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Everything posted by printersdevil78

  1. ^Unless they have a multi-year deal with Dreamworks, I wouldn’t bet on it, unfortunately. It looks like they go with a different franchise each year. Last year was “How the Grinch Stole Christmas”: http://www.themeparkreview.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=4&t=57694&p=975976
  2. The grand finale! That weekend was the Jaycees’ 39th annual Children’s Christmas Shopping Tour. I’ve posted about this event in previous years, but for the uninitiated, our foundation raises money each year to take 200 local underprivileged children Christmas shopping at no cost to them or their families. The kids are chosen by local guidance counselors and given a time to meet us at a specific location. From there, we bus the kids to Walmart. This is necessary to prevent parents from joining their children. The children typically follow our rules; the parents typically believe they’re the exception. What rules, you may ask? Well, throughout the years, we learned that some parents were forcing their children to use our event to purchase big-ticket items to pawn or sell for drug money. We learned that others were sending their kids with lists and making them buy the family’s groceries for the week. And we learned that parents, in general, are a big pain in the neck to deal with. So we removed them from the equation and replaced them with sheriff’s deputies. Who, quite frankly, are a lot more useful when the kids start acting up. For the record, we’ve only ever had to send one kid home in handcuffs. Most kids head straight to the toy section, though others bring a list of every member of their family and make sure they’ve purchased a gift for everyone on it before getting anything for themselves. Walmart always makes sure to have at least one model of bicycle on sale in the price range we give the kids, and several take full advantage. Not a year has gone by yet that we haven’t had at least seven or eight bikes to deliver back at the parental meeting spot. A local appliance store volunteers its trucks to transport the kids’ purchases back there, as there wouldn’t be enough room for all of them on the buses. Walmart’s employees also volunteer to serve as gift wrappers at the event, and the store donates all wrapping materials. Walmart also turns over its employee break room for use as a party room for children who are waiting for their buses to leave. The store provides snacks and videos for all 200 kids. Meanwhile, we provide games… …and coloring pages. Volunteers from a local church help us staff the room, while high school and college students chaperone the children during their shopping. And, of course, Santa comes to visit, as well! Last year, my friend who produced the Renaissance dinner also brought in a Chinese dance troupe just before Christmas. Since Santa Claus apparently is not a part of many Chinese holiday traditions, she thought it would be a nice cultural gesture to include him in a reception for the dancers, and she asked if the Jaycees would be willing to provide him. He was a huge hit, so this year when a second Chinese dance troupe came in, she had him make a repeat performance. Santa had a LOT to smile about that day! And finally came the big day itself. Santa brought Lauryn some educational presents… …and some not-so-educational ones. Merry Belated Christmas, everyone!
  3. Part 4! The next day at the hospital, Kelly received the news that her grandmother was not going to get better. They gave her 48-72 hours. With that in mind, we thought about not attending the Georgetown, DE, Christmas Parade that week, but because the Girl Scout troop Kelly helps lead was going to be in the parade and because it looked like Lauryn would miss a caroling opportunity with her class in the same area early the next week due to funeral arrangements (which she did), we decided to go anyway. “By the time you get there, it will have burned down!” Lauryn was happy to be in the parade—not so much when she realized at the end that she had to walk back down most of the parade route to get back to our car. The next weekend, we had tickets to see a local production of “The Nutcracker.” No pictures inside, unfortunately, but they did have a great mural for photos outside the auditorium. That evening, we attended a Renaissance madrigal dinner that a friend and coworker of mine produced for the third year. Kelly and I went to the first one in 2008, and there were definitely some things that needed improvement. Ticket prices have gone up since then, and the food offerings have decreased slightly, but all the bugs from the first year were worked out, and now it’s a great event! The menu. The first year it also included a Cornish game hen course, but people complained that it was difficult to eat, so it was scrapped. The wine setup is different, as well. I don’t remember if it wasn’t offered the first year