What 9 year old doesn’t dream of going to Disney World with all of her best friends? Heck, as a 29 year old I want to go to Disney World with all my best friends! In 1997 I was a cheerleader for a Pop Warner football team and two things happened that were awesome – first, our cheerleading team won second place in our regional competition which would have qualified us for nationals, and second, our football team won the regional game and qualified for the Superbowl!
Since the football team couldn’t play without their cheerleaders, our township had to make a decision of which team could go to play/compete. The decision was made to send the football team to play, which means we would all be going but we wouldn’t be competing in the cheerleading competition – but that was fine with us, we were going to Disney!
Most of the trip was done through fundraising and each cheerleader/football player needed to travel with an adult since we were all minors so this meant a lot of families were traveling together. The trip was mid-December and my mom had just started her new job so unfortunately, she couldn’t come with us 😦 but she cheered us on from back home.
Before we left I remember our whole fourth grade got together in one of the four classrooms and the teachers recognized those who were going with a globe stress ball – I guess to signify the traveling and also in case we were stressed out about the games! We also got a week’s worth of schoolwork in packets to do while we were there.
On the plane, my sister, my dad, and I sat behind some of my friend’s family and I was playing with my walrus beanie baby making her baby brother laugh the whole ride. I started a journal that I wrote like two pages in (found it recently and laughed so hard – I also couldn’t spell for anything back then).
When we arrived we checked in at Dixie Landings (now Port Orleans – Riverside). Every morning during breakfast we had to work on our packets. I remember my best friend and I doing ours together since we were in the same class and her brother and my sister working on their packets since they were also in the same class. We had the big refillable mugs that Disney used to offer (much bigger than the ones they have now, my sister and I are holding them in that picture^) and we would fill them up every morning also.
It rained almost the entire trip. We all bought the yellow Disney ponchos and wore them constantly. It also rained through all our games (the boys played four games at Disney’s Wide World of Sports) and by the end of the week our coaches told us to throw away our pom poms because they were so ruined (although, some of us may have kept ours for sentimental reasons).
At one point we were on the bus to the game and we were being really loud (as 8/9/10/11 year olds normally are) and our bus driver got so angry he pulled over and quit. That was a very interesting experience. I believe one of the football coaches ended up stepping up to drive the bus to get us back safely.
We also got these holographic football cards and I got Brett Favre. All the boys wanted to trade with me so I knew it was a good one and kept it (I grew up with boy cousins, I know these things). That’s what I credit for my love of the Packers to this day (in retrospect, they had just won the previous Superbowl so that is most likely why everyone liked them but still…).
One night (I have a vague memory of it being a Thursday) they opened MGM for only the Pop Warner families (similar to the Block Party at Animal Kingdom for College Nationals) and we had the whole park to ourselves (well, us and all the other cheer/football families there at the time)! This became the first time I ever rode Tower of Terror (being terrified the year prior – I guess I was a little braver with my friends). My best friend and I went on together and both swore we left our stomachs in the air! I just remember we kept saying it.
While we were at Disney, my friend’s brother celebrated his birthday and we went out to Rainforest Cafe to celebrate. This was really cool because it was one of the first times we had been to one and it was awesome to see all the animals. Her other brother was still so young and he got really scared every time the storm came through and his mom had to take him into the bathroom when that happened.
I remember when we went to Epcot I was practically inseparable from this other girl and we were pretending to be Siamese twins (not sure why. That was so weird) and we ate at one of the pavilions as a team (it might have been Norway).
I also think I remember eating at Cinderella’s Royal Table on this trip because I have vague memories of being in the castle with my teammates for lunch.
I definitely remember loving all the Christmas decorations and getting to see everything lit up. This was pretty awesome and I can’t wait to be there around Christmastime again to see them.
We also rode my favorite – Splash Mountain – in our ponchos (it was already raining). My sister, ever the daredevil, is the one with her hands up. I’m in the front row with Dad.
When we got back we also received jackets commemorating our victories and we got this participation certificate which is also pretty cool.
This trip was truly unique in that it really was a dream come true for us 🙂 It was an experience I will always treasure.
Our Favorites: My favorite part about this trip was being with all of my best friends. My favorite ride was definitely Splash Mountain (which is still high on my list). My favorite experience was having the park close just for us.
Food: The food experience I most remember had to be Rainforest Cafe. I still love eating at these when I get the chance because of the atmosphere and getting to feel like I am actually in a rainforest. I would definitely go back (although I would probably prefer eating here outside the parks since you can find them lots of locations – AC, a local mall, etc.)
Haul: My dad and I both got a Pop Warner Superbowl Week shirt from this trip and also the Superbowl Week pin (which matches the shirt). I don’t know where my shirt ended up and don’t think it would still fit (probably a kids large) but I would love to find it. Also, we got the Dixie Landings pin which is really awesome since the resort has been renamed and re-themed since then – always a great keepsake. We also bought two souvenir photos – Splash Mountain and Tower of Terror (my favorite and my sister’s favorite) – which are so fun to look at.