I attended Disneyland’s 1955 grand opening and returned to celebrate
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Dee Kolafa celebrated her 100th birthday at Disneyland — nearly 70 years after she attended the amusement park’s grand opening in 1955.
Disneyland invited the centenarian and her family to commemorate not only her milestone birthday but the Walt Disney company’s 100th anniversary on March 29 in Anaheim, California.
“I was a little surprised myself, that I woke up, to tell you the truth,” she told ABC News. “I didn’t know they were going to do this much. I was just real pleased that they were going to bring me to a celebration.”
Kolafa has one person to thank for coordinating the magical celebration: her grandson, Eric Sawyer.
“I thought it was kind of cool my grandma was turning 100 this year and the Disney company is turning 100,” Sawyer shared.
“I knew my grandma well enough to know she’d be happy with just a letter but instead they actually sent gifts and then a note saying ‘come and join me.’ She was very excited.”
Dee Kolafa celebrated her 100th birthday at Disneyland on March 29.MediaNews Group via Getty Images Kolafa attended the 1955 Disneyland grand opening with her children.MediaNews Group via Getty Images
The Sacramento resident arrived at the amusement park, dolled up in personalized Minnie Mouse ears and was greeted by Mickey Mouse. The family even received a personal tour of Walt Disney’s apartment.
“It’s really great. I have had a lot of neat things happen to me,” she said.
The birthday gal’s entourage included her children and grandchildren, who she used to take to Disneyland when they were younger.
“I remember just sitting and watching the carousel with a lot of my grandchildren on it,” recalling how she “loved it every time.”
Disneyland’s grand opening took place on Jul. 17, 1955, and only distributed 6,000 tickets. Kolafa happened to be one of the lucky ticket holders.
“She remembers everything about opening day and all of her experiences across so many different decades,” said Disneyland resort’s president Ken Potrock.
The grand opening was a large-scale televised event featuring a whimsical parade, celebrity visitors and greetings from Mr. Walt Disney, the founder of Disney.
The Kolafa family was in full attendance, honoring their grandmother.MediaNews Group via Getty Images
Nearly 28,000 people stood outside for the California grand opening, begging for a chance to enter the world-renowned “Disneyland.”
However, Kolafa’s daughter Lynne Sawyer didn’t get to attend the theme park’s grand opening with her mother in 1955 because she was only 18 months old, she told the Daily Mail.
Kolafa looks over a picture she took of some of her children on Disneyland’s opening day in 1955 in Anaheim, CA.MediaNews Group via Getty Images The birthday gal chats with Disneyland Resort President Ken Potrock Mickey Mouse on the balcony of Walt Disney’s apartment.MediaNews Group via Getty Images
Now nearly 70 years later, Lynne said going with her mom to Disneyland for her 100th birthday and being treated like a VIP made up for missing the 1955 opening day.
The centenarian’s favorite Disneyland ride is “It’s a Small World” and the family was prepared to take her on “at least once if not two or three times,” her daughter quipped.
“I don’t know if there’s anything else I can do to make this more special,” Kolafa’s grandson said.