or if the time it was offered was just more limited. Mind your manners! No photography during this show, either, but here’s an idea of the costumes. It really is a dinner theater production that puts the diners right in the show. Lauryn was excited to pose with Sir Barchan of Dinglebury. He is supposedly the oldest (or maybe longest?) practicing Renaissance re-enactment knight in the United States and will be featured on a Discovery Networks show about jousting sometime next year. The next day, I helped run the 65th annual Salisbury, MD, Jaycees Christmas Parade, as I have since 2004. That’s me in the bear suit. Lauryn was supposed to be on the fire truck with Santa’s nieces, but instead had to travel with Kelly to attend her grandmother’s viewings. I joined them for the funeral the next day. The entry made by the local state prison is always a highlight. In 1999, my dad, who has worked there since the day it opened, co-founded a parade float rehabilitation program—believed to be the only one of its kind in the nation—for inmates. Each year they spend months making floats to represent the facility at local parades, as well as props for community theater productions, decorations for local events, etc. The floats are always full of moving parts, and some have rivaled those seen in the Macy’s parade. The American Parade Float Hall of Fame said as much when the institution was inducted a few years ago. The theme of this year’s Christmas float was SpongeBob SquarePants. On a scale of 1 to 10 based on their overall body of work, I’d rate it about a 7. The Jaycees’ state president, Tim Poole, came down for the parade. The Roller Girls were excited because they made the front page of the next day’s paper. The Lone Ranger is awesome! He comes to the Halloween event I plan each year, as well, though I’m afraid we might lose him once Disney releases its “Lone Ranger” movie next year. He already does several national appearances each year, and I’m sure that movie will place him in even higher demand. And unlike the SpongeBob float, he actually is licensed. Random band shot! The day after the funeral, we attended the Salisbury Pops’ annual holiday concert. No flash photography in there, either, so you’ll have to settle for this photo of the Salvation Army band playing outside the auditorium. Fun fact: My office is located about 10 feet to the left of this scene. Lauryn enjoyed meeting Sammy the Sea Gull, who guest conducted the final number… …but not as much as she enjoyed meeting Santa Claus after the show! Stay tuned for the thrilling conclusion.
  4. Part 3! Here’s the reason we came to the Gaylord and the overall purpose of this year’s Thanksgiving vacation… Ice! The exhibit is housed in this giant inflatable tent. Half the Gaylords this year got “Shrek the Halls” while the other half got “Merry Madagascar.” Last year’s exhibit was “How the Grinch Stole Christmas,” and I liked the setup for that one a lot better. The cue wound through a traveling Dr. Seuss museum, culminating with a video of how the ice sculptures were made by professionals flown in from China. This year, there was a minor video thing in the cue, followed by a sit-down film presentation that included last year’s “making of” video, as well as a very cut-down version of the “Merry Madagascar” cartoon. To be honest, I’m kind of glad they included the last part because otherwise, I would have had no idea what story the sculptures were supposed to tell. All parka-ed up! Time to go inside. Brought to you by refreshing, delicious Coca-Cola! So basically the story is that Santa crash lands in Madagascar, and the Bronx Zoo escapees from the “Madagascar” movies set out to finish his trip around the world to make sure every child gets a present on Christmas. In return, they hope to catch a ride on Santa’s sleigh back home to New York. When they get back to Madagascar, they crash land into Santa, who completely misses their request for that ride, and they’re stuck in Africa all over again. Since these fine sculptures will soon melt and be lost forever, I present to you the complete “Merry Madagascar” Ice exhibit as seen at the Gaylord National. “Yay! Santa finally brought me that giraffe I’ve always wanted!” Fire made from ice? How paradoxical! It took Lauryn a couple tries to get the hang of the ice slides. At least she didn’t try to lick them! They’re bringing this piece back for next year’s “Planet of the Apes” edition of Ice. Of all the intricate character displays, Kelly thought the best sculpture was the frozen waterfall. All of the Ice exhibits end with a “Nativity” room. Similar to last year, there were also a few other activities scattered under the tent, though they were nowhere near as impressive. This year’s features included ice skating, sans the colorful backdrop from last year… And an upcharge train ride, which was recycled from last year’s activities in the hotel atrium. All aboard! More Christmas festivities to come!
