the rivers and canals.  

Fort Wilderness Dog Walking

Our Shelties enjoy the dog walk trails where they often see deer, rabbits, turkeys, armadillos and, of course, squirrels, which are their favourites.  Near the entrance to the 300 loop is a children’s playground and beside it is Waggin’ Tails, the off-leash dog park where pets can run free.  Our shelties always look forward to their golf cart ride – they know that it takes them to the off-leash park for some exercise!

Dogs in Golf Card

On a typical day in paradise we begin with a light breakfast in the camper before we head off to one of the parks.  Sometimes we have lunch at the park before we head back to The Fort, or sometimes we eat at our campsite, but we always head back to be with the dogs for the afternoon.  We walk the shelties, ride our bikes, go to the pool or take a nap – whatever we feel like at the time.  We often head back to a park for the evening and take in the different atmosphere the parks seem to take on at night.  When we have the dogs with us, it forces us to head “back home” in the afternoon and we have come to relish the slower pace that comes with this pattern.

I haven’t mentioned the decor at The Fort.  Sometimes it is simply amazing!  I’m not talking here about Disney decor; I’m referring to what we, the campers, do.  Many of the campers take great delight in decorating their campsites for the season. Our first trip to The Fort was in December and the Christmas decorations absolutely astounded us.  The subtropical forest is transformed into a Christmas panorama.  Lights are strung everywhere, inflatable displays twirl, trees are hung with stars, lights and of course Hidden Mickeys.

Christmas Fort Wilderness

Christmas at Fort Wilderness

Our Campsite!

Some campsites are even covered with snow — it is truly spectacular!  But it’s not only at Christmas; they also decorate for Halloween, Thanksgiving, St. Patrick’s Day, almost any excuse will do.  We enjoy going in the spring for the EPCOT Flower & Garden Festival and Carol decorates our campsite with flowers — lots and lots of flowers!

I suspect that the decorations have caused the activity frequent campers at The Fort refer to as ‘looping.’  This simply means walking, riding your bikes or driving your golf cart around the camping loops to admire the decorations.  The other campers are almost always ready to chat about their displays and before you know it, they will probably be going past your campsite on one of their looping treks.  ‘Looping’ is one of the activities that really adds to the sense of community at The Fort.

There are also some ‘extra special’ things to do at The Fort that you will probably not read about in any of the guidebooks. For example, just before the Magic Kingdom fireworks are scheduled go to the take-out window at Crockett’s Tavern and pick up your favourite adult beverage.  Take it with you to the beach beside the marina and find a comfy spot to sit. You will have a great view of the Happily Ever After fireworks display at the Magic Kingdom; the soundtrack is piped in.  Then be sure to be back in the same spot at 9:45 for another treat; the Electrical Water Pageant passes in front of you.  Disney magic at its finest.

Stop at the Bike Barn, near the pool, and ask about archery lessons or a Segway tour!

And my last suggestion, stop at the Outpost and enjoy the gardens surrounding the main office beside the entry gate.  This garden was designed to attract butterflies and you will see them flitting and fluttering everywhere.  If you’re lucky you might see a Disney horticultural specialist tending the gardens.  They’ll often take time to show you around and point out some Monarch butterfly caterpillars and a chrysalis or two.  They can even tell you how to attract butterflies to your gardens at home!

Fort Wilderness Butterfly Garden

Outpost Butterfly Garden

Carol and I sold our motor home about two years ago and it wasn’t very long before we were missing Fort Wilderness.  The solution was simple, we contacted one of several companies that rent fully equipped travel trailers and deliver them to “The Fort”.  Before long we had the dogs loaded in our SUV and were on our way.  Everything we needed was there waiting for us!  We just moved in, the same as we would in a hotel room. As quickly as you can say ‘Disney magic’ we were sitting in lawn chairs on our patio enjoying the ambiance!

That first rental experience worked out so well for us that we did it again.  As I sit writing this we have only been home about a week after a 22 night stay in a rented travel trailer at “The Fort” and we’re booked for another 22 nights in early 2020.  Fort Wilderness really is our favourite Disney resort!

So, if you haven’t been to Disney’s Fort Wilderness Campground & Resort, head on over for a visit.  Walk around the campground, do some ‘looping!’  Sit for a few minutes in a rocking chair on the veranda at Crockett’s Tavern and quietly absorb the serenity.  Carol and I think it’s the best resort on earth and you might enjoy it too!

Gary Cruise

Gary Cruise

Gary is a retired banker who lives in Kingston, Ontario, Canada. He first visited Walt Disney World in 1977 and has returned many, many times over the years. Since retiring he and his wife Carol enjoy the parks a number of times each year. They especially like staying at Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground with their Shetland sheep dogs.