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Dateline Disneyland

2011 — The Year in Review: Everything from under the sea to a galaxy far, far away!

Rating: 2 votes, 5.00 average.
by , 12-26-2011 at 01:47 AM
It's been a busy year at the Disneyland Resort! Disneyland got the brand new Mickey's Soundsational Parade and a refreshed attraction in Tomorrowland with the new Star Tours — The Adventures Continue while Disney California Adventure opened re-themed attractions and dining locations as well as the all-new The Little Mermaid ~ Ariel's Undersea Adventure in Paradise Pier. Both parks also saw plenty of new and on-going construction, with new work getting underway along Disneyland's Main Street, U.S.A. and plenty of changes and construction in California Adventure's new main entrance plaza and the major 12-acre Cars Land expansion. The parks weren't the only thing that saw major change in 2011 — the Disneyland Hotel wrapped up major construction on its multi-year remodel project, opening fantastic new restaurants and recreation offerings along the way.

We've got a look at some of the year's major changes, grand openings, new offerings and construction progress in our special annual recap. It's been quite the year at Disneyland, so let's get started!

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The parks rang in 2011 with an all-night party and fireworks throughout Disneyland and a special performance of World of Color at Disney California Adventure that featured a New Year's Eve countdown and fireworks-and-fountains pre-show.

Disneyland kicked off the year by filling the traditionally slow winter off-season with a series of "Family Fun Weekends." The themed events were mostly held in the Festival Arena behind Big Thunder Ranch and featured live entertainment, activities, character meet-and-greets and goods sold by third-party vendors.

The events proved to be great diversions for locals visiting during the off-season. The themed character meet-and-greets were especially with popular with characters in themed outfits or rarely-scene characters coming out for a special photo op. Mickey is seen below during the Kickin' Country Weekend.

Character Fun Days brought out the Country Bears for a special appearance.

Mardi Gras Weekends were held in New Orleans Square and included special performances from Princess Tiana and her friends as well as special food, decorations, and additional character meet-and-greets.

As part of the Disney Parks "Let the Memories Begin!" marketing campaign for 2011, park guests could watch a new show projected on the front of the "it's a small world" facade in Fantasyland for a chance to see one of their Disney Photo Pass photos featured in the show.

Despite drawing light crowds, the show continued throughout the year and was even updated to include a special holiday segment at the end of the year.

Critter Country closed completely in late January when park management decided closing the land would be more cost-effective while Splash Mountain and the Hungry Bear Restaurants were closed for lengthy refurbishments. The open retail locations and Winnie the Pooh attraction simply weren't pulling in enough guests and the land was a veritable ghost town.

The land eventually reopened by mid-March as the Hungry Bear's refurbishment wrapped up, debuting a new menu featuring new items including chili cheeseburgers and fried green tomato sandwiches.

Later in October, Winnie the Pooh's meet-and-greet area reopened after a complete overhaul that made crowd flow through the area much more efficient and user-friendly. The overhaul also brought some nicer thematic additions to the space.

From late March through early May, Disneyland offered a special sneak preview of the fourth installment in the Pirates of the Caribbean film franchise. The offering combined a themed overlay for the Festvial Arena, live pirate performers and a large movie screen for what amounted to a several-minute 3D preview of the Johnny Depp movie.

The event was, surprisingly, a pleasantly well-produced diversion and proved to be popular with park guests.

In early May, Disneyland hosted the world premiere for the fourth Pirates film along the Rivers of America, with celebrities including Johnny Depp gracing the black carpet down Main Street.

To celebrate the fourth film, Blackbeard took over duties from Davy Jones at the ghostly waterfall inside the attraction in New Orleans Square.

The end of May brought the first official performance of Disneyland's excellent new Mickey's Soundsational Parade.

The parade is a breath of fresh air after the obnoxiously tacky "Celebrate! A Street Party" and is a fantastic return of the great Disney parade.

See the full parade in our video below:

Star Tours soft opened in late May following a year-long overhaul that brought a completely refreshed and upgraded attraction.

The attraction officially opened on June 3 with Disney Parks chief Tom Staggs leading a ceremony early in the morning.

