Main Street Electrical Parade Memories

Photo of Main Street Electrical Parade

The Main Street Electrical Parade was very special to Disneyland guests. It was source of many fond memories from 1972 until 1996. That’s why it deserves its own page of memories here at Yesterland.

Do you have a humorous, nostalgic, touching, or “illuminating” memory of the Main Street Electrical Parade that would interest other Yesterland guests? Please keep it fairly brief, and send it to me with the subject of “MSEP Memory.”

Werner Weiss, Curator of Yesterland
Write to Yesterland

      There seemed to be hundreds (thousands) who have made the MSEP a show to remember. Even though I kind of accidently ended up as a supervisor on the first few MSEPs (and America On Parades), the memories are all surpisingly still vivid.
      The work to originally get it all going was tremendous: Barnett Ricci’s dance routines, drivers mastering the whirlygig driving, keeping the lights lit, and parade folks focused was really an exercise the first year. Most of these original participants have a first year photo we took using the old Candlelight Xmas Tree. If someone’s got one scanned, it would be a thrill to see it posted.
      It’s hard to belive all the MSEP stuff on the net. And it’s fun to read all the memories and thoughts of those associated with the parade.
      One evening in January/February ’72 my Entertainment supervisor called me at home looking for people to come into the (closed) park that night. Sharing an apartment with two other Entertainment cast members, we all took off for the park about 7 p.m. that night. When we got there, wardrobe dressed us up in liquid cell batteries and various costumes covered with tiny lights... there were five or six of us in all. We were trundled out to Town Square/Main Street in the semi-darkness. A few minutes later about fifty people, most dressed in suits and ties, appeared around the train station platform. All the Main Street lights were cut, and our costumes were lit. The suits and ties talked amongst themselves for a time and they all left. Voilà. Without having told us, we were the prototype/live concept for the MSEP. Somewhere I’ve got a photo that the park photographer gave me... now, where is it?

— Arne Anderson, March 5, 1998 (arne @

      As I was reading many fond memories of the MSEP I became very sad and at the same time very happy. I am only 21 years old, and I grew up with the MSEP. I would follow it down Main Street as often as I could. The MSEP has brought happiness to millions of people, including myself. It will always be a part of me as long as I live. I listen to the soundtrack almost every day and the memory will never die. Chills take over my body when the lights dim and the anouncement plays; I am magically transported from Main Street to a place that only Disney can create, a place that creates happiness and memories for all of us. Farewell Main Street Electrical Parade, you will always be a part of me forever and forever.

— Parker A. Perry, September 15, 1997 (PPerry5738 @

      I was a bilingual tour guide at Disneyland in ’73/’74. During my “off hours” Disneyland was extra special. Between parades, some parade employees would get into other costumes and square dance in Bear Country. One night I joined them, and had an unusual opportunity! I watched the parade from INSIDE a float—my friend Paul drove the dragon. I agree with earlier comments that it is great to see joy, or even thrills (Paul could be a crazy driver) on people’s faces, in the dark, with the yellow bulbs of the dragon washing their faces from the bottom up in amber light. The music synchronization was interesting from inside, too. The other memories I read at your site are touching. Working there was a fun job. The whole Disneyland operation is top quality!

— Deborah Barnes Wible, September 4, 1997 (debwible @

      I was in the original cast of the Main Street Electrical Parade. That first year, all the lights were clear and hand-dyed by us loyal employees seeking overtime. We would work in these big hangars out on the back lot fronting on Ball Street and sweating and painting the lights from big templates hanging on the walls. It took hours.
      I now have cancer and don’t get out much, but visiting your site was a wondrous thing. Some friends last year transported me and my wheelchair to a trip to see the last parade also and pre-arranged a suprise backstage tour where I got to see all the improvements from that first magical summer. I even got to put on my King Lion Costume and ride in the Drum for the last parade—so that was me that your reviewer saw. And he was right. It was a most amazing evening.