  5. Part 2! Following the Botanic Garden, we took in some traditional D.C. tourist attractions, such as two pigeons fighting over a hot dog… …and the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History. Inside we saw elephants… Mummies… Sarcophagi… And hookers! Lauryn got to hold a millipede… …and a Madagascar hissing cockroach! I told her that at one point Six Flags Over Georgia was offering a free season pass to anyone willing to eat a live one. She was 100 percent onboard! Lauryn found Nemo! Kelly found a Jamaican fisherman! That evening, we went to National Harbor, where we had reservations at the Gaylord National Hotel. After checking in, we walked around this holiday bazaar just down the street. A giant Christmas tree on the water’s edge was the “weenie” for that area. The Gaylord’s atrium had a Christmas tree of its own, and we attended the uber-crowded lighting ceremony. Fountain show! There were some Dreamworks characters down there somewhere, as well, but they were un-seeable from our vantage point. After the ceremony, they pumped Disneyland-style snow into this area. Of course, Lauryn looked up and got soap in her eyes. For $27 we could have decorated a gingerbread man. Or bought 27 packages of Dollar Tree cookies. We split the difference and got some cookies at an Amish market (details to come eventually in the Roadfood Adventures thread). Christmas tree upskirt! This is where the fountain show takes place. Just so you know. Tree facts! Did I mention that all the Gaylord hotels this year had Dreamworks-themed holiday packages? Throughout the weekend we saw walk-around characters of Shrek, Po and Mort. However, since it cost lots of money to take their pictures, I declined to do so. Stay tuned for more!
  6. With some time off work this week and no vacation plans, I have a lot of catching up to do as far as posting photos. Since the season is rapidly ticking away, I figured it would be most timely to start with a Christmas-themed TR. Enjoy! Each year we try to start the holidays with a mini-vacation on Thanksgiving weekend. This year it was kind of marred by the fact that Kelly’s grandmother went into the hospital just a couple of days earlier. We ended up spending most of this year’s trip there with her, but squeezed in a few fun things after visiting hours ended. On the first evening, that included a trip to Watkins Regional Park, near Six Flags America, for the Winter Festival of Lights, an event Kelly attended with her family when used to live in the area. Santa Claws! (Sorry, I couldn’t resist.) Afterward, we went to the theater across from our hotel to catch “The Muppets,” which turned out to be a great movie! Lauryn said it was her favorite part of the trip. No photos inside the theater, naturally, so you’ll have to settle for her posing with this statue of Simon, which was in the lobby to promote the latest “Alvin and the Chipmunks” movie. The next afternoon, we took the train in to Washington, D.C., to check out the U.S. Botanic Garden. Boring, you say? Normally I’d agree with you… …but this happened to be the garden’s holiday celebration! The line to get in was loooooong. But instead of a picture of the back of people’s heads, I’ll spare you and share this photo I took during the wait instead. If you’re a train, you go in here! Once inside, the line was STILL long! At least they had interesting things to look at, like a video pre-show describing what we were going to see, as well as these cool ornaments with seedlings inside. They gave us a handout to show how they’re made. Kelly said she’s going to use it as a project for her Girl Scout troop next year (though I hope the plans are online because I’m sure she’s already lost the handout by now). Is it just me, or do these cocoa pods look vaguely erotic? It’s just like the Hershey’s factory tour! Trains! We waited nearly an hour to see you! The U.S. Botanic Garden’s holiday train exhibit is legendary. The trains ran through an enchanted forest-themed room complete with lots of “animal” and “fairy” houses. Where’s Captain Nemo? One section of the display took visitors “underground.” No trains here! Even the castle at the U.S. Botanic Garden is bigger than Disneyland’s! Thomas took the tunnel! The train garden ended with displays of selected presidents’ houses made from plant materials. Fun fact: Monticello would be a lot more fun to visit if it really was surrounded by a caterpillar train. Washington slept here. Lots of people slept here. In the center of the garden proper was this giant Christmas tree… …which, of course, had a train of its own! Another highlight was a series of models of D.C.-area landmarks made from plant materials, including the Supreme Court building… Capitol… Washington Monument (sans earthquake cracks)… White House… Lincoln Memorial… Jefferson Memorial… Smithsonian Castle… And the U.S. Botanic Garden itself. How authentic are the reproductions? Let’s check…. Um… well, they did their best. Our tour ended in a big room touting the way plants are used to make life better through prostate strengthener… …and beer! More to come in the next installment.
  7. Thanks for posting this awesome report! I always get books about the Disney parks for Christmas, and in the past few days, I've been really regretting that I probably won't get to go back for at least another year (probably two). This was the next best thing to actually being there.