See the opening ceremony in the video below:

Darth Vader visited Disneyland to check out the new Star Tours in this great TV commercial:

Next door, the Star Trader store was refreshed to coincide with the relaunched Star Tours.

In January, sections of Main Street and the Central Plaza continued the major repaving project that began in 2010.

In October, the Main Street Emporium reopened after being closed in parts since mid-June.

Much like Tomorrowland's Star Trader remodel, the Emporium's reconfiguration pushed the store's cash wraps against walls and opened up more space for more merchandise displays.

In August, Disney announced a major reworking of some of Main Street's dining and retail spaces. First up, the old Plaza Pavilion at the end of Main Street would be remodeled and reopen as a Mary Poppins-themed bakery and cafe at the start of 2012.

By December, new signage and thematic details were appearing at the Jolly Holiday Bakery Cafe, set to open at the start of 2012.

With the new Jolly Holiday Bakery opening, Main Street's Blue Ribbon Bakery will no longer be needed and the location will close to once again become indoor dining space for the popular Carnation Cafe.

Next door, the Gibson Girl Ice Cream Parlor will close to be reconfigured for easier crowd flow and the adjoining Penny Arcade and Candy Palace will see upgrades as well, including an expanded onstage candy kitchen for the candy store.

A recap of Disney California Adventure's on-going evolution, remodel and expansion.

Work immediately got underway at the start of 2011 on the re-imagining of Disney California Adventure's main entrance. The first step was the removal of the popular CALIFORNIA letters that marked the park's main entrance, followed quickly thereafter by construction on new main entrance turnstiles styled after Los Angeles' historic Pan Pacific Auditorium.

With the removal of the CALIFORNIA letters, walls decorated with vintage characters and concept art showcasing the Buena Vista Street project quickly went up to clear the ground for the new entrance gate.

Construction progressed quickly on the new main entrance gate though out the year

By mid-July the new gates were open, giving guests a first taste of the new Buena Vista Street theme.

The new Pan Pacific gates at night

An animated fly-through from Imagineering gives a look at the rest of the Buena Vista Street project:

Inside the park, the former Sunshine Plaza entrance area continued disappear throughout the year before being completely closed off for heavy Buena Vista Street construction.

The Golden Gate officially started its removal process on July 17 and by the end of the month the bridge's cables and towers were completely gone.

Construction at the new Carthay Circle Theater area started in January and continued throughout the year

In early August, the theater's cupola was installed after-hours

Disney released a video of the cupola installation:

A Disney-released time-lapse video of the Carthay Circle Theater construction progress through August.

The scaffolding finally started coming down in December to reveal the gorgeous new building

Next to the Carthay Circle Theater construction site, the smaller Carthay Circle pump house took shape.

The pump house was finally revealed in early November, giving guests another look at the theming and detail being created for Buena Vista Street.

The rest of the Sunshine Plaza area also saw significant changes throughout the year, with the California Zephyr train facade being removed and the shops in the area closing for good as they began their transformations into new Buena Vista Street dining and retail locations.

The train leaves the Sunshine Plaza station and heads off to its new home at the Western Pacific Railroad Museum...

The Greetings from California store also closed to begin its conversion into the Elias & Co. Department Store.

A recent look at the former Greetings from California store:

And a current look at the former California Zephyr train shops

The former Playhouse Disney — Live on Stage! was rebranded to Disney Junior — Live on Stage in late March. Inside, the attraction got a new show featuring characters from more recent Disney Junior shows, and on the outside the attraction's facade got a great newmarquee and signage to match the land's shifting theme to a real 1930s-era representation of Hollywood.

A gorgeous new marquee and theater signage.

Nearby, the Disney Animation pavilion got a brand new animation loop for its lobby featuring more recent Pixar films such as Toy Story 3 and Cars as well as recent Disney films like Tangled.

