Fourth of July at Disneyland is not for the feint of heart.
Nor is any holiday, really.
A high tolerance for crowds and heat — especially during a summer holiday like the Fourth — are most definitely required. And packing plenty of water and sunscreen doesn’t hurt either.
The only major holiday that I’ve been to the parks on is the Fourth, and not only was I there, but I worked it. Which is probably only fair because I never did have to work a grad night.
Strolling up and down Main Street U.S.A. on a sweltering summer day, answering queries about what time the parade is, how to find Splash Mountain, or where to meet Mickey; pin trading, lingering under the covered awning outside the Main Street Cinema and feeling the mercifully cool air conditioning blast flowing outward.
So goes the typical summer afternoon of a GSO (that is, crowd control) shift at Disneyland.
Fourth of July is not a day like that.
A holiday means special entertainment offerings that bring in the Annual Passholders and the casual LA day trippers in droves.
The thing that stood out to me most clearly about working the Fourth wasn’t the amount of people alone, but rather the number of people who showed up hours early to claim their spot for the fireworks.
On any given night the viewing areas tend to fill up, but if one wants to cut it close you can get a spot in the back almost always, although the view is usually a bit dicey. I’ve been that person, and I’ve also been the person who sits down an hour and a half beforehand to get that perfect, dead center spot. And, too, I’ve been the person who has sat there for that long and then had the show get cancelled, “due to winds at higher elevations.” That’s never the news you want to hear, but better that than a chunk of fallout landing on you.
Disney does a special fireworks show on the Fourth, and at the time that I was there it ran the entire week — albeit the other days it was shorter, the only day they did the full Fourth of July show was on the Fourth itself.
I walked on stage that day and almost ran into a wall of people. Hours before sunset the viewing areas —AKA everywhere in the street — was packed with people sitting on blankets from Sleeping Beauty’s Castle to Town Square. There would be no last minute ducking in that night.
Now, if you’ve been to Disneyland and tried to cross the park anytime during the 9:00 hour you’ve surely experienced the joys of circle flow. And by joys I mean one of the biggest pains you are likely to face during your vacation. The trick to circle flow is that theoretically it works well, but when guests don’t know what is going on — or where they are going — well, then things don’t go so smoothly.
Essentially circle flow is what it sounds like: all the guests flowing in one direction. All guests entering the park are directed to the right hand side of Main Street, then flow counterclockwise around the circle that is the hub, exiting into whatever land they so desire, and those exiting the park flowing down the left side of Main Street. The trick is that if you miss your exit you’re stuck: around again you go. You can imagine that for the frazzled family that has been playing in the park all day and just.wants.to.go.to.Pirates with their tiny children in tow, missing both the Frontierland and Adventureland exits and getting sent back towards Tomorrowland is enough to try their patience. But, around they go.
This also has the potential to create bottle necks. One section stops and there go the dominos.
I love holidays. (Totally serious, I really do).
All is well that ends well, so people say. The walkways kept walking that Fourth of July, the fireworks went off (thank goodness no high winds), the people cheered and we GSO cast members huddled for a rousing cheer of “Handle it!” before breaking ranks and clocking out for our 10:10 p.m. walk time.
Happy Fourth of July, readers, and remember to keep an ear out for your friendly neighborhood spieling cast member the next time you’re at Disneyland.