— Chuck B., September 2, 1997 (e-mail address withheld upon request)

      I worked Adv/Frontierland attractions in ’87-’88, and, of course, this meant I got to work Guest Assistance for the parades. Gosh...worked the MSEP (and the others of the era) so many times—when I play my record of the MSEP theme, I immediately want to grab a flashlight and squat on a curb.
      Preparing for the first MSEP of the night always reminded me of John Wayne’s movie about the Alamo...two hours of slow, methodical preparation, and then all *&!$! broke loose! I know it probably didn’t seem very organized at times, but we really did try! The worst (or best, if you liked confrontation) spot to be positioned was "back cut-off." This is the guy or gal (usually a guy in our area) who had to draw the rope across the crossover, closing off the flow of pedestrians between floats. No matter how many people you’d hustle through the crossover, you’d always have to make *somebody* wait—cutting off restless people who were trying to hurry say, from Tomorrowland across the Hub and into Adventureland.
      No matter how hard we tried, it seemed we’d always be separating kids from parents or something, seemingly always non-English-speaking kids and parents, and so confused, horrified screaming would ensue as the parents pushed against the yellow nylon cut-off ropes, waving frantically as Junior disappeared into the dark mob on the other side of the street.
      It didn’t matter what you tried to do, how well you planned out the crossover, how much you talked to the early-comers beforehand about where they could sit and couldn’t stand and so on—once the music started and the streetlights dimmed, people became mesmerized. Grown men would stand up, eye to camera, and step right into the path of an on-coming snail. Otherwise intelligent people coming from other parts of the Park would see the parade, look around, and then park themselves in the middle of the crossway, thanking their stars for this long empty space left for them right down the middle of the masses.
      Directing Guests during the parade was kinda like being a traffic cop in a city of zombies... but these were very happy zombies.
      I think the best part of working parade was that, once the ropes were set up, in the hour(s) before the parade began, you’d get paid for basically talking to the guests, asking where they were from and such, which was always interesting and fun. We’d lend the flashlight wands to little kids, who always seemed enchanted by them...or sometimes use them (as I suppose Hosts do today) to pretend to land passing jets, or stage mock Star Wars light saber duels.

— Mike Sigalas, May 29, 1997 (sigalasm @

      Reading about all of the memories of the MSEP parade, especially of the final appearance, made my eyes well up with tears. I’ve been going to Disneyland since 1976 and many of those years have contained hours of sitting on curbside (I’m very short) waiting anxiously for the parade. I was at the park on the Saturday they closed early because of the parade. It was packed, yes, and the women’s bathroom lines were extra extra long—but as I told my brother and friend, we were all there to share in something. Something special. When the theme music first came up, all of us who had light bracelets or roses moved our toys to the rhythm. We knew it would be the last time we saw this wonderful creation which only Disney could have done.

— Donna Siegel, May 26, 1997 (djs24940 @

      Regarding the MSEP, I was also there in the last few days. While I can vouch for the crowd’s enthusiasm for the parade, Disney really milked the situation. Overpriced food, overcrowding, lack of rest rooms and sheer lack of space to walk and breathe really put a damper on my enthusiasm. A medium Arrowhead water shouldn’t cost $2.50. Still, I grew up to the parade.

— Kevin Lightner, February 6, 1997 (majmoog @

      There is one thing that always makes me chuckle...when thinking about the Main Street Electrical Parade. I have a video tape I made the last time I went....and as I panned and zoomed around throughout the loud and beautiful parade, I caught glimpse of something across the street. And what with all the noise and procession of many Disney characters, I found a child (about 4 or 5), slouching on the curb. He had a Davy Crockett hat and frontier musket. He was drooped and sleeping on his musket. What a charming sight to see. A boy who had been overloaded with a day of fun and memories. Sad to see, he missed the parade... but he sure looked content. Every time I watch that video... I chuckle.

— Michael Holmberg, February 5, 1997 (mholmber @

      I worked as a ride operator at Disneyland from 1967 to 1972 while attending college. Six weeks before I left the employ of Disneyland to take my first career job in Northern California, the Electrical Parade opened. We (the employees) had heard rumors about this parade for several weeks but did not know exactly what to expect. As was the custom at Disneyland in those days, I was assigned to “crowd control” during the parade. Those last days at Disneyland in 1972 were the most enjoyable of all for me because of the happiness I saw the Electrical Parade bring to the guests. It was fascinating and mesmerizing. And now, 25 years later, I am glad my eight year old son had the chance to see it before it became history.

— Scott Bowen, February 2, 1997 (sbowen @

      My boyfriend and I saw the Main Street Electrical Parade for the last time on October 13, 1996—two days before the original last day. Naturally, Disneyland was utterly packed with people. We browsed along Main Street and watched Rod Miller while the first Parade was going on. As soon as it ended, we ran to the curb in front of the watch shop and parked ourselves (I in a puddle of someone’s spilled soda—but I didn’t care!) to wait for the second performance. We watched all of the people leaving the park—I had never in my life seen so many strollers in one hour than that night. When the fanfare came on, the lights went out, and the Blue Fairy made her way around the corner, I couldn’t help but get teary-eyed. I couldn’t believe that I’d never be experiencing this wonderful parade ever again. I was able to calm the lump in my throat and enjoy seeing the Parade curbside, which in all my visits to Disneyland, I had never done. And what a difference it made! I felt swallowed by the lights and the music, and I loved every minute. At least I have my part of The Main Street Electrical Parade—an authentic blue light bulb!!!

