Thursday June 6, 2019

When we tell our friends that we’re heading back to Disney on vacation . . . many of them roll their eyes!

We can tell by their expression that they’re thinking, “Not again!”

Most of our family and friends ‘just don’t get it’ when it comes to our passion for Disney!

The ‘eye-rolling’ is not so obvious when we say we’re going to Dayton Ohio for the weekend . . . if only they knew that it’s just another way to get our ‘Disney Fix’!

If you are anything like Carol and I . . .

If your friends and family groan and roll their eyes when you mention Disney . . .

You need to find a place filled with people who understand your addiction . . .

You need to go to Dayton Disneyana!

Disneyana 2019 Map

It’s a 632 mile trip from our home in Kingston Ontario to Dayton Ohio but Carol and I look forward to the trek every year!

Once we arrive in Dayton we pause and reflect that ‘This is our place . . . These are our people!’

Every Disney fan should try to experience Dayton Disneyana at least once.

We left home at about 8:00 a.m. Thursday morning, crossed the Thousand Islands Bridge into the USA and followed the south shores of Lake Ontario and Lake Erie. There were quick stops in New York State, shopping breaks at Watertown and Syracuse, then a lunch break (Chik-fil-A of course) at Buffalo. After a fuel stop at Erie Pennsylvania we turned south near Cleveland and stopped for the night at Mansfield Ohio. After a nice dinner at Olive Garden Carol fiddled on the computer while I watched the Stanley Cup playoffs!

Friday June 7, 2019

We were up bright and early and after a quick coffee in the room we hit the road again at 7:25. It was a short hop, past Columbus to Dayton and we pulled into the Hope Hotel, adjacent to Wright-Patterson Air Force Base at 9:20. Our room was ready!  Holy cow . . . that was unexpected!

By 10:00 a.m. we were all settled in our room so we headed down the Conference area and found several members of the Dayton Chapter of the Disneyana Fan Club busily setting up for the weekend event.

Lucy and Carol

The room they use as an office and ‘staging area’ for all the goody bag, raffle prizes, and materials needed for the weekend was buzzing with active worker-bees!


Goody Bags For The Early Birds

Trinkets to be given away

Carol and I pitched in and helped get things ready!

During the year I made three Disney-themed wreaths to contribute to the live auction. Two had a Halloween motif and one was meant for Christmas.

Halloween wreaths

Minnie Mouse in a Christmas wreath

The live auction and all the other fund-raising events throughout the weekend support the work of Pirate Packs, a program to help feed needy school children in the Dayton area.

Over the years the Dayton club has raised a lot of money to support this worthy cause and we are always happy to pitch in!

This year we carried about 15 or 20 pounds of Kraft Peanut Butter along on our journey. We hope that some happy kids in Dayton are thinking, “Wow, this Canadian peanut butter is really good!”

At noon we broke for a quick bite of lunch at Packy’s, the restaurant/bar in the hotel, directly across from the big conference hall. I left about 12:45 to join a tour leaving at 1:00 p.m. for the National Museum of the US Air Force.

Wow! What a place.

Air Force Museum

We spent a couple of hours walking through the four huge hangars that house the museum. There are close to 300 military aircraft on display covering the entire age of aviation. They are real planes, not reproductions and they range from the Wright Brothers original flyer to old tri-planes and bi-planes and they span the decades up to the most recent stealth bombers!

Walt Disney drove an ambulance similar to this in WWI

Our guide Dennis in the Goofy hat

It’s an astounding display and we merely skimmed the surface as we looked at the dozen or more displays that have a distinct Disney connection.

Roy Williams from the Mickey Mouse Club TV Show

George Lucas spent a lot of time studying this aircraft. Do you see some elements of the Millennium Falcon in it?

A recent addition to the museum – The Memphis Belle

George Lucas studied this one too! Can you visualize a young Anakin Skywalker riding it?

From biplanes to Stealth technology, it’s all at the Air Force Museum!