  8. Merry Christmas, everyone! My haul this year: Cash (the greatest gift of all!) “The Garner Files” by James Garner and Jon Winokur “The Epcot Explorer’s Encyclopedia” by R.A. Pedersen “Four Decades of Magic,” a series of essays on the first 40 years of Walt Disney World “Love to Love You Bradys,” a behind-the-scenes look at “The Brady Bunch Variety Hour” by Susan Olson and others An original illustration by artist Mark Cline An illustrated book on the history of tobacco and caramel baseball cards “Rolling Stone” music trivia book Back issues of “The Wrapper” card collecting magazine Box of random Disney animated film promotional items (which were mostly reprints and DVD inserts, but included a theater-used 1976 “Dumbo” re-release lobby card) Rocky Glen Park DVD Idora Park DVD and unused ticket “Tripoley” card game “Munchkin Zombies” game (from TPR Secret Santa) Mickey Mouse pajama pants Various neckties Monogrammed handkerchiefs Cell phone car charger Tape measure Barnacles snack mix Peanut M&Ms Lemon-cranberry pound cake Famous Dave’s gift card
  9. Kelly “organized” everything in the apartment last night, so I had to wait until today to find out where she put my TPR Secret Santa gift so I could take a photo to post. Is this the first TPR re-gift? Probably not… but since we’ve already seen it in this thread, I decided to post some bonus materials. You see, it seems this particular game has lots of cards representing TPR members. So I’d like to take a moment to say Merry Christmas to… Chuck (or, more specifically, Angus McNasty)… Renee… Piers… Dave… And everyone else on TPR! But I saved the most disturbing card for last. Thanks, Secret Santa from Indianapolis!
  10. ^^That's not icing; Chad just got a little too excited about his cinnamon bread.... Awesome stuff! I vote for the 12+ park bonus.
  11. I got mine today! My camera's in the car, so I won't have a photo until tomorrow... but yay! Thank you, Secret Santa!
  12. Wow, Bill, love that vintage Disneyland map in the background. I used to have one, but mine was a reproduction. Looks like yours is the real deal!
  13. Very cool! Just moments ago, I didn't know deep-fried biscuits and gravy existed. Now, I'm willing to give up several appendages to try it!
  14. ^True, all that stuff has been sold there for years. But when I was in high school, that was a very tiny section of the store, tucked in the back. At that time, the store mostly consisted of funny T-shirts, funky lamps, etc. Now those are the items tucked away in a small corner in the back, while the rest of the store more or less has become a head/sex shop. But enough about that. Back onto the topic of presents!
  15. I had a lot of fun picking out my gifts for the exchange, but it was frustrating at the same time. I went to the mall for the first time in about five years to see if I could track down some items I had in mind, and my thought was, "Where did all the stores go?" Seriously, unless you're looking for (ugly) women's clothing, dollar store items or toys and DVDs at 300+ percent over the Amazon price, it's a pointless endeavor. I don't understand how any of these places stay in business. And don't even get me started on Spencer Gifts. I had to take a shower after spending five minutes in that store, and I couldn't look other human beings in the eye for the next day or so. I seriously doubt my giftee would have wanted a strawberry-scented penis candle with marijuana leaf decals and life-like fart sounds, anyway. EDITED: To add my thanks to Brandy, as well! Awesome job!
  16. Mine is sent! Though I must say, after seeing what has been received so far, I feel a bit inadequate. Perhaps my Secret Santa will send me some Gift-agra.
  17. ^You could always use the address I give to cashiers at stores with those patently annoying "We're not allowed to sell you anything unless you give us all your personal information" policies: 1313 S. Harbor Blvd. Anaheim, CA 92802 Of course, "I'm sorry, but now I need the number to your corporate headquarters so I can explain to them why you're refusing to take my money" also works, though I doubt that would be sufficient for the post office.
  18. Awesome! It looks like the Palms had a little more to its Dreamworks Experience than the National did. The Ice exhibit there this year was "Merry Madagascar." When I finally get around to posting photos, we can compare and contrast!
  19. The TSA, that's who. They're so scared of magic snow globes that they banned them from airplanes altogether!
  20. So Robb was playing the Santa Claw while Big Mike was at the Santa Claw watching Robb play the Santa Claw while watching Big Mike at the Santa Claw? I think my brain just exploded a little bit. But it was worth it!
  21. Wow, I'm curious to find out whether the resulting package will be ticking or growling... or both!
  22. Cool! I wish I had the mechanical aptitude to build some of those types of things. Alas.... Thanks for sharing!
  23. ^^You mean Bela would dislike Bella? That's actually a good ride concept for the new Twilight Land: the Grave Spinner. It could be a sparkly black Disko.
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