'Electric and magical': Woman describes what Magic Kingdom's opening day in 1971 was like

Photo from Cindy Inserra

On October 1st, 1971, Disney opened its first Florida park, Magic Kingdom. In the 50 years that followed, Walt Disney World Resort has gone on to open three more theme parks, two water parks, dozens of resort hotels, and a massive retail, dining, and entertainment district.

50 years later, on October 1st, 2021, the resort kicked off its 50th anniversary celebration, dubbed ‘The World’s Most Magical Celebration.’ Festivities will go for 18 months as new experiences debut in all four parks.

Last week, FOX 35 spoke to Lake Mary resident Susan Kroll, who was actually at Magic Kingdom on opening day in 1971. She described in detail the awe she felt walking through the park and how she has continued to love Disney ever since, going on to attend the opening of each new park and more.

walt disney world magic kingdom opening day 1971

Photo from Susan Gaul Kroll

Cindy Inserra, another person who visited Magic Kingdom on that historic day in 1971, saw her story and wanted to share her own memories.

RELATED: Woman recalls what it was like on Magic Kingdom's opening day in 1971

"We lived in West Palm Beach at that time and we drove up to Orlando in our station wagon like the Griswolds," Cindy told FOX 35. "We decided to go because it was such a big deal to be able to attend."

She added that, "I can remember my mother always telling me the price was $12 per person and they offered my parents a ‘family lifetime membership’ for $100 and we turned it down because that was a lot of money back then."

It was Cindy, her father, mother, sister, brother, grandmother, and cousin who paid admission and entered the park that day, being greeted with an electric energy full of magic and unforgettable smells.

opening day magic kingdom woman remembers

Photo from Cindy Inserra

"The energy was electric and magical. I remember horses pulling a wagon down Main Street. The smell of Main Street will forever be burned in my childhood," Cindy said. "Everyone around us was in awe of the magic of Mickey. The feeling was like floating and butterflies."

She further explained, "the smell of Main Street was sweet like candy from the Confectionery and pure happiness."

MORE NEWS: Disney World History: 'Preview Center' welcomed guests prior to first park's opening

First up for Cindy and her family was ‘The Walt Disney World Railroad.’ This attraction opened with the park in 1971 and featured four steam trains. According to Disney, Walt himself considered a steam train a must-have in his plans for the Disneyland park in California. When conceptualizing the attraction for the Florida resort, the park purchased four locomotives with their own interesting history.

"Manufactured by the Baldwin Automotive Works of Philadelphia between 1915-1928 for the United Railways of Yucatan, these trains spent years transporting jute and sugar through the Yucatan Peninsula. The locomotives were restored, repainted and put in place in time for the park’s opening on October 1, 1971," Disney said.

walt disney world railroad

Photo from Walt Disney World

Since then, the Disney fleet is said to have consisted of three locomotives named after members of the Disney family: the Walter E. Disney, the Roy Disney, and the Lilly Belle (after Lillian Disney). A fourth train is said to be named after Imagineer Roger E. Broggie.

It was important to Cindy and her family that The Walt Disney World Railroad was their first attraction because her grandfather, who couldn’t be there, was an engineer and he operated trains for the Pittsburgh Steel.

MORE NEWS: Disney World History: Cinderella Castle over the last 50 years

She and her family went on to ride several more attractions, including ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ and the ‘Haunted Mansion’ — rides that still exist today.

"We also rode the merry-go-round and I remember Pirates of the Caribbean and I remember taking the Liberty Boat. The Haunted Mansion was so scary, we all screamed and talked about the wall that stretched for days," Cindy explained.

However, of everything they did, Cindy said that her favorite moment was seeing Cinderella Castle for the first time.

"I wished and dreamed that someday I would live there," she said.

