BAY LAKE, Fla. – During the The World’s Most Magical Celebration at Walt Disney World there are plenty of things worth commemorating.
That is especially true for the thousands of long-time cast members who have worked to make magic for guests over the past several decades. As a token of appreciation, Walt Disney World recently closed the Magic Kingdom to daily park guests, not once but twice this month, for the Service Celebration event.
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Dating back to 1974, the festive event was formally called the Walt Disney World Distinguished Service Award Banquet.
The Service Celebration isn’t your average nighttime party in Magic Kingdom.
Upon arrival, cast members who have worked at least 10 years at the resort are cheered and applauded by roughly 240 volunteer cast members as they stroll down Main Street U.S.A.
“It’s very cool because we are celebrating almost 30 ‘50-year cast members’ that were here opening day of Disney World that are still here today,” said Rebecca Godsil, Service Celebration project manager and 15-year cast member.
The energy was electric as fellow cast members waved signs of support as music played in the background.
For decades, honoring service anniversaries has been a tradition many look forward to year after year.
After a brief pause, this year’s event honored cast member anniversaries from both 2020 and 2021.
“As soon as we got off the monorail to enter into the park, we were greeted by other cast members who were just applauding and cheering us on,” said Kenethia Watts, cast member honoree and Enterprise Diversity Equity & Inclusion Manager. “When we got inside the park, we were greeted by stilt walkers and all sorts of sounds and music -- and let me tell you, you cannot tell me I was not a star when I stepped onto that red carpet.”
The unique experience allows a cast member, and their plus-ones to shop, dance alongside live entertainment, get free photos taken, enjoy attractions with low waits, try delicious food and drinks with EARidecent twists from select quick service restaurants, bars and buffets.
Cast members can also chow down on classic Disney treats, including Mickey’s premium ice cream sandwiches or bars.
The event also featured some unique Disney character encounters.
Throughout each of the Magic Kingdom’s six themed lands, cast members got the chance to meet characters including Sebastian, Robin Hood, the Haunted Mansion Bride and even Wall-E.
Planning this special event for cast members takes a team.
“We all just look at every little detail and we just want to make sure that it’s perfect and that our cast have the best night and feel very honored and very special,” explained Godsil. “It’s been incredible to finally bring these back and get to celebrate all those milestones for our cast.”
Of course, no celebration would be complete without a firework spectacular.
Since many of the cast members have seen nighttime parades and firework spectaculars come and go, Disney added some extra magic to the show “Enchantment.” Before the all-new nighttime spectacular lit up the sky, cast members were surprised when Disney showcased segments that featured music from previous fireworks shows, including “Wishes” and “Happily Ever After.”
“I really hope that the cast members just enjoy, celebrate, relax and just know how much our company appreciates all that they do and appreciate each of their individual contributions, and also the friends and family that supported him along the way,” Godsil concluded.
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