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Ashley Metz keeps a special book in her South Carolina chateau. It's called the Disney Book of Stinkin' Love. Into that book she pours her passion for the parks, her devotion to Disney World, and from that book, every week, she'll draw forth with characteristic exuberance a chapter exclusively for Disney Dispatch. Ashley welcomes questions, but no matter what you ask, the answer will always be the same, and it will always be correct: Because I Stinkin' Love Disney World!

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FROM: Because I Stinkin' Love Disney World Published Thursdays

In Your Easter Bonnet

Sixteen years ago, young Ashley Metz walked into the Magic Kingdom for the first time, and from that day she has stinkin' loved Disney World - and its annual Easter Parade. The Parade, in fact, holds a special place in her heart...

The first time I ever experienced Disney World was at the age of eleven.

It was spring break and you could have sliced through the sense of wonder cast over my brothers, sister, and myself. It was truly overwhelming to see Disney World for the first time. I remember driving on I-4 (our camper behind us - Fort Wilderness or bust!) and literally losing my breath at the sight of the highway signs.

The smallest things will do it to you when you allow yourself to wonder.

So you can imagine the four of us kids going absolutely loopy for the Mickey-styled highway signs indicating the upcoming park exits. We could have turned that camper around right there. We had seen it all - or so we thought.

A few minutes later, our hearts were set a whirl once again when we saw the top of