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Disneyland Resort celebrates the 50th anniversary of its cast member canoe races

Disneyland Resort celebrates the 50th anniversary of its cast member canoe races

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Ever since the middle of June, they'd been coming to Disneyland Park in the dark.


Photo by Jim Hill

Teams of cast members representing virtually every division of The Walt Disney Company. Walt Disney Animation Studios. Disney Consumer Products. The Disney Store. ABC Television. And -- of course -- the good folks who work at Disneyland Park and Disney California Adventure.


The Animation Armada flexes its muscle in a team photo that was taken just
prior to the start of Tuesday's competition. Photo by Jim Hill

At first, there had been 80 teams. But after weeks of time trials & competitions, it was now down to just 8 teams. Who were gathered at the Hungry Bear Restaurant in Critter Country for the finals of the sprint portion of Disneyland's annual canoe race.


Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

Mind you, this was a special time for this Cast Member Only competition. For 2013 marks the 50th anniversary of the Disneyland Resort Canoe Races. And for this auspicious occasion, there were displays of memorabilia from previous years of this competition ...


Photo by Shelly Valladolid/b>

... as well as a photo tribute to the Opening Day cast member who actually launched this canoe competition back in 1963, Bob Penfield.


Photo by Shelly Valladolid

This was also the very first time that friends & family were invited to come into the Park during these pre-dawn hours to look on during this competition. Which is why -- this time around -- some of the teams brought their own cheering sections.


Photo by Jim Hill

As T-minus time approached for the start of competition, there were the requisite safety briefings for the team captains.


Photo by Jim Hill

Meanwhile, some of the teams used their last moments on dry land for a rowing rehearsal.


Photo by Jim Hill

Then came the announcement that it was time for teams like the Mouse-Ka-Noers ...


Photo by Shelly Valldolid

... and the West Sider Strokers ...


Photo by Shelly Valladolid

... to head on over to the dock ...


Photo by Jim Hill

... so that they could board their respective canoes and then get ready for the start of that morning's sprint competition.


Photo by Jim Hill

Now what's kind of interesting about the sprint portion of Disneyland's canoe races is that this is the one part of the competition where the teams actually compete head-to-head. The race-around-Tom-Sawyer's-Island part is strictly run as a time trial. Which means that your canoe team just has to beat the very best time of whoever else has raced around this island that year.

Whereas with the sprints, there were 12 heats on Tuesday morning where two teams of men's, women's and coed canoers competed directly with one another. Starting at a point on the Rivers of America just below Splash Mountain, with the end of the race being out on the river right by the Hungry Bear restaurant in Critter Country.


Photo by Jim Hill

And all through this early, early time of the morning, the volunteers who ran this event kept close tabs on the results of each race and then determined who'd compete in the next heat.


Photo by Jim Hill

Mind you, there was another time element in play here since Disneyland Park had to open for Guests by 8 a.m. Which meant that this Cast Member competition had to be completely wrapped well before the very first members of the public entered this theme park. So as soon as both canoes zoomed past the finish line ...


Photo by Jim Hill

... the contestants would then stick their paddles deep down in the water with a flat side facing forward in order to brake their canoes' forward motion.


Photo by Jim Hill

Once that happened, each canoe team would spin around in their seats and then quickly begin rowing back to the dock. Where the next two groups of competitors would already be standing by, waiting for their chances to climb down into these canoes so that they could then begin their heat in this year's sprints.


Photo by Jim Hill

It was a terrifically fun morning filled with some extremely tight races ...


Photo by Jim Hill

... made all the more exciting by the hundreds of Disneyland Resort Cast Members who'd deliberately come into work early that day just so that they could then cheer on their friends & co-workers.


Photo by Jim Hill

But finally the sprint competition was over. And it was now time to recognize each of the teams that had made it to this final phase of the competition. First those teams that didn't take top honors that morning received certificates of recognition for all of their members ...


Photo by Jim Hill

... whereas the winners of the Men's, Women's and Co-ed portion of this year's sprint competition ...


Photo by Jim Hill

... all received this nifty looking, special 50th anniversary version of the Disneyland Canoe Race medal.


Photo by Jim Hill

I have to say that it was nice that that Sachiko White & Megan Navarette (i.e., the 2013 - 2014 Disneyland Resort Ambassador Team who were serving as the MC of this awards ceremony) went out of their way to acknowledge all of the Cast Members who had come in early to help make this event possible.


Photo by Jim Hill

Who -- just as soon as this ceremony was over -- carted away those special, giant 50th anniversary Disneyland Canoe Races trophies that were on display ...


Photo by Jim Hill

... and then turned the Hungry Bear back into a restaurant.

Oh, I bet you're wondering who actually won the 50th anniversary edition of the Disneyland Canoe Races. Well, when it came to the sprints, it was:

  • Women's Division: Mouse-Ka-Noers Women
  • Men's Division: DCA CG
  • Coed Division: DCA CG

And as for the overall finals for this year's canoe races, OAR Lords won the Men's Division by making it all the way around Tom Sawyer's Island in just 3:57:45 minutes. DC Anchorladies won the Women's Division with a race time of just 4:26:29 minutes. And United took the Coed Division title with a 4:12:67 minute race time.


Photo by Jim Hill

Special thanks to the Disneyland Resort Publicity Team for allowing JHM to have a waterfront seat at this very special event, the 50th anniversary of the Disneyland Canoes Races.

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