Disney says goodbye to Grad Nite


Jenna DeNight, Staff Writer

Once upon a time, Walt Disney World Resort welcomed graduating high school seniors into their parks to celebrate the students’ accomplishments throughout the years. Since the 1970’s Disney World’s Grad Nite has been an annual rite of passage for high school seniors, but after this spring’s event at the Magic Kingdom, the tradition will be shattered.

Grad Nite Gone


Each spring since 1972, the Magic Kingdom would close to the public on selected nights to allow graduating high school seniors private access to park attractions with entertainment by contemporary musical acts.

Concerns over scheduling and handling extra spring attendance at Magic Kingdom have led authorities to put an end to the Grad Nite festivities.

“We will no longer be hosting Disney Grad Nite at the Walt Disney World Resort after this year’s event. With more leisure guests visiting in the springtime, it’s become challenging to schedule special events during April and May,” Thomas Smith, Social Media Director of Disney Parks, stated in the Disney Parks Blog.

Disney World will offer Florida school groups a one-day, one-park ticket for $55 as a future alternative. The special passes will be valid any time during the year.


Concluding Tradition


“There are few things that are as much fun as going to Disney World with a big group of friends, expecially when you are treated like a special guest,” Maureen Piero, mother of freshman Annie Piero, said. “Thirty years ago, Grad Nite was awesome… I’m sure this year will be too. It’s sad that my daughter and her friends won’t share these same special memories.”

These traditional festivities for high school seniors will come to an end after this year because of concerns regarding scheduling and handling extra spring attendance at the theme park.

“I think it’s really sad,” Activities Director Angie Lima said. “It’s such an important tradition…the magic of Disney…of Mickey. We obviously will find a replacement trip for future classes but it’s disappointing that Disney will not be providing the experience anymore.”

Principal Howard Weiner has been a part of Disney’s Grad Nite experience for five years.

“Grad Nite is a tradition, it’s a rite of passage, and it’s a part of the senior experience,” Weiner said. “Just because Disney doesn’t want to have it anymore does not mean future classes won’t have a similar trip. They will.”

Students are shocked that they will not be able to experience the magic of Disney’s Grad Nite.

“I’m kind of disappointed because I knew about Grad Nite, but I’m happy for our class because Islands of Adventures will be a new experience,” freshman Darius Stokeling said. “I have fellow siblings that have graduated. They always talked about how fun it was seeing Akon and Pitbull at Grad Nite and now they’re cancelling it…wow.”

After the End


Student Council members were distressed after hearing news of the  change. Going to Grad Nite had always been the tradition, and now members will have to decide on alternatives.

“I think we are being robbed of an amazing experience,” sophomore Shivani Buhram said. “Disney’s slogan is ‘where dreams come true.’ Grad Nite allowed seniors to relive their childhood years and now we can’t do that.”

Activities Director Angie Lima is already looking into other options to ensure that future classes will have a special senior trip to participate in.

“Absolutely we’re going to look for an alternative for our future seniors,” Lima said. “If Grad Bash is our only choice, then that is definitely where we want to go.”

Many students are dissatisfied by Disney’s special one-day, one-park ticket for $55 valid at any time during the year as a replacement for Grad Nite.

“The point of having Grad Nite is for the park to be closed off,” junior Isa Aninat said. “It’s an opportunity for all the seniors to feel special and not just like any other guest at the park. Disney’s new offer does not compare and I’m glad that we have Grad Bash.”

A handful of seniors even wish that Disney had cancelled Grad Nite one year earlier.

“I’m disappointed that other classes will get to go to Grad Bash and we have to go to Grad Nite,” senior Chad Rudkrigl said. “Disney World is not Islands of Adventures or Universal; I like to go on rides. Disney will flop.”

The class of 2012 will be the first group of Palmetto students to experience Grad Bash. Some face the disappointment of not attending Disney’s Grad Nite as the classes before them did. However, the majority of students are looking forward to the change.

“I don’t really mind that it’s ending as long as we go to Grad Bash,” junior Nick Waddell said. “Islands of Adventures is a more exciting park with better festivities.”

While veterans feel disheartened by Disney’s decision to shut down Grad Nite, others are excited by the new possibilities.

“I’ve been to Grad Bash and I like it much better,” guidance counselor Harry Nerenberg said. “Will we miss Mickey? Absolutely. But Grad Bash is such a blast and it doesn’t matter where you go, with 25,000 to 30,000 18 year olds you’re bound to have a great time.”