History, reading and Walter Elias Disney go hand in hand.

Thank you to Panera Bread on South Tamiami Trail in South Venice for supporting Venice Heritage Inc. Enjoy a meal there today, Dec. 5 between 4 p.m. and 8 p.m. and Panera will donate 20 percent of the total to help support Venice Heritage. You need to download the flyer from the Venice Heritage Inc. Facebook or Instagram pages on paper or to your phone.

The second Wednesday (Dec. 12) of each month the Venice Dairy Queen will donate 10 percent of its dinner receipts to Venice Heritage. There is no need to present anything but you and your appetite at Dairy Queen, which has been a long-time supporter of Venice Heritage.

As for the joy of reading, one needs look no farther than today’s Our Town feature story about the super readers at Laurel Nokomis School. These students are on their way to a life of success and joy, both of which can be attributed to success in reading no matter what their career path might be.

And finally, my dear “Uncle Walt,” known to most people as Walter Elias Disney. Disney was born on this day in 2001, which would make him 117 years old today. I can’t help but think he would be amazed at what he started with that first cartoon of a certain mouse by the name of Mickey.

First came wonderful films and cartoon magazines, and then in 1954, Disneyland in Anaheim, California. Opening of that park barely made it. Disney had to sell the land on which he wanted to build the Disneyland Hotel in order to open the park. The huge Disney Corporation did not buy back that site and the hotel until long after Disney’s death. Disney learned a lot from that first park. It was so successful that within mere months all the surrounding land was bought up by fast food outlets, motels and such. When plans were formed for a second park, Disney resolved that he would have enough land that one could not see anything of the park from any public road. To that end he and his brother, Roy, put together one of the major real estate deals of the century in an area just south of a sleepy little town named Orlando in Orange County. Anaheim also is in Orange County, which I have always found interesting.

Involving many different Realtors and lawyers and more, the Disney team assembled about 30,000 acres. Sadly, Walt never saw its opening, which was overseen by Roy, who was the money man of the family. Sadder still is the fact that “Uncle Walt” is not really my uncle although he did contribute to my learning to read by the age of 2, thanks to his wonderful cartoons and other stories.

At last count, WDW had in excess of 60,000 hotel rooms, give or take 1,000. The bean counters are kept busy just counting hotel rooms as the World continues to expand and offer more options. As often as I have been there, I have yet to stay in every hotel on property. I am partial to the Contemporary, perhaps because that is where I stayed on my first visit with my parents back in 1973. We had a view of Bay Lake from our room and the lighted parade on the water ended with a salute to Ohio where we lived at the time. I also like the Grand Floridian and Yacht and Beach Club hotels but not the Boardwalk, which is simply too big even though it’s location opposite the Yacht and Beach Clubs is fine.

Last week, with my daughter, Heidi, I stayed at the Port Orleans Riverside in a building designed to look like one of the stately homes of New Orleans. We had a view of the river and could go to Disney Springs by boat, which was a wonderful ride in itself.

The main reason for our adventure was to see the Candlelight Processional holiday concert at the America Gardens Theatre in Epcot. I have been to that at least 10 times and never tire of it. This year, Helen Hunt was the narrator on the night we were there.

“Uncle Walt” would have enjoyed that show, too, for his goal was to provide family entertainment that would appeal to all ages. With all the music and assorted choirs, this is one of the highlights of the holiday season at “The World.”

Another highlight is the gingerbread house in the lobby of the Grand Floridian, where you can buy wonderful gingerbread items to take home.

During this joyous time of year, have a happy holiday, no matter which one you celebrate. This evening is the fourth night of Hanukkah. Another candle will be lit on the Hanukkah Menorah adjacent to the Gazebo at Centennial Park.


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