Marceline, “Where Walt found the Magic”

Kaye Malins, director of the Walt Disney Hometown Museum, addresses the crowd at the event welcoming D23.

I’ve lived in Missouri my whole life and had no idea exactly how magical Marceline would be or what fascinating things were in store for us (KatiesTrail and me) when we started our journey to Marceline.

Our mission was to welcome the official Disney Fan Club, D23, to the boyhood home of Walt Disney.

Even before we arrived, I was taken back to my childhood. We drove through several rural communities like Centralia, where I grew up, each with its own unique charm and appeal.

For Walt Disney, Marceline was a treasured paradise where he experienced childhood’s defining moments. Walt’s memories of Marceline would later inspire the films “So Dear to My Heart” and “Lady and the Tramp,” and they served as the inspiration for the design of Disneyland’s Main Street USA.

Walt once said, “More things of importance happened to me in Marceline than have happened since-or are likely to in the future.”

As we rounded the corner and came upon Ripley Park in Marceline, there stood the buildings that inspired Walt’s vision. I was amazed to note the variety of businesses, including restaurants, coffee shops, antique stores, gift shops, and an art gallery. I knew we had not scheduled enough time to take all of this in, so I vowed then and there to bring my girls back to enjoy this magical town.

Then, a scene right out of a Disney movie was before us. Children from the Walt Disney Elementary School were our official greeters. Hundreds were dressed in red, white and black; most of them donning Mickey Mouse or Minnie Mouse ears to welcome the arrival of the tour buses carrying more than 100 D23 Fans from around the country, and even a few from Japan! And what were the children signing to welcome guests? “It’s a small world….”

This postcard features the Walt Disney Postal Cancellation Stamp.

The reason for the visit was the unveiling of the official Marceline Cancellation Stamp by the United States Postal Service. Back in 1968, the US Postal Department issued the Walt Disney commemorative stamp from this site. The entire Disney family attended this event along with thousands of dedicated Disney fans. On  Aug. 23, 2004, the Post Office was renamed the Walt Disney Post Office. On this day, the new cancellation stamp was unveiled, “Where the Dream Began.” What a treat to be able to enjoy this special occasion. Of course, I had to buy a postcard to be one of the first to get this special stamp.

Next, we had a quick tour of The Walt Disney Hometown Museum, the first museum dedicated to the lives of Walt and Roy Disney. We found so many unique family treasures here, including a walk down memory lane with the exhibits that focus on the Disney family, Walt’s early years in Marceline, and a unique collection of Disney family artifacts. There are even original Mickey dolls presented to Elias and Flora Disney, Walt and Roy’s parents, on their 50th wedding anniversary, as well as a record made at the Disney Studio in 1934 – it features Walt interviewing his parents. The museum is housed in a restored 1913 Santa Fe Marceline Depot, where Walt began his love of the locomotive.

If you visit Marceline, stop by Walt’s Barn, known as “The Happy Place,” and see the Dreaming Tree, both located on the Disney farm. You’ll also notice the beginnings of an arboretum.  The American Forests Historic Tree Nursery sends historic trees every year for planting by Marceline’s special guests who attend Toonfest.

Held the third weekend in September, in downtown Marceline right next to the post office, internationally recognized cartoonists participate in a parade, cartoon art show, seminars, rural Olympics, and more. Another reason to take in this sweet spot in north Central Missouri, three miles south of Highway 36, is it’s halfway between Hannibal and St. Joseph on what’s dubbed The Way of American Genius.