It was a typical mid-June day in the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World: Hot and humid, with ominous dark clouds lurking on the horizon.
After riding on the WEDway PeopleMover in Tomorrowland, we decided to escape the heat by ducking into Walt Disney’s Carousel of Progress, the classic show that debuted at the 1964-1965 New York World’s Fair and has been playing at WDW ever since the park opened in 1971. There was no wait and we knew there would be plenty of air conditioning inside.
During the third scene of the attraction, the one where the father extols the virtues of electricity in the 1940s, I could hear the distinct sound of thunder outside the Carousel building.
A few minutes later, after witnessing the attraction’s final scene, the exit doors swung open and as we walked out, we were greeted by the sites and sounds of a torrential central Florida downpour.
About 30 of us exited the theater, but we were blocked from going any farther than the exit area by the previous audience. As you might expect, they were standing under cover as the rain and wind intensified. Every few minutes, a bolt of terrifyingly close lightning would crackle.
At that point, a 20-something Disney cast member approached us and told us that we had to stand behind a yellow line, which was about five feet from the exit door. That meant that our group and the previous group were now standing pretty much shoulder to shoulder, huddling under the overhang against the wind-blown rain pellets.
Of course, about five minutes later, the next group of about 30 people exited the attraction and things really got interesting.
The same cast member reappeared and gave the same spiel about being too close to the exit door. It was becoming obvious that unless the attraction was halted, more and more people would be spilling out into the now overcrowded exit area.
My family [three children and four adults] decided to do the only logical thing: We re-entered the Carousel theater, took a seat and waited out the storm in comfort and safety.
That’s when things got a little weird.
Several times during our 15-minute stay in the theater, a female cast member tried to make announcements over a loudspeaker, but each time, the broadcast was garbled and indistinguishable. Which begged the question: Had this been a real emergency — like, say, a fire — would we have gotten vital information or just more garble?
During our time in the theater, the exit doors would open every few minutes and we could see that the rain was falling unabated. And every so often, our 20-something cast member friend would pop her head in to tell us something we already knew: That the ride had been halted due to the inclement weather. Progress, for that short period time, stood still.
The thing is, we made up our minds that we weren’t going to move out of theater even if they told us we had to.
At long last, the rain subsided and we made our way out of the theater into Tomorrowland, where there were puddles everywhere. A few small branches had been dislodged from nearby trees. We found our sopping-wet child strollers, dried them off, and continued our day.
As we headed over to Fantasyland, we spotted a beautiful double rainbow hovering over Space Mountain.
A typical afternoon in central Florida during the rainy season.