The former Maliboomer thrill ride on Paradise Pier was removed by late 2010, and by April 2011 the space had reopened as what construction walls had described as a "lush new park." With some large new shade trees placed atop the closed Maliboomer platform and some new shrubs and smaller trees in the area, the park-like replacement unfortunately left plenty to be desired. Today, it's just a space guests pass through between the Silly Symphony Swings of Mickey's Fun Wheel with a portion of the area now a designated smoking area.

Construction on the new Little Mermaid ~ Ariel's Undersea Adventure dark ride on Paradise Pier continued through the winter and spring months and by the end of May the attraction had soft opened.

Below, our full ride-through of the attraction:

The attraction officially opened on June 2 with a grand opening ceremony featuring a performance by Jodi Benson, the original voice of Ariel.

Pat Carroll and Jodi Benson, the voices of "Ursula" and "Ariel" rode the attraction together on opening day.

On July 1st, the new Paradise Garden dining area opened after numerous construction delays.

The area was surprisingly well-done — a lush, shady and inviting retreat in a theme park previously known for hot, open expanses of concrete and stucco buildings.

The Paradise Garden Bandstand hosted a variety of eclectic live music throughout its first summer — a nice touch.

Below, one of the live bands, Turkflamenco, performs

The overhauled and re-themed restaurants served up a variety of delicious, fresh Italian and Mediterranean dishes. The offerings are a great change from DCA's previous line-up of mediocre pizza and dry hamburgers.

Across from Paradise Garden, the new Bayside Brews beer stand opened, serving a selection of beers on tap.

The transformation of the Mullholland Madness wild mouse roller coaster into Goofy's Sky School continued throughout 2011 until the attraction soft opened at the end of June.

The re-theming effort at the attraction didn't do much to help the on-ride experience, but the changes did make some very minor aesthetic improvements. Still, the project isn't much more than lipstick on a pig until the space can be redeveloped at a later time.

Just a touch above Six Flags quality.

Below, complete on-ride videos of the attraction during the day and at night:

World of Color saw several special additions and changes throughout the year. The theatrical release of Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides brought an extended Pirates-themed segment to the show featuring characters and moments from the new film.

Video below by MiceChatter asianbma

For the Fourth of July, a special holiday pre-show brought patriotic imagery, music and fireworks to Paradise Bay.

Video below also from asianbma

The holidays brought a special Prep and Landing-themed pre-show featuring elves Larry and Wayne from the hit ABC animated holiday special.

Next summer the new 12-acre Cars Land will open to park guests and Disney has been hard at work throughout 2011 building the richly detailed new area.

Construction progress by summer...

...and a recent look at the land...

Ride vehicle testing is now underway at Mater's Junkyard Jamboree:

And major show pieces are being installed throughout the land...

Below, a rough virtual "drive-through" of the land gives a sneak peek at what we'll when the land finally opens.

In August, Disney hosted its second D23 Expo at the Anaheim Convention Center across from Disneyland. Following good reviews of the 2009 Expo, fans attending the 2011 event had high hopes but were met with fewer things to do and big problems with accessing the offerings that were available.

Big crowds formed impressive lines outside the convention center each morning.

Most presentations were filled to capacity and plenty of Expo attendees were left sitting outside auditorium doors after waiting for hours and too-small venues being filled quickly.

As far as major announcements went, nothing notably new was announced. For Disneyland, a new princess meet-and-greet area was previewed, set to take over the space currently occupied by the Carnation Gardens Stage.

Concept art of the upcoming Princess Fantasy Faire area:

The Expo's Carousel of Projects pavilion, put together by the folks at Walt Disney Imagineering gave some fun sneak peeks at upcoming projects including California Adventure's Buena Vista Street and Cars Land projects.

Previews of the Buena Vista Street project showed an elevation model of the Carthay Circle Theater.... well as the new "Storytellers" statue, which will depict a young Walt Disney with Mickey Mouse arriving in California.

Video clips below show the pavilion's pre-show and sneak peeks at Cars Land construction and animatronics.

The Disneyland Hotel wrapped up its major remodeling efforts this year after completing major refurbishments to all three towers, opening a new Monorail-themed water slide pool, remodeling the old Never Land Pool and opening new dining locations.

