Event Review: “Marceline with D23” Helps Walt’s Hometown Shine

I have a confession to make. Despite moving to the great state of Missouri more than eight years ago, I hadn’t yet made the trek up to Marceline until this past weekend. By definition, I’m pretty sure that this makes me a bad Disney fan — but at least I was finally able to correct this. So what finally brought me up to Walt Disney’s hometown? A special D23 event aptly named “Marceline with D23.”

Our day in Marceline (and beyond):

For some context, I live in southwest Missouri, so Marceline was a 3.5 hour drive. Also, for most guests, the event actually started in Chillicothe, Missouri (the home of sliced bread and where they’ll never let you forget that fact). There, attendees could leave their cars and board a bus for Marceline.

As our busses arrived, we were greeted by local children waving flags fashioned after the one Walt himself gifted the city long ago. We were also given Minnie Mouse-shaped fans decorated by the children. Lest you fear that this heartwarming gesture was actually just some strange stunt, as I’d come to discover, it was actually quite genuine.

Upon arrival, we were greeted by various hosts and given a rundown of the day’s activities. This included an overview of the scavenger hunt we could participate in, a reminder on what time various events were happening, and of course the smart advice to make sure to wear sunscreen and hydrate in the day’s 90-degree temps. With that, we were off to explore.

Let me say off the bat that I loved how loosely scheduled this event ended up being. Seeing as I didn’t have an itinerary ahead of time (I wasn’t the primary contact for the tickets so this wasn’t a D23 fault), I feared that I’d be busy bouncing from one place to another all day. Instead, there were two nice chunks of time that we could use as we saw fit.

While we could have gone anywhere, our first destination was the Walt Disney Hometown Museum. This two-story building featured a variety of displays that not only honored Walt’s connection to the city but also to the city’s own history. Not by coincidence, this is also where we marked off our first couple of scavenger hunt items.

Speaking of the scavenger hunt, this proved to be a great way for the organizers to essentially point us in the right direction and get us to see some highlights around town. Seeing as we wanted our Citizen clock key, we were even further incentivized to complete it. While it was billed as being challenging, it really wasn’t. Instead, I thought it hit the Goldilocks level of difficulty — with the hardest part being finding our way to the elementary school.

This is where the kindness of Marceline residents kicks in. When we asked a gentleman which way the school was, he told us just to hop on his golf cart instead. And this hospitality wasn’t a one off! I also overheard a story about how a couple missed the bus because they were in an antique shop so the shop’s owner offered to give them a ride. Then, when someone we knew failed to realize that a restaurant only accepted cash, the owner was happy to feed them anyway. Heck, one need only look to the number of resident volunteers present during the day to see that Marceline is something special.

One of the main moments of the day was a dedication from Marceline Mayor Sallie Buck who declared it D23 Day in the city and announced that all D23 members worldwide were now honorary citizens of Marceline. In return, D23 bestowed the city with a platinum-colored Disney 100 flag. Meanwhile, another dedication in the itinerary was back over at the Hometown Museum as Citizen installed a clock (like the one found on Main Street USA at Magic Kingdom). As for indoor presentations, back at the Civic Center, D23 hosted a Q&A with former Retlaw Enterprises CEO/COO Bob Wilson. Being someone who knew very little about Retlaw other than what the name is backwards, I found this session to be pretty insightful.

When we were done with Marceline itself, we were then shuttled over to the Disney Family Farm. There, we were able to visit Walt’s Barn as well as the site of the Dreaming Tree… before it was struck by lightning. This is also where a special dinner was hosted.

Featuring a menu put together by Eat Like Walt author Marcy Carriker Smothers, this open bar affair saw attendees from both D23 and a Citizen event gather in a large outdoor tent. During the early courses, we were treated to some live music while, in between dinner and dessert, the current voice of Mickey Mouse Bret Iwan shared his Disney journey with us.

Before catching the bus back to Chillicothe, we were given a classic “kiss goodnight” in the form of a fireworks display. While this wasn’t exactly synced to music (random Disney tunes were playing the background), the show was surprisingly long. And with that, we were on our way home.

My thoughts:

Overall, despite some reservations on my part, I think this event ended up being a great way to finally do Marceline. For one, the timing of the event coincided with a street fair that brought out some fun vendors and other happenings. Plus, as I mentioned, having the scavenger hunt to complete led us to some key parts of the city I might have missed otherwise (aside from the more obvious ones such as the museum of course).

With that said, the event certainly wasn’t free. And while I didn’t have to pay for it out of pocket, Laughing Place did — so let’s talk about it. One ticket for D23 in Marceline came at a cost of $350 with a $7 processing fee. For that, we had transportation to and from Chillicothe, a voucher for lunch, entry to the Walt Disney Hometown Museum, all of the programming, the open bar dinner, and a few extras such as a nice cold glass bottle of Coke during the day and Dusty Miller (it’s a whole thing) ice cream treats on demand.

So was it worth it? Well, I’ll save the bulk of the cost definitely had to have come from the dinner. Unfortunately, while the location was unique and delightful, the food was definitely not $300 caliber. And, as someone who doesn’t drink, the open bar aspect was lost on me. However, I do want to point out that the Citizen event offered two options: one priced at $300 and another at $425. From what I saw, it seemed as though D23 members ended up getting even more from the day than those who paid for the $425 VIP ticket through Citizen did — so suddenly I don’t feel so bad about the price.

Setting all of that aside, I’m just thrilled that I got the chance to see Marceline — and in the way that it was meant to be seen. I’m honestly blown away by the city and just how much everyone there thoroughly and happily embraced the Disney connection. For that reason alone, Marceline with D23 was an event I won’t soon forget.

Kyle Burbank
Kyle is a writer living in Springfield, MO. His deep love of Disney and other pop culture finds its way into his stories, scripts, and tweets. His first book "The E-Ticket Life: Stories, Essays, and Lessons Learned from My Decidedly Disney Travels" is available in paperback and for Kindle. http://amzn.to/1CStAhV