Theme Park of the Day: Knott's Berry Farm

Theme park cast member stories: You never know whom you'll meet on a parade route

October 4, 2010, 10:01 AM · My younger sister was the first in our family to work at Walt Disney World, taking a job at the old Troubador Tavern drink station in the Magic Kingdom shortly after my family moved from Indianapolis to Orlando. (I was up in Chicago, attending college at Northwestern.) But as soon as she turned 18, she quickly transferred out of foods and into attractions, starting as a hostess in the Enchanted Tiki Room on the Magic Kingdom's west side.

As most attractions cast members do from time to time, she was sent over to work crowd control on the parade route on some afternoons. Today I'll tell her favorite parade route story.

The parade route crosses through Liberty Square and Frontierland on the park's west side. But we needed more cast members to work the route than just the locations in those two lands could provide. So Adventureland CMs - those who worked Pirates, the Tiki Room and Jungle Cruise - came over to work the parade, too.

Company managers had decided somewhere along the line that it was okay for people in Adventureland costumes to be seen in Frontierland, but not in Liberty Square. That meant Adventureland CMs could not work on the parade roll-out crew, which would have required them to set up route in both lands. Instead, they were left to keep traffic flowing around the crosswalks in Frontierland.

Most of the time, you just hung out and answered guest questions. But at 15 minutes until parade time, you were supposed to start clearing the parade route. That meant facing the direction that the parade would be moving and telling people walking toward you to please use the crosswalk opening to move behind the ropes and off the parade route. (People moving the other way could stay on the route, since they were moving away from the parade.)

For the first 10 minutes or so, you'd be pretty mellow about the request. If folks kept walking past you, there was plenty of time for CMs at crosswalks farther up the route to catch them. No need to provoke an unpleasant confrontation at the "happiest place on Earth," after all. It was only in the last five minutes or so before the appearance of the first parade unit that you got serious about keeping *everyone* off the parade route.

And I do mean everyone.

So when my sister saw an elderly man walking toward her along the route, she sprang into action. She'd noticed many folks in the crowd taking notice of the man walking the wrong way up the parade route, so she wondered why it hadn't occurred to him yet that he might be doing something wrong, with so many folks watching him and pointing his way.

"Excuse me, sir," she said in her best Disney voice, with her wide, friendly smile. "Could you please move behind the ropes?"

Immediately, two men in dark suits and sunglasses appeared at her sides.

"He can keep moving," one hissed quietly in her ear. The elderly man walked past my sister, returning a smile that was even wider and friendlier than my sister's.

The two men in suits were gone. My sister turned to her partner at the crosswalk, who stared at her in horror.

"Don't you know who that was?" she asked.

"No," my sister replied, wondering what the fuss was over this one elderly man, among hundreds of others, in the Magic Kingdom.

"That was Jimmy Carter," the other CM said.

And for all the years since, I've teased my sister that I could recognize the mayor of Paris, but she spaced her encounter with a former president of the United States.

For more stories about life working in the Magic Kingdom, please visit

Replies (7)

October 4, 2010 at 3:17 PM · Jimmy Carter should stop ruining parade routes and get back to finishing the humanitarian home for the broken Yeti.
October 4, 2010 at 6:20 PM · Perhaps he can put it next to the dead horse you're beating? :)
October 4, 2010 at 6:29 PM · Awesome story.
I saw John Stamos at Magic Kingdom once trying to be inconspicuous.
October 4, 2010 at 6:49 PM · Fun story, I saw Shaq once at the Magic Kingdom entering the Haunted Mansion through an alternative entrance. No way a guy that big could hide, he seemed pretty mellow too waving and smiling at people.
October 5, 2010 at 9:07 AM · It might be a good idea to start a "Who have you spotted at a Disney park?" thread (unless I already missed that one). I'm sure there are some good stories.
October 5, 2010 at 11:38 AM · Just a correction:
Disney cast members don't work CROWD control, they work GUEST control. But I would have accepted PEST control. ;-)
October 5, 2010 at 3:15 PM · Actually, we called it PAC - parade audience control.

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