June 28th was a cool, damp and dreary day in Southern Ontario.
How could we add a bit of warmth to a foul day in early summer?
Carol and I hopped in the car and drove west for two hours to join a group of Canadian Disney fans who were meeting in Whitby Ontario, a small city in the eastern suburbs of Toronto. The group came from far and wide to share their love of all things Disney!
There were 23 adults and 1 child at the first meeting of its kind in the Toronto area. Carol and I really enjoyed the opportunity to visit for a few hours with a half-dozen dear friends and to meet about 15 strangers who share our Disney affliction! It was a wonderful afternoon!
The true roots of the June 2015 get-together can be traced back over a decade to the very early days of Disney Pin Trading! About a dozen years ago Carol was browsing through a “Pin Trading Thread” on one of the popular Internet sites for Disney fans. She said, “Oh, look – there’s a pin trading meet in Toronto in a few weeks.”
We lived about 40 miles west of Toronto at the time and although pin trading was in its infancy, Carol was already an avid collector. We packed some pins into the car on the appointed day; filled with trepidation. This was our first “Disney event”! It was before MouseFest, before MagicMeets, before Reunion and before Carol had gone to any of the Annual EPCOT Pin Celebrations. We had some serious reservations as we drove eastward toward Toronto . . . Who would we meet? How weird would they be?
We had a terrific day! The event was held in one of the meeting rooms at a North York branch of the Toronto Public Library. The crowd was small, but everyone was friendly and we all shared a common interest, our love of all things Disney. Even though I have no interest in pin trading, there was plenty of chatter about many other aspects of our Disney experiences.
Those trading meets carried on for over a year, and we attended every month or two. The group varied, sometimes including a couple of ladies from Buffalo New York. Those dedicated traders crossed an international border then drove about 110 miles to spend a few hours trading pins! That’s dedication!
Alas, over time the crowd diminished. Soon there was just a small core of regulars, Gabe – the chief organizer, Susan, Allison, Carrie, Bob, Juanita, Carol and I. If you’ve read Carol’s blogs about the annual EPCOT Pin Celebrations, you know this group as “The Canadian Connection”.
We decided to eliminate the cost of renting a meeting room and began meeting at one of our homes. The trading meets have carried on for a dozen years now; but very little trading takes place any more. Our get-togethers are all about sharing our most recent Disney experiences, and enjoying the good friendships we have developed in the past decade.
About a year ago Gabe said, “Why don’t we try to reach out to other Disney fans in the area?” Everyone agreed to give it a try, so Gabe got to work! The tough part was finding a place to meet. He wanted something close to the freeway, easily accessible and very economical, preferably free! He made stop after stop before he finally found just what he was looking for! A local Denny’s Restaurant had a big area off to one side of the dining room that they only open during peak periods. We were welcome to use it between 2:00 p.m. and 5:00 p.m. on a Sunday afternoon.
Broadcasting news of the meet was much easier now than it was back in 2002 or 2003 when we first met. Social media makes it easy to reach out to our fellow fans. Gabe posted an announcement about his meet on a Facebook page titled “You May Be A Canadian Disney Addict If . . .” and the chatter began!
On the appointed day our group of “old-timers” who have been meeting for over ten years met at Denny’s for lunch at 12:30 and kept an eye on the door as the fans, most clad in Disney t-shirts, started to arrive! Before we had finished our lunch a half-dozen strangers wearing Disney inspired fashions were standing around our table. It was as though everyone was in uniform; there were Mickey shirts, Goofy shirts, Disney Cruise Line shirts and a variety of Disney purses. It wasn’t hard to pick out the newbies as they arrived!
They came from far and wide, Eva & Tarek from Brampton, Ann & Robert from Markham, Terence & Sarah from Markham, Ann & Don from Courtice, Dean and Charissa from Jordan Station, Cheryl from Uxbridge, Katie from Port Perry and Collette, it was a pleasure to meet all of you!
Carol and I drove the longest distance, about 135 miles, but our dedication pales in comparison to Dean and Charissa who drove about 110 miles from Jordan Station, near Niagara Falls. Our drive was all on the freeway with no big cities; we cruised at 75 miles per hour. Dean and Charissa drove through about 60 miles of congested traffic as they came directly through the heart of Metropolitan Toronto. Believe me, Toronto traffic can be nasty; worse than New York City, worse than Los Angeles! They win the award for determination and grit!
So what happens at a Disney Fan Meet? Well, you never know for sure what to expect, but at this one there was lots of chatter, some pin trading, some Sorcerers of that Magic Kingdom card trading and lots of information sharing!
Comments overheard included:
• “We’re thinking about going to Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party for the fist time. Is it worth it?”
• “We’ll be going to the EPCOT Food & Wine Festival in October; any tips for us?”
• “I’m just getting started in pin trading. Do you have any advice?”
There were lots of experienced Disney fans and pin traders there to answer all the questions raised. It was fun to simply stand back and watch it all happen!
What a terrific way to keep the “Disney magic” alive between trips to that happy place we all share!
Terence and Sarah were married just a few weeks ago and will be honeymooning aboard the Disney Dream in September. Many of us are veteran Disney cruisers so we had plenty of tips to help them enjoy the cruise.
Some of us scoured nooks, crannies and closets to find some Disney trinkets which we donated as door prizes. There was a prize for everyone, and enough booty left over to cover our next meet in November!
The draw brought out some moments of Disney magic right there in Whitby!
Katie was thrilled with her snow globe, Sally from Nightmare Before Christmas. Cheryl can’t wait to fill up her new Pirates of the Caribbean themed post-it note holder/desk organizer and find a special place for it on her desk at home!
Terence and Sarah were thrilled with the set of Walt Disney World prints that Carol found at the bottom of her Tickle Trunk! Do you see the sparkle in their eyes? That’s Disney magic! They were planning to frame those prints and hang them as soon as they got home!
The crowd had begun to thin as folks left to head home when Carol said, “Are you about ready to go?” I was shocked when I looked at my watch! It was 5:45 . . . where had the last two hours gone! Time really does fly when you’re having fun!
We plan to get together again, at the same Denny’s Restaurant from 2:00 to 5:00 p.m. on Sunday November 22nd. If you live within driving distance of Whitby please come on out and join in the fun!
If our little group is too far away, why not organize your own Disney Fan meet! It’s as easy as finding a place to meet and then publicizing it on one of the many social media sites!
That Facebook page I mentioned earlier is already buzzing with discussion about similar get-togethers in London Ontario and Vancouver British Columbia.
Why don’t you make some Disney magic happen in your home town? Get busy and organize something magical . . . just like Gabe did!