Only a few hours after posting my first entry, I was fortunate enough to receive stories from two very knowledgeable gentlemen, who I've had the distinct privilege of getting to know over the past few years, Ron Schneider and Josh Young.
Ron Schneider, the original Dreamfinder from EPCOT Center’s Journey into
Imagination, was nearby just as cast previews were about the start.
According to Ron, the first person to ride Horizons was actually the
"Congratulations on the new page!
I have an appropriate story to help you start it off... I was working across
the park one day when a friend told me that the new Future World pavilion was
about to open for its first preview run with employees. So I took off my beard
and wig, stowed my dragon in our dressing room and threw a coat over my
costume. I arrived just in time to see a side door - off to the left of what would
later be the guests' entrance - open to admit us cast members... and I got to
ride in the first car of the first preview of Horizons! Imagine that... "
As a bookend to Ron's story, his good friend Josh Young, tells about
his opposite experience:
"I can't have Ron show me up, so
I'll throw in my counter story to his. A fun fact we discovered about each
other, but only fairly recently. Horizons was hands down my favorite
attraction. When they announced it was closing, I was beyond devastated. Without
question, it embodied the spirit of Epcot and more importantly, felt like the
next logical step in what Walt envisioned for the future.
If you find out a loved one is
on life support and only has a few days to live, you spend as much time with them until their passing. So on
January 9, 1999 I took the day off work to ride the attraction over and over
until Epcot closed. I packed a bag of snacks, sandwiches and sodas and had mini
picnics in the ride throughout the day. Only taking bathroom breaks.
At 9 pm, I slowly walked up the
ramp towards the sliding glass doors. A group of around 20 people were also
taking their final rides. But I hung back and
they never seemed to notice me. As I walked towards the load platform, the Cast
Member behind me locked the front doors. The group ahead boarded and I jumped
in about 5 cars later.
As my ride vehicle came to
unloaded, I felt a bit misty eyed. As you left the unload belt, there was a
small space where you could see the ride vehicles make a 180 turn and head
toward load. I looked over and I could see all
the Horizons Cast Members with champagne flutes in their hand (learned it was
sparkling cider later) and they took the final ride just after I exited.
Indeed, I was the last guest to
ever ride Horizons. And Ron was the first person to ride during previews. We've
known each other nearly 20 years and only discovered this recently. Crazy how
Crazy how life intertwines, indeed! I never thought I would have the
opportunity to interact with these gentlemen, let alone have the pleasure of them
contributing stories to my blog! Thank you again!
Ron Schneider is the author of From
Dreamer to Dreamfinder: A Life and Lessons Learned From 40 Years Behind a Name
Josh Young is the author of Theme Park University and the host of TPU Radio.