Welcome to Armchair Travels, an invitation to travel around the world through the reportage illustration of Studio 1482. We have gathered art from our travels to share with you in the hopes that, while you can’t get out and see these places (yet), our experiences may bring some happiness and light to your day. Please check back often as we will be posting new adventures weekly. Enjoy Town Square, Main Street USA, Magic Kingdom…by Dominick Santise
One year on a trip to the Magic Kingdom I discovered a daily ceremony in Town Square. For those unfamiliar with Disney World, the entrance to the Magic Kingdom is reminiscent of turn of the century America and Town Square is the welcome center for the rest of the park. Yes, as you would expect, behind every door—and more so with each passing year—are endless Disney themed memories to be had. But walk down Main Street and you are also instantly transported to a world that helped give birth to the fantasies that are a part of out culture today.
Having been to Walt Disney World several times over the years I was surprised I had not seen it before. Something about it stopped me that day. In the midst of all the character greetings, family vacation chaos, trains pulling up to the station and the sounds and smells pulling everyone into the park, right at the entrance, just outside City Hall, stood a lone flag pole.
Right before sundown the music in the square stopped, the mood changed, and several uniformed Disney employees descended upon the center asking guests to step back.
Trumpets blared Retreat and the “Star Spangled Banner” played as the Disney Color Guard lowered the flag.
As the flag was removed from the staff “God Bless America” played in the background.
I stood in awe as the Color Guard methodically folded the flag. Having witnessed a few military ceremonies in my life, I was transported to a more solemn place and forgot where I was—I couldn’t take my eyes off of it.
With fanfare that could be heard calling from all around the park, a castle from children’s dreams at the opposite end of Main Street, and the tastes and smells pouring out of store fronts up and down the boulevard that lead everyone to fantasies of all shapes and sizes, the crowd grew around the ceremony. I was not the only one caught up by the moment.
The ceremony concluded with the presentation of the flag to a visiting guest veteran who lead a procession down Main Street.
The Magic Kingdom was the last place I would have expected to deepen my patriotism. As each step was taken to fold the flag in honor of all those who have served, I was amazed that I was standing in Walt Disney World. This was the home of Mickey Mouse, what did he have to do with our nation’s veterans. Sure many were there, but Mickey and Goofy…really?
I am the last person to obsess about pop culture. My reasons for being at Disney over the years were not of the average guest, I rarely went home with souvenirs. But as I stood there that afternoon I looked around and realized that there is more to our days than the distractions of a Mouse and his friends—that all of us standing around the square had different reasons for being in the Magic Kingdom. I grew up on Disney. It is a part of my childhood and formative years. Love it or hate it, Disney raised the bar on storytelling. On that day a ten minute ritual that could easily go overlooked caught my attention. Each day for the rest of my trip I made sure I was there to pay witness to it. Tradition and ceremony are things readily dismissed when you are on “vacation” but sometimes they also make all that is around you seem that much more important. Somehow the history that I knew to be Disney was a little richer, a little less commercial and a bit more fairy tale. The beautiful thing about fairy tales is that they change over time. With each adventure we open ourselves up to the world around us and all that the beautiful people that we share this planet with have to offer. Yes, there is plenty of bad on this planet, but I have never crossed the border of my home state or stepped foot on foreign soil to search out the negative, I have set forth on adventures large and small to find those little nuggets of beauty in this great big world.