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Memories from Grad Nite at Disney World in Orlando

I was sad to read this morning on Facebook that Disney is pulling the plug on the Grad Nite program in Orlando, which I attended in 2000, the year that I graduated high school.

For those of you who don’t know what Grad Nite is, Disney closes the park on select evenings every spring to allow high school students from all over the Southeast into the park on a special field trip that lasts all night long. The kids get to dance in the clubs on Paradise Island, eat, ride on all the rides, listen to concerts from select musical guests (the year I went, it was Destiny’s Child, Jessica Simpson, Youngstown & BB Mak!) and basically have a blast. It was at Grad Nite that I rode my first roller coaster ever (Space Mountain)! I definitely understand Disney’s reasoning for not wanting to close the park down any longer, as they’re losing out on ticket sales in a prime tourist season, but it’s a tradition that high school students all over Florida and the surrounding states will surely miss!

The week that we had Grad Nite, my friends Shelley and Jeremy and I were also in Orlando for the State Spanish Competitions. We arrived separately from our classmates with our teacher, since we had permission to leave the competitions to attend Grad Nite, and our teacher took this picture of us before everyone else arrived. I’m glad I have the image to commemorate the beginning of our Grad Nite experience!

disney grad nite class of 2000

I will always remember the wonderful time I had at Grad Nite!

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KariMarch 10, 2011 - 11:02 am

My son is a high school senior and his class will be going to Disney for grad night later this spring. I had never even heard of this before but it sounds like a lot of fun. Too bad they are discontinuing it, I guess my son lucked out to get to go before they pull the plug.

Michelle TMarch 10, 2011 - 2:32 pm

I, too, read this today and was also saddened. I attended Grad Nite in 1995 then worked for Bob Knight Photo (the “official” photographer of Grad Nite) who took the cheesy pics with the “Grad Nite” logo beneath the photo. Too bad they can’t keep the tradition going.

smrMarch 12, 2011 - 3:09 am

Hey Karen! What a coincidence. I am home in South Florida for the weekend and today my mom was wearing this shirt–that shirt in the picture! I told her I thought I wore that to Grad Nite, and that Karen has a picture somewhere of it. My mom told me about how they are doing away with Grad Nite. So sad.

And the second random part, is how I came to this blog… I wish I could say that I’ve read it before, but I haven’t. Being at home makes me think that I’m on vacation and can spare time to fiddle around on facebook and catch up on pictures and such into late hours of the night. So I was looking around and I saw the one you took of Lynda at the petting zoo (adorable!) and then I clicked to your website and got this link, etc, etc. So here I am. It’s so awesome that you wrote about Grad Nite and have the picture up there to prove that I was wearing my mom’s shirt.

Anyway, I’m going to shut down the computer and get to bed so that I don’t sleep the day away tomorrow, but just wanted to say hi. I enjoyed looking at your photos and your work and I’m so proud of you for following this passion and doing what you love–and so successfully!

Hope all is well!

Anne BenderMarch 12, 2011 - 10:54 pm

I had a blast at Grad Night in 1989! We just got to go to the Magic Kingdom (which WAS Disney back in the day). Unfortunately, my kids went/go to school in VA and their version is a day at a semi-local theme park (possibly Busch Gardens, one year it was Carowinds), but they don’t close the park to outsiders. It’s just not the same as Grad Night at Disney. So sad to hear they are ending this great high school tradition.

karen lisaMarch 13, 2011 - 1:55 am

Anne: Sooo cool! NKOTB played at your Grad Nite! Thank you for commenting on the post. It’s nice to see others who reminisce about the fun they had experiencing this tradition!

karen lisaMarch 13, 2011 - 1:55 am

Kari: I hope your son enjoys his Grad Nite visit to the fullest! Thanks for your comment.

karen lisaMarch 13, 2011 - 1:57 am

Michelle: Wow, that’s funny! I wonder where my Grad Nite official photo went (or if I ever had one done?!). Thanks for sharing your memory.

karen lisaMarch 13, 2011 - 10:52 am

Shelley, thank you sooo much for your comment! I’m glad you found my blog and had the chance to reminisce a bit while you were on vacation, and I’m glad you took a minute to say hi and look at my pictures. :) I’m so fortunate to be able to do what I love. Of course, I have to thank all of my friends who didn’t complain when I took a million & one photos of everything in high school. ;) We should get together one of these days. Say hi to your mom for me, too, I always thought she was so sweet :)

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