The new Trader Sam's Enchanted Tiki Bar and Tangaroa Terrace Casual Island Dining restaurants opened at the start of the summer season in the former location of Hook's Pointe and the Wine Cellar.

The new Tiki-themed bar was an instant hit with guests and becoming a popular area hang-out for locals.

Inside the new Trader Sam's tiki bar:

The Tangaroa Terrace quick service restaurant offers some great quick meal options for hotel guests in a casual Hawaiian setting. The indoor seating area is a bit small, but the restaurant and tiki bar share a spacious open-air patio for guests.

The nostalgic, new Monorail-themed pool area also opened at the start of summer.

Tangaroa Terrace at night

The new E-Ticket Pool took over the old Never Land Pool.

A lot of guest walkways that had been closed during the remodeling efforts also reopened thoroughout the Hotel in November looking new and refreshed.

The Hotel's remodel really helped refresh some stale, aging areas of the hotel grounds and give the whole property a clean, fresh look.

The Hotel Towers also received new marquees sporting their new names:

As we enter our last week of 2011, our friends at Touring Plans have their crowd forecast to help you plan your holiday visit to the parks. Beware — it's going to be busy!
Post-Christmas holiday crowds have hit the Disneyland Resort, bringing solid-10 crowds all week. Expect the parks to be wildly crowded this week, with Disneyland park likely entering limited attendance due to capacity and crowd levels multiple days this week. Both parks reaching their absolute highest attendance levels on Saturday as guests arrive to enjoy the popular New Year's Eve fireworks and entertainment. can help you navigate the parks with our per-park Crowd Calendar, Lines - Mobile Wait Times App that gives access to current and estimated wait times for attractions, and Touring Plans detailing the best plan of attack for hitting the attractions. With holiday crowds on the horizon, it's a good time to subscribe to to plan your strategy to avoid the crowds!

Below are the predicted resort-wide crowd numbers for select days generated by the TouringPlans professional statisticians as measured for the upcoming week. For the access to the full year and per-park crowd level predictions, visit our Crowd Calendar.

— Fred Hazelton Statistician,

Crowd Calendar Prediction
Crowd Tips
Mon., Dec. 26
Here are some quick-hit notes that we hope you'll find helpful as you prepare your visits for the week:
  • Full Annual Pass blackouts all week.
  • Disney California Adventure's low day will be Friday, when it's a 9.7.
  • Disneyland park's lowest day will also be Friday, when it's a 9.3.
Tue., Dec. 27
Wed., Dec. 28
Thu., Dec. 29
Crowd levels are based on a scale from 1 to 10, with 1 being the least crowded conditions and 10 being most crowded.
See Disneyland crowds for the next 365 days.
Get Disneyland wait times on your iPhone, Android, or Smartphone.

Do more. Wait less.

This weekend's New Year's Eve celebrations will also include an announcement from Disney. The announcement comes with the tagline "One More Disney Day," which many are suspecting will be an official confirmation of the much-rumored 24-hour Leap Day party at Disneyland and possibly Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom. A website at the URL features a countdown to the announcement, set to be made during Dick Clark's Rockin' New Year's Eve with Ryan Seacrest on ABC. Below, is a teaser for the announcement from Disney:

In the parks, Disneyland and Disney California Adventure will ring in the New Year with extended park hours, fireworks at Disneyland and a special performance of World of Color at Disney California Adventure. Both parks will feature an array of night time entertainment and live music at locations including the Tomorrowland Terrace and ElecTRONica. For a full listing of New Year's Eve entertainment, visit the entertainment schedule.

