HolyCoast: Another Piece of Disneyland's Past Going Away

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Another Piece of Disneyland's Past Going Away

Carnation Plaza Gardens, which holds a number of memories for me:
Disneyland‘s iconic Carnation Plaza Gardens’ entertainment venue will close at the end of the month to pave the way for a new princess greeting area, putting an end to rumors that the plans may be canceled.

Since 1956, the Main Street, U.S.A. plaza has hosted entertainers including famous musicians, such as Benny Goodman, and beginners, like high school bands and children’s groups. Each Saturday, a group of swing dancers takes over for nighttime dances, which are expected to return after the transformation into the daytime Fantasy Faire.

The plaza is set to close April 30, Disney announced. The Fantasy Faire opening date has yet to be revealed, said Kevin Rafferty Jr., a Disneyland Resort spokesman. But it is expected to ready sometime next year.
In the summer of 1975 when I was working at Disneyland the Janitorial Office (I was a sweeper) was located right behind Carnation Gardens. I would walk through there every day to check in and out of the office. During those summer evenings the most famous big bands in the country, led by people like Duke Ellington, Buddy Rich, and Benny Goodman played for the couples that filled the dance floor.

But I have a couple of other memories of that place.  When my daughter was pretty young my parents would take her over to Disneyland and my dad would take her out on the dance floor and dance with her (he held her while they danced).  The other people always got a kick out of that.

I had my own brief turn on the Carnation Plaza Gardens stage in January, 1983 when The Watchmen Quartet performed there for Nazarene Night that year.  This is the only photo I can find from that event - I'm the guy on the right:
What you can't see is the storm that was raging over Disneyland as we sang.  Rain was pouring down around the covered area and a cold, damp wind was howling across the stage.  Our piano player, who was seated off to the left of this shot, actually had rain blowing on the piano keys and his back was soaked.  It didn't hurt our crowd, though, they came running to get out of the rain.  We did two 30-minute stands that very cold night.

I haven't been in Disneyland for a couple of years, but I know the next time I do I'll really feel the absence of that historic spot.

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