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Theme park cast member stories: Benches and parade routes

By Robert Niles
Published: September 20, 2010 at 10:25 AM
"I'm sorry, ma'am, but we need to leave those benches where they were, instead of pulling them up to the parade route."

And thus began yet another episode in the daily struggle between cast member and guest over seating for the Magic Kingdom's parades.

On Main Street, the Magic Kingdom's parade route is well defined - the parade runs down the middle of the street. Folks take a seat on the curb and others stand behind them to watch. Easy.

But on the west side of Walt Disney World's first theme park, Disney's attractions cast members need to roll out a parade route through Liberty Square and Frontierland. We did it with stanchions and rope, defining where folks could gather to watch the parade, while providing enough space for the floats and dancers to pass by.

Yet some folks weren't eager to plop down on the flat ground to wait for the parade. With no curb to sit on, and plenty of benches in nearby dining areas and lining the edges of the street, many guests put one-and-one together and pulled up a bench upon which to sit while waiting for, then watching, the parade.

No big deal, right? Well, moving benches becomes a very big deal after the parade. While crowds gathered slowly around the parade route in the hours leading up to the performance, people didn't leave as leisurely once the show was over. Following the last float in any Disney parade you'd find a phalanx of cast members and guests, including attractions CMs pulling those stanchions and rolling up the rope within a second or two of the float's passing.

Behind them came a rush of park visitors, following the parade to their next destination in the park, or to the park's exit. On most days, it would be a shoulder-to-shoulder wall of humanity.

Good luck picking up and moving your bench through that.

Sure, a few folks have managed to do that, over the years. But many others couldn't, or didn't even bother. When people failed to return their benches, other folks in that post-parade crush were forced to avoid those stray benches, now standing - seemingly randomly - in the middle of the street, often blocked from view by the swirling crowd.

Of course, a few folks didn't avoid the benches - and a trip to First Aid for treatment (or City Hall for a complaint) quickly followed.

To avoid such unpleasantness, Disney wisely instructed its attractions cast members to prevent anyone from moving benches up to the parade route. Don't bother arguing that you'll be the rare guest who returns the bench to its proper place afterward. Fair's fair. Cast members know that everyone won't return their benches and that they have no way of telling who will. So no one gets to move one up.

Don't argue that you've got someone in your party who needs to sit in a chair, either. Disney provides seating for persons with disabilities at each of its parades. Bring a wheelchair to the parade route, and a cast member gladly will escort you to the nearest available reserved viewing area. (And if you didn't know that - now you do.)

But people continued to try to move the benches, and still do. As a former cast member and frequent theme park visitor, I know that some theme park rules might seem arbitrary to a first-time or infrequent park guest. The "no-benches" rule stands near the top of that list for many, I'm sure.

Yet as someone who's smacked his shin against a bench in a crowd more than a couple of times, lemme tell you that this is one rule I wish that every theme park guest would follow. Enjoy the park's benches where you find them. Just don't move 'em around.

Readers' Opinions

From Aaron Moore on September 20, 2010 at 11:50 AM
Geez People are so dumb
From Nathaniel Banks on September 20, 2010 at 12:30 PM
Wouldn't it have been easier for the park to just anchor the benches in place?
From Robert Niles on September 20, 2010 at 5:00 PM
Way easier to clean at night if you can move them. Not an issue at some parks, I know, but that definitely was an issue at Disney. :-)
From Bobby Miller on September 20, 2010 at 7:00 PM
Robert, I know you use to be the CM who held the rope roller on your chest but how heavy was it?

Bobby, formally known as Bob & Robert!!!!!!!

From Anthony Murphy on September 20, 2010 at 10:41 PM
I must say I have never seen this happen!
From Adam Dodds on September 25, 2010 at 9:18 AM
The old rope roller was pretty darn heavy, but since Maint St. Ops took over running the entire parade, they made new, lighter rope rollers. Rope rolling was second hardest job, after the wheel chair section in Liberty Square. One would think it would be easy, but CMs would trade and barter not to deal with the hundreds of guest who fight to watch the parade in the clearly marked reserved seating. I've called security twice because of guest's threats when I asked them to leave because there was no wheel chair in their party.

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