You could easily spend several days in the Air Force Museum and not see it all. If you’re ever in the Dayton area be sure to stop here for a visit!

It takes a lot of effort to transform an empty banquet hall to a Disney shopping Mecca! While I was exploring the aircraft displays Carol was helping some friends set up their tables full of merchandise in the vendor room. It’s always a rush for the merchants to get moved in and organized in a single day!

I joined her back in the Vendors Room at 3:00 p.m. and spent a few minutes getting pictures of some of the displays. There is always an amazing variety of Disneyana and collectible items for sale in Dayton!

Uh-Oh! Carol likes collector plates!

By 5:30 it was taking shape!

The quarter auction began at 6:00.

If you wish to bid for any auction items you start by purchasing numbered paddles for $1 each. You can buy as many paddles as you like. Each paddle allows you to bid one quarter on the items being sold.

When an item is held up for display, you quickly decide how many quarters you want to bid, then hold up one paddle for each quarter and pay the quarters into a bucket as the auctioneers walk past.

As soon as all the bids are collected they begin drawing paddle numbers at random and calling them out. If the number of a paddle you are not holding up is called you yell out “No bid.” and they draw again.

Once the number of a ‘paid-up’ paddle is called, that person is the lucky winner!

The quarter auction was a lively event and in about two hours raised over $1,800.00 for Pirate Packs. (That’s 7,200 quarters!)

After the auction a group of us went to Packy’s for a snack. It turned out that almost all of the Canadian contingent was there. We all had a nice chat over dinner and drinks.

Gary stayed at Packy’s and enjoyed another cold drink with a few friends while Carol grabbed her pin bag and headed off to the pin trading room.

By 11:00 p.m. we were both back to our room and ready for bed!

Saturday June 8, 2019

We were up at the crack of dawn!

Michelle is eager to get started!

Carol was one of the 100 people who paid $35.00 to be an ‘Early Bird’ so that she could begin shopping at 8:30 a.m. and spend 90 minutes scooping up bargains before the rest of the guests were allowed to enter the hall at 10:00!

She wanted to be well caffeinated and ready for action, so we headed to Packy’s for coffee!

Hotel registration includes a complimentary hot breakfast each day and buffet served at Packy’s is quite nice, but for some reason on this weekend neither Carol nor I ate breakfast. We discovered on the way home that we still had all four breakfast coupons.

Goody-bags for the Early-Birds

These folks are ‘keeners’ and are at the head of the line!

Down the hall and around the corner is the Canadian contingent.

Latosha is ready for the onslaught . . . and so are all the other vendors!

Oh look! There’s Tim Horton’s coffee and donuts!

Just before the clock struck 8:30 a.m. Anita warned the vendors that 100 Disney-crazed maniacs were about to arrive. Then she threw the doors open and they swarmed in.

Carol was in the middle of the pack so it was a couple of minutes before she arrived . . . but she got right to work!

Pam also went straight to the raffle tables!

This year the vendor’s raffle prizes were all together on tables at the rear of the banquet hall rather than on the individual vendor’s tables.

That was good because it allowed folks to find the raffle items easily and do some ‘comparison shopping’ of the raffle alternatives.

“Jay, we’re going to have to rent a truck for the trip home!”

 Diana from TD Collectibles in Kissimmee Florida had plenty of pins and lots of collectibles!

Mickey ears can also double as a bow tie! Who knew?

It was bad because you had to decide whether the shopping or the raffle took first priority!

I think most people really preferred to have the raffle items displayed in a separate area!

“There’s Disney stuff EVERYWHERE!”

As usual, Carol had most of her shopping done by 10:00 a.m. when the ‘Early Bird’ opportunity ended and the rest of the crowd entered the hall.

I had already carted a couple of loads of her new-found treasures back to our room while she continued to focus on scouring the aisles!

At 10:30 my favourite part of the Dayton Disneyana weekend began! They always have a terrific line-up of Disney speakers and this year was no exception.

