Let January 9th, 2012, forever be known in the annals of Orlando history as "The Day of the Passing Pachyderms." (Or not.)
Our story starts at Walt Disney World, where what was arguably the most iconic original attraction at the Magic Kingdom has closed forever in its current form. On Sunday night, Fantasyland's Dumbo attraction took it's last riders ever for a circular spin through the airspace behind Cinderella Castle. By Monday morning, as you can see in the accompanying photographs, construction wall were blocking the famous flying elephant from guests' view.
You may wonder why I fans haven't been up in arms about Dumbo's closure, the way I was over Universal's recent shuttering of Jaws. One, Dumbo has always been a basic carnival ride dressed up with a cartoon shell, and had little appeal beyond pre-schoolers and diehard nostalgia nuts. Second, and more importantly, Dumbo is scheduled to return in less than a year as part of Storybook Circus, an element of Disney's anticipated new Fantasyland expansion. The refreshed Dumbo will be relocated inside a colorful circus tent near where Mickey's Toontown Fair used to be. The current attractionwill be joined by a new identical twin, creating a "dueling Dumbos" complex that should help reduce the ride's often extensive wait.
Only hours after the artificial elephant was grounded, a pack of live pachyderms arrived for a promenade through downtown Orlando. The Ringling Bros. Barnum & Bailey circus is presenting their new "Dragons" show at the Amway Arena beginning on Thursday night, and the parade of animals from the train tracks to the area has become an annual tradition.
This year's animal parade started a little later than the planned 8:30 p.m. step-off; I guess an elephant never forgets, but he doesn't always pack his trunk in time. So there was already a respectable crowd of families lining Amelia Avenue between OBT and Paramore.
As I followed the parade for its entire 2-plus mile route, I discovered three things. One, elephants walk much faster than you'd expect. Two, the community along Paramore and Division streets that we passed by comes out in full force to watch and cheer on the elephants. Third, walking through said neighborhood was much more comfortable accompanied a full team of circus performers and police escorts, than it was an hour later on the solo walk back to my car.
But that's a story for another blog...
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