MORE NEWS: Disney World History: The opening and evolution of the iconic ‘Space Mountain’ attraction

To this day, Cindy is still a fan of Disney, and despite moving to New York, she finds time to visit the parks at least twice a year.

opening day magic kingdom woman remembers

Photo from Cindy Inserra

opening day magic kingdom woman remembers

Photo from Cindy Inserra

opening day magic kingdom woman remembers

Photos from Cindy Inserra

"It’s still magical and still smells like my childhood. I get butterflies every time I walk through the turnstile," she said. "I know every inch of every park.  My favorite attraction is still the Castle. I love the feeling I get in my stomach every time I turn that corner after entering Magic Kingdom and seeing the Castle for the first time. It takes my breath away! We visit Disney at least twice a year. We haven’t missed a year in 50 years."

Even Cindy’s daughter, Nicolette, is a huge Disney fan. She got engaged at the parks in March 2020 and plans to honeymoon there after she gets married this October. The wedding will be ‘Happily Ever After’ themed like the fireworks show soon coming to an end at Magic Kingdom.

opening day magic kingdom woman remembers

Photos from Cindy Inserra

"My daughter sent Mickey, Minnie, and Cinderella a wedding invitation," Cindy added. "She’s still hoping and praying she hears from them."

MORE NEWS: 'Space 220' restaurant opens at Epcot: Menu and how to visit

Disney was also very important to Cindy’s late husband, Steven.

"I lost my husband in February 2019 and my daughter and I decided to go to Disney World for her birthday the next month. [It was] her first birthday without her dad and it was the only way we could get through the grief.  We also went to Disney for our first Christmas without him too. That time, we brought ten family members with us and got a private tour to make new memories. He was a huge fan of Disney World and Mickey Mouse," she said.

opening day magic kingdom woman remembers

Photos from Cindy Inserra

opening day magic kingdom woman remembers

Photos from Cindy Inserra

MORE NEWS: Sneak peek: Disney's 'Vault Collection' coming for 50th anniversary

Cindy and Nicolette shared a special moment together during their March 2020 visit to the parks as well. They visited just before the parks shut down because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

"We cried our eyes out," Cindy said. "When Disney closed after the last fireworks, as the entire crowd was crying, you went under the railroad station to leave. We looked up and there was Josh D’Amaro with Mickey and Minnie and all of the characters old and new waving goodbye."

Josh D’Amaro is the Disney Parks, Experiences, and Products Chairman. Cindy said that he looked right at her, waved, and smiled.

"I’ve never experienced anything like that. Everyone around me was crying. I whispered to my daughter, ‘take note of this sight, it is historical.’ I have never nor will we ever see so many characters in one place at the same time like this again. It was truly a gift to see that and I feel honored that we were the first ones to visit the Magic Kingdom 50 years ago and the last people there that day Disney closed. We cried all night long," she added.

MORE NEWS: Timeline: Major events in Walt Disney World’s history

Cindy will visit her daughter during her honeymoon at the parks, making it for the first month of Walt Disney World’s 50th anniversary celebration.

"I plan to meet up with them on Halloween for the Boo Bash. We look forward to the Tower of Terror, Rock ’n’ Roller Coaster, all of the parades, and the new theme for the 50th," she said. With her late husband in mind, Cindy added, "He would have been there with us to celebrate for sure."

She shared photos of their upcoming Boo Bash costumes with FOX 35. Cindy is planning to be Minnie while Nicolette and her soon-to-be husband will be Cinderella and Prince Charming.

opening day magic kingdom woman remembers

Photos from Cindy Inserra

MORE NEWS: The history of Walt Disney World and its opening 50 years ago

The World’s Most Magical Celebration officially kicks off on October 1st. For everything you need to know about the upcoming festivities, check out ‘What to expect during Disney World's 50th anniversary celebration’ by FOX 35. We will also air specials on Disney’s past and future at 7:30 p.m. on both Wednesday and Thursday. Be sure to tune in.

Looking at what's next for Disney World, Cindy said "it can only get better!"

Watch FOX 35 Orlando for what’s to come during Disney’s 50th anniversary celebration.