Special Guests: Marian Maher, Kaye Malins, Tom Nabbe, Inez Johnson and Alex Maher

Alex Maher was the first speaker and he told us the story of his determination, from a very early age, to become a Disney artist. He fell in love with Disney when his Kindergarten class took a field trip to the library. He was mesmerized by some Disney illustrations in a book he found in that Miami area library. To this day Alex describes himself as ‘the world’s greatest fan of Walt Disney.’

After high school Alex enlisted in the US Navy and after his hitch in the military worked at a couple of graphic arts jobs in south Florida . . . but during all those years he was applying again and again to Disney.

In 1991 he took a daring leap of faith! Alex decided that if he really wanted that dream-job at Disney he should be living in Orlando. So with no job waiting for him he quit his job heading the Art Department at a small Miami college and moved his wife and two children to Orlando.

Disney was hiring bus drivers at the time, so Alex applied. Seems that the supervisors in the Transportation Department didn’t want to train a bus driver only to lose him at the first opportunity to the Art Department, so Alex didn’t get that job.

He worked briefly at another theme park just down the road but it wasn’t Disney and the magic just wasn’t there.

Then the day he had dreamed of finally arrived. It had taken years and years, but his diligence paid off. Alex was initially hired by Disney, in 1991, on a freelance basis and in 1993 became a permanent employee. He is a Senior Character Artist in the Walt Disney Attractions Merchandise Department.

So what does a Disney Design Artist do? The short answer is, pretty much everything, other than animation. Their work revolves around merchandise, any kind of merchandise and you can see it on shelves all over the parks. If you buy a coffee mug, a print, a figurine, a t-shirt or a cloisonné pin, the concept for the piece sprang from the imagination of a design artist. The more complex pieces require a “four position drawing” showing the piece from four different viewpoints.

Alex was one of the original members of the “Pin Team” established in 1999 to design trading pins and two decades later cloisonné pins still make up a good portion of his designs.

When you listen to Alex speak it is impossible to miss the reverence he has for Walt Disney and the joy he experiences in his day to day working life.

He is proof that dreams can come true. As Walt Disney said, ‘If you can dream it, you can do it!’

Today Alex, his wife Marian and their two children are all employed by Disney!

If you ever get a chance to meet Alex Maher and hear his story, be sure to take advantage of the opportunity. He’s a talented artist, a sincere Disney fan and a truly fascinating speaker.

Between the speaker’s presentations Carol and I headed to Packy’s for lunch. She had spent a few hours bouncing between the Pin Trading rooms and the Vendors Room and was pleased with her pin trades!

The annual Costume Contest was taking place when we finished lunch. There are always some creative costume ideas, all Disney related of course!

This year there was a large Star Wars group to augment some of the familiar characters from all those Disney animated features.

At 1:00 p.m. Tom Nabbe kicked off the afternoon session and related another fascinating story of determination.

He told the story of his varied career at Disney . . . and it was fascinating.

Tom began selling newspapers outside the Harbor Gate to Disneyland in 1955 when the park was still under construction. The image below shows an opening day, July 17, 1955 Disneyland ticket that actor Danny Thomas gave to Tom’s mother.

In the next slide you see newsboy Tom standing outside that Harbor Gate, flanked by Milton Berle and Jerry Lewis.

Tom standing outside that Harbor Gate

By 1957 young Tom had persuaded Walt Disney to hire him to portray Tom Sawyer on the newly opened Tom Sawyer Island. The next picture shows Tom, in his Tom Sawyer persona, sitting on a rock at Tom Sawyer Island.

The final picture shows his Main Street Window dedication at Walt Disney World in 2003.

It’s not often that you get a chance to speak one-on-one with an authentic Disney Legend . . . but it happens regularly at Dayton Disneyana!

The next speaker was one that Carol and I had not met before. Kaye Malins was born and raised in Marceline Missouri, the town where Walt spent his formative years.

