Several weekends ago, I had the distinct honor of being named the grand marshal of the Festival of Fantasy parade at Magic Kingdom. Soooooo basically I’m Meghan Markle. Or like… the stand-in for her assistant’s assistant. Same thing.
For most 25-year-olds, this probably wouldn’t seem like that big of a deal. But as a lifelong Disney aficionado, this is kind of the most insane thing that’s ever happened to me. Let’s recap how it happened, before you fall off the edges of your seats from anticipation.
I was at Disney World for my friend’s birthday. There were four of us in total, counting the bday girl, and we were all wearing matching Disney-themed shirts, like any self-respecting party group would. The day of the parade, it just so happened to be incredibly dreary and rainy, so none of us were really all that excited to be at Magic Kingdom. We ALMOST turned around when we got there. But alas, we trudged on in our rain gear, hoping that the skies would clear up soon and that we could make the most out of our morning.
We were on our way to Pirates of the Caribbean for our first FastPass when we were stopped by a cast member about our age. She wished my friend a happy birthday and asked if we’d ever seen the parade. We had, bc duh, three of us have been to Disney like 703 times. Then she asked if we wanted to be in it. Just like that. V casual, like we’ve been asked tons of times to be in parades.
Obviously, the answer was an emphatic YES. Bday girl even cried a bit, bc emotions were running high at that point in the morning and it was just crazy timing. I saved my tears for after the parade… but yup, still cried 😬
Grand Marshal Perks
So what happens when you become a grand marshal, besides the obvious? We each got three FastPasses to use on any ride at Magic Kingdom, and since we didn’t end up using them all, we actually got three more to use at Epcot later in the day. This is a dream come true if you’re trying to do a lot at Disney in one day, because wait times are always high and FP’s are scarce.
We also got a free photo shoot on Main Street— all of the pictures in this post were taken by our photographer and were available for immediate download right after the parade. We also got to print one picture out, per person, which is cool bc pics at Disney are CRAZY expensive.
We got to keep the cute lil grand marshal Mickey ears that you see in most of our pics. Kind of the coolest souvenir ever.
Andddd of course. We got to be grand marshals!
Grand Marshal Duties
So let me start by saying that while I’ve seen the parade many times, I’ve never been all that excited by it. I’m not a parade/show person, and after the fourth or fifth time, even a Broadway-level production starts to lose its allure. But being in the parade truly changed the experience, and now I won’t be able to leave Magic Kingdom without watching it again.
We got to ride in our own special carriage throughout the park— from Splash Mountain all the way down Main Street. As we rode, our names were spoken over the loudspeaker for everyone to hear multiple times, and we got to wave at everyone watching the parade like the celebrities we wish we were. I have never seen so many people so genuinely excited to see me… even if most of them were below the age of 10. It was pretty much the coolest moment of my life.
After we kicked off the parade, we did our photo shoot while the floats caught up with us— that took about 10-15 minutes. Then we got to watch the parade from our very exclusive viewing location, and all of the characters on the floats gave us special attention. I am personally a huge Donald Duck fan, and he waved at me, and I lost my sh*t. See below for proof.
It’s really hard to put into words how special this experience was, because nothing I say can really do it justice. I personally have been to Disney so many times that I’ve lost count. I’ve stayed in every hotel, been on every ride (except one of the Avatar ones), and done every single thing there is to do… or so I thought. This experience meant so much more because I’ve been going since I was little, and it embodied all of the magical Disney moments I’ve had throughout my life. I really believe that you either “get” the Disney magic, or you don’t. Some people think Disney is just an overpriced place to go if you want to be surrounded by kids and fat people (their words not mine). But I’ve spent half of my birthdays and so many special occasions there because the magic is REAL, at least for me and my family. This grand marshal experience just made it that much more clear that Disney will always be a special place for me, whether others get it or not.
Overall, I feel #blessed to have been a grand marshal for Disney, and I’ve been coming down off the high from that trip ever since.
I wanna hear from y’all— do I have any fellow Disney fans out there? Have any of you guys gotten to be in a parade or a show? Lmk in the comments or on insta @heytampabae 🤓