— Kerrie Wooten, February 1, 1997 (davo @

      In the summer of 1977, we took our only son, Chris, to Disneyland for the first time for his birthday. He was five years old. It was also my husband’s and my first experience seeing the MSEP. Chris was thrilled and awestruck, as were we. In October of that same year, Chris died in a car accident. While our son is now gone and we have a new wonderful family, we will always remember that Chris went to Disneyland and saw the parade at least one time in his short life. My husband and I went to Disneyland this summer and got to see the parade one last special time. This is my special memory of that magical parade.

—Jeff & Toni Nesmith, January 30, 1997 (jnesmith @

      In May of 1996, I returned to Disneyland after a 41 year absence. Yes, I was there during opening year when I was 10 years old. I was looking forward to the Electrical Parade with much anticipation. My children, Marzieh, age 6, and Jamal, age 3, were with me, along with my friend Sharon and her two children, Chris, age 11, and Kassi, age 6. The six of us were camped out early and waiting. I videotaped much of the parade and my reaction to Cinderella’s pumpkin/carriage was recorded, otherwise I never would have remembered. All I could say was "OH, OH, OH!" I was completely mesmerized and swept up! I’m 51! Still stirred me deeply.

— Gayle Hoover Thorne, January 3, 1997 (jamarz @

      The reason the Main Street Electrical Parade did not show in the mid-eighties was that they had the bright idea to do a new parade called Flights of Fantasy. It was a parade of all inflatable floats. Nice idea, but it (a) didn’t quite work—the Malificent dragon never had enough air to keep the head fully inflated—and (b) didn’t have the impact that the Electrical Parade did. Public outcry wanting the Elecrical Parade back was enormous. From what I heard from someone who worked in Show Services at the time of Flights of Fantasy was that once it was closed, the floats, which were silk, were shredded.

— Dave Schmidt, December 2, 1996 (dschmidt @

      The last unit of the Main Street Electrical Parade had just passed the spot where my two sisters and I were standing. We joined the tide of parade watchers that closed in behind it and then, without a word to each other, linked arms and began a spirited Can-Can to the music of the Parade. Total strangers joined our Can-Can line until it was nearly the width of Main Street, USA. We followed the last unit to the gate just to the right of “Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln” and continued dancing at the threshold of the gate until the music ended. When we all took a bow, the cast members and security personnel at the gate gave us a round of applause. I hope the Parade’s successor can make people feel the same way.

— Joe Ekaitis, November 28, 1996 (jekaitis @

      My foundest memory of Disneyland is the Electrical Pararde. I remember being 5 years old and waiting for about an hour to get the perfect parade viewing spot. Then, after you got your spot, waiting for it to get dark. Once it was dark, my childhood visions began. I remember looking at that girl who played Cinderella. I always wondered how long her legs were? She always seemed to be 100 feet high. Her dress glittered and shone so brightly at night. The parade always scared me too; that dragon that appeared and snorted steam everywhere. Even the music that played for him was creepy to a 5-year old. I had not thought about this in year, and I thank you for making me remember. I only regret that my kids can’t experiance the parade. I do have a recording of the music, so at least they can hear the dragon.

— Denise Mosey, August 1, 1996 (smosey @

      I worked as a parade performer from October 1985 to January 1994— doing everything from The Main Street Electrical Parade and Very Merry Christmas Parade to special events. Most of our rehearsal time was spent backstage, but the dress rehearsals would take place late at night inside the park when it was empty—this is the time when you wish you could build a cottage and have Disneyland as your backyard. The work was very difficult with costume temperatures in the summer exceeding 120o F in summer and dropping into the low 50’s during winter (try that wearing tights...). But it was all worth it when you saw the guests’ faces beaming—that’s where the energy came from. Seeing a wheelchair-bound grandmother with a toddler on her lap having the best time of their lives is a memory that few can match. Where else can you get to dress up in wild outfits, work up a sweat dancing your heart out, and get paid for it?

— Darin May, January 11, 1996 (lohphat @

The Final Electrical Parade
Still More Yester Memories (1998)

Disclaimers, Copyright, and Trademarks

Updated December 3, 2006.

Photograph of Main Street Electrical Parade: 1996 by Werner Weiss.