Kaye is Executive Director of the Walt Disney Hometown Museum and she’s a true Disney historian and a unique storyteller. Her connections to The Walt Disney Company can be traced directly back to its founding fathers, Walt and Roy Disney. Kaye first met Walt and Roy when they returned to dedicate the Disney Municipal Park and Pool Complex in their boyhood hometown of Marceline.

Walt and Roy in 1956 at their old Elementary School

Roy and Walt pass a sign that reads ‘City Limits – Marceline – Population 3,172’

During that trip Walt, Lillian, Roy and Edna were honoured houseguests of Kaye’s parents Rush and Inez Johnson. Those treasured days in 1956 sparked a family friendship that lasted a lifetime.

Kaye’s mother, Inez Johnson, joined her onstage and gave us a hilarious first-hand account of that visit by the Disney family in 1956. Walt and Roy had decided to honour the town where they grew up funding construction of a new municipal park and swimming pool complex. Then it came time to dedicate the new park and pool, so naturally the city fathers invited their benefactors.

Kaye’s father Rush Johnson was a city councillor and the arrival of the famous Disney brothers created quite a stir at the regular council meeting.

“These are very wealthy and famous people, where will they stay?”

“We’re a very small town; we don’t even have a motel.”

After a great deal of active discussion it was decided that the Disney families would simply have to stay at the only home in Marceline that had air conditioning. That was the home of Kaye’s parents Rush and Inez Johnson.

Inez kept us all in stitches as she told us how Rush came home from that City Hall meeting and rather sheepishly explained that some very famous celebrities were coming to stay in their home. I haven’t laughed so hard in quite some time!

Kaye told us about the Walt Disney Hometown Museum where she serves as Executive Director.

Like so many small towns, Marceline lost its rail service years ago and the station sat vacant for years. Every avid Disney fan knows that Walt Disney was a huge railroad fan. It couldn’t be more appropriate that the museum in Marceline is located in the former train station.

It has been beautifully restored and revitalized and after hearing about it, Carol and I have added Marceline MO to our Bucket List.

Have you heard about Walt’s ‘Dreaming Tree’?

Roy and Walt at the Dreaming Tree in 1956

Walt’s father Elias didn’t think much of art and sketching and animation. Real work, work of any value involved manual labour and physical exertion. So Walt did his chores on the farm and contributed his effort and sweat as required, but whenever possible he would grab his sketch pad and pencils and sit under his ‘Dreaming Tree’, a huge cottonwood tree down by the creek.

Alas, the original Dreaming Tee is now dead and decaying. But a new Dreaming Tree sapling, germinated from a seed of the original tree was planted by one of Walt’s grandsons and as the old tree decays the new one is gaining strength and vigour!

Read about the Dreaming Tree and much more on the Walt Disney Hometown Museum’s web site here: 

The Live Auction began at 4:00 p.m. as soon as Kaye and Inez finished their presentation.

There were a number of very nice items donated and folks rushed in as soon as they could to see the treasures that were available.

The two one-of-a-kind original sketches that Alex Maher had drawn that afternoon were very popular and each of them earned several hundred dollars for Pirate Packs.

I have donated a Mickey Mouse lamp post for the auction for the past few years and this year I decided to create a few Disney themed wreaths. The one below featured Minnie Mouse all dressed up for Christmas.

The Jack Skellington wreath Randy is holding below is one of two Halloween ones I made.

I wasn’t sure how popular they might be, but it turned out very well. The three of them brought in over $300 for Pirate Packs. I’ll be sure to create a few more for next year!

The illuminated 3D Lenticular piece on drew some aggressive bidding and sold for over $200.

Then came the item that Carol really wanted. She explained to me earlier that she really, REALLY, REALLY wanted it. It was pretty clear that I had my instructions! It was a Bradford Exchange set of four Mickey Mouse pieces. They were cast china pieces, like a china dinner plate, except they were flat and rectangular. Each depicted a couple of decades in Mickey’s history and each had a 3D Mickey Mouse image projecting from it. All four pieces fit into a nice wooden frame to hang on the wall.