Disneyland Park: 8:00 AM — 2:00 AM
Disney California Adventure Park: 10:00 AM — 1:00 AM

Do note that Disneyland is recently had two safety incidents with the crew who puts on the fireworks shows. Because of this, fireworks at Disneyland may be put on hold for the rest of the holiday season, including New Year's Eve, depending on the outcome of Cal/OSHA's inspection on Tuesday. MiceAge editor Al Lutz had details in his December 25 editor's note:

EDITOR’S NOTE 12/25: Two separate accidents involving the loading of pyro shells on the 22nd and 23rd have put the fireworks show at Disneyland on hold for the last three days. There is a show already loaded in the launch tubes, but they've decided to wait until the higher attendance Christmas day to use it. Then it goes dark again as a new performance can't be loaded until the OSHA officials show up to investigate on Tuesday. More info should be available on that day. - Al Lutz

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A short walk from the park, HoJo Anaheim is conveniently located next to Matterhorn Mountain at Disneyland with nearby dining, freeway access, FREE parking and FREE Wi-Fi. For more information on HoJo Anaheim, room rates, or to book your stay today, visit and Annual Passholder Discounts Available Every Day!
The HoJo Anaheim is now offering deeper discounts for Disneyland Resort Annual Passholders! On select nights, Disneyland Resort Annual Passholders can get rooms for as low as $59 per night, plus tax. For more information visit the HoJo Anaheim Innsider Boards which features an up-to-date listing of available nights, or call (714) 776-6120 and ask for In-House Reservations to book. If your date isn't listed, the HoJo Anaheim still offers rooms for 20% off their best available rate if you call (714) 776-6120.

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Weekly Theme Park Hours
December 26, 2011 — January 1, 2012

Disneyland Park
Disney California Adventure
Monday-Friday: 8 am - 12 midnight
New Year's Eve: 8 am - 2 am
Sunday: 10 am - 10 pm
Monday-Friday: 10 am - 10 pm
New Year's Eve: 10 am - 1 am
Sunday: 10 am - 10 pm
For a complete listing of theme park hours, visit the Theme Park Calendar

Expected Crowd Levels presented by
Disneyland Park
Disney California Adventure
VERY HIGH 9.3—10.0 out of 10
VERY HIGH 9.7—10.0 out of 10
Crowd levels are based on a scale from 1 to 10,
with 1 being the least crowded conditions and 10 being most crowded.

For daily crowd predictions for the next 365 days, visit
Closures and Refurbishment Schedule
Disneyland Park

  • Big Thunder Ranch: Closed to remove holiday overlay January 9 - 18.
  • Matterhorn Bobsleds: Closed for major refurbishment including the addition of new ride vehicles January 9 - June 14.
  • Sailing Ship Columbia: Closed for refurbishment January 23 - February 17.
  • "it's a small world": Closed to remove holiday overlay January 23 through February 2.
  • Davy Crockett Explorer Canoes: Closed for one day, January 24.
  • Jolly Holiday Bakery Café: Opens January 2012 in location of the former Plaza Pavilion.
  • Blue Ribbon Bakery, Gibson Girl Ice Cream Parlor and Candy Palace: Food service locations and shops close January 2012 for major restaurant and shopping expansion projects affecting current spaces.

Disney California Adventure

  • Redwood Creek Challenge Trail: Closed for refurbishment January 9 - 27.
  • Grizzly River Run: Closed for refurbishment January 23 - March 2.
  • Soarin' Over California: Closed for refurbishment January 30 - February 3.
  • Ghirardelli Chocolate Company and Soda Fountain: New Ghirardelli chocolate shop and soda fountain will open in the space formerly occupied by the Mission Tortilla Factory. New dining location opens late-spring 2012.
  • Buena Vista Street: Re-themed main entrance including new Red Car Trolley attraction are under construction through summer 2012.
  • Cars Land: New 12-acre land in former Timon Parking Lot opens summer 2012.

Downtown Disney & Hotels of the Disneyland Resort

  • Island Charters: Downtown Disney retail location closes permanently January 8, 2011. A replacement has yet to be announced.

Disneyland to celebrate Three Kings Day with entertainment, food
The Disney Parks Blog shared some more information on Disneyland's upcoming Three Kings Day offerings.

Disneyland Park Celebrates Three Kings Day
The holidays will continue at Disneyland Resort through Sunday, Jan. 8, which will give us the opportunity to celebrate Three Kings Day, also known as Día de los Reyes Magos, for the first time ever, on January 6-8! Special décor and entertainment will showcase Western and Mexican heritage, and food and children’s activities will be themed to the holiday.

Three Kings Day is celebrated in many Latin American countries as part of the Christmas story. It commemorates the day the three kings (the magi or “wise men”) followed the star to Bethlehem and presented their gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.

The Three Kings Day celebration at Disneyland park will take place from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. in Zocalo Park (which is Spanish for “Town Square”) in Frontierland. Walt Disney envisioned Frontierland as a showcase for America’s Western and Mexican heritage, and this celebration will continue that vision.

Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse will appear in their Fiesta costumes and other characters will join them, including the Three Caballeros: Donald Duck, Jose Carioca and Panchito! Entertainment highlights will include folklorico dance along with musical performances by the Grammy-winning Mariachi Divas. Children will have the opportunity to participate in face painting, coloring, crown decorating and other activities.

Full story: Disney Parks Blog: Disneyland Park Celebrates Three Kings Day

Okay, that's wraps up this year of Disneyland updates! We'll see you back here at the start of 2012! Happy New Year!

Don't forget to visit our fantastic sponsors over at TouringPlans!

A big thank you to all of our contributors throughout the year including Fishbulb, 2DieFR, David Yeh, Loren Javier, Ron W., and everyone else who helped make our weekly updates possible!

And of course, a big thank you to all of you for reading every week! This weekly blog would not be possible without your continued support, so thanks! I look forward to bringing you weekly updates throughout 2012 and beyond!

See you at Disneyland!
- Andy

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  1. Trumpet's Avatar
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    WOW! What a year it has been for the Disneyland Resort.

    Hope you had a fantastic Christmas and see you in the year with more Disneyland news.

    Thanks for this great review, Andy.

  2. Trumpet's Avatar
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    WOW! What a year it has been for the Disneyland Resort.

    I am looking forward to what will happen in 2012.

    Hope you had a great Christmas Andy, and have a happy and healthy new year.



    Sorry about the repeat message - my com puter had a slip up when I had finished, so I had to type it again to find out there was no need. EPIC FAIL!
    Updated 12-27-2011 at 02:16 AM by Trumpet
  3. jpg391's Avatar
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    I did not realize all that had happened at the Disneyland Resort in 2011. Can't wait to see all that will happen in 2012.
  4. Emmanuel_4's Avatar
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    Great Update!!!
  5. DisneyResort's Avatar
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    Walt said, [B][I]"Disneyland will never be completed. It will continue to grow as long as there is imagination left in the world."[/I][/B] This past year shows why The Disneyland Resort lives up to Walt's promise more than any of the other Disney resorts.
  6. AliKzam's Avatar
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    Great recap of the year! Btw, I was at the resort yesrteday (Christmas) and DL had fireworks. So maybe things with OSHA were taken care of?
  7. DisneylandMaster's Avatar
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    Here's to a hopeful year of memories in 2012!
  8. Tikimoose's Avatar
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    Great recap of 2011! But you got the Prep and Landing Elf's name wrong. It's Lanny not Larry and Wayne. Otherwise a steller job!
  9. bamato's Avatar
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    What an AWESOME year! Can't wait to start a new one!
  10. TodAZ1's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by AliKzam
    Great recap of the year! Btw, I was at the resort yesrteday (Christmas) and DL had fireworks. So maybe things with OSHA were taken care of?
    From Al:
    EDITOR’S NOTE 12/25: Two separate accidents involving the loading of pyro shells on the 22nd and 23rd have put the fireworks show at Disneyland on hold for the last three days. There is a show already loaded in the launch tubes, but they've decided to wait until the higher attendance Christmas day to use it. Then it goes dark again as a new performance can't be loaded until the OSHA officials show up to investigate on Tuesday. More info should be available on that day. - Al Lutz
  11. BC_DisneyGeek's Avatar
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    Great job recapping the year!
  12. sgvmikela's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by TodAZ1
    From Al:
    Nope, no fireworks on 12/27/11 either
  13. Orcatime's Avatar
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    Re: Dia de los Reyes Magos. Will there be gilt decor and F&M scents in the area? It would be a fun touch.

    I gotta say, for a relatively "quiet" year, that place was busy!
  14. Timekeeper's Avatar
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    Nice Update!