Woman who visited Disneyland on opening day in 1955 celebrates 100th birthday at park

ANAHEIM, Calif. — A California woman celebrated a milestone event when she visited Disneyland the day it opened in 1955. On Wednesday, the theme park returned the favor, inviting her to the Anaheim theme park to celebrate her 100th birthday.

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Dee Kolafa, who visited the Happiest Place on Earth on July 17, 1955, visited the park on Wednesday with her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren, according to The Orange County Register. Part of her special day included a personal tour of Walt Disney’s apartment on Main Street, according to the newspaper.

“It’s gorgeous,” Kolafa told the Register. “I love the nostalgic pictures, and that the things that really meant something to him are up there.”

The event coincided with the centennial of the Disney Co. Kolafa and her family drove from Sacramento to Anaheim for the special occasion.

“I was a little surprised myself, that I woke up, to tell you the truth,” Kolafa told KABC-TV. “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 and her family also received a surprise visit from Ken Potrock, the president of the Disneyland Resort. He was accompanied by Mickey Mouse.

“I’m older than you, Mickey,” Kolafa shouted. Mickey Mouse was created on Oct. 1, 1928, according to the Walt Disney Family Museum.

“Grandma Dee, as her family calls her, is celebrating her 100th birthday this month, which is incredibly exciting,” Potrock told KABC. “She remembers everything about opening day and all of her experiences across so many different decades. What a treat for us to be able to host her here at Disneyland today.”

Kolafa’s grandson, Eric Sawyer, said he decided to write a letter to Potrock, explaining the connections between his grandmother and the park, KABC reported. He added that Kolafa’s son and great-granddaughter have worked at the park.

“I knew my grandma well enough to know that she’d be happy with just a letter,” Sawyer told the television station “But instead they actually sent gifts from Disney and then a note saying, ‘Come and join me.’ She was very excited, very excited.”

Kolafa grew up in Anaheim when the park opened and said she has visited Disneyland “numerous” times, the Register reported.

She still visited the park, even after moving to Sacramento.

“I had to come down here and Claire, my middle daughter, and I had to drive home because I was working nights at the post office up there,” Kolafa told the newspaper. “And we just said, ‘Let’s stop at Disneyland on the way!’ So, I still had to drive 400 miles, but we stopped.”

Kolafa also got to ride on her favorite attraction, It’s a Small World, and enjoyed her favorite delicacy at the park -- fresh beignets.

“It sounds hokey, but I think we all should be almost grateful that we live on the same planet as (Walt Disney), who had that much imagination,” Kolafa told the Register.

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