I opened the bidding and it soon boiled down to a two-horse race, I was bidding against Rene Barnett, a Dayton Disneyana Committee member and a hard-working volunteer at the event every year. I felt bad bidding against Rene . . . but I had my instructions! We won the plates and frame with a $100 bid and Carol was delighted.

The last item up for bid was the Mickey Mouse lamp post I donated. You can see part of it in the picture of the illuminated 3D Lenticular above. This also quickly boiled down to a two-horse race, Lucy who is also a member of the Dayton Disneyana Committee and a volunteer at the event was bidding aggressively against Mike and Tina from Windsor Ontario. Lucy was thrilled when she won with a $235 bid!

Over the course of the weekend Dayton Disneyana raised a total of $5,000 for Pirate Packs, and of course there was also hundreds of pounds of food donated to this very worthy cause as well!

There was a short break before dinner so we headed back to the room for a few minutes, then headed back to Packy’s.

The dinner format was a bit different this year, and it was wonderful. They called it ‘Part of Your World Dinner’ and there were only 32 tickets available at $65 each. The dinner itself was a buffet and it was much better than I had expected. Much better than the ‘rubber chicken’ you usually find as similar events.

But the food was secondary to the company . . . and the company was great! They had cordoned off a section of the restaurant for us and set up 4 tables of 10. Each table had space for 8 ticket holders and 2 of our special guests. Every 30 minutes it was like musical chairs, the special guests got up and moved on to another table.

What a great concept! We started off sharing our appetizers and some fascinating conversation with Alex Maher and his wife Marian.

It was tough to see them go after a half hour, but then Tom Nabbe joined us and the fun began again.

Next to join our table were Kaye Malins and her mother Inez . . . the laughter continued!

The last to sit with us were event organizers Gary and Anita Schaengold who were filling in for Jim Hill who normally acts as emcee for the weekend. Unfortunately Jim had to cancel at the last minute, but Gary and Anita filled in admirably!

The ‘Part of Your World Dinner’ is a terrific concept; I hope they repeat it next year. It’s a nice way to spend some time with Disney celebrities in a small group without all the noise of a ‘convention’ in the background!

After dinner Carol headed to the pin trading room while I stayed at Packy’s for a drink with a few friends. We were both in bed early; it’s another long day on the road tomorrow!

Sunday June 9, 2019

Things are a lot less rushed on Sunday morning. There is no rush to get to the Early Bird session and the Vendor Room doesn’t open until 10:00 a.m.

Carol wanted to take another lap around the tables full of merchandise before we pulled out to head home so that gave us time for a leisurely breakfast at Packy’s, followed by several cups of coffee.

It’s probably the only laid-back part of the weekend for us and folks seem to all congregate in the restaurant for some friendly chatter before the doors open for shopping.

The vendors would rather sell it than pack it up! There are bargains available on Sunday.

We made a quick round of the sales floor, thanked the organizers, said goodbye to friends and got on the road heading home at about 10:45.

Yes, we survived another weekend in Dayton! And we had a great time.

We take the same 632 mile route home, but the trip is always quicker . . . we seem to make fewer stops when we’re northbound. Maybe that’s because the adventure is behind us rather than waiting for us. We just want to get home! We made a few quick stops along the way to stretch our legs and fill up with gas but the stops were minimal.

We arrived home about 9:00 p.m. and carried all of Carol’s new treasures into the house!

So, let’s take a look at what she brought home to add to her Disney collection!

These were all free items included in the Early Bird goody bags or won in the raffles.

Carol’s other purchases . . . all destined to find a new home in her Disney Room!

As I described before, picking up this beautiful piece in the live auction was the highlight of Carol’s weekend!

Will we see you in Dayton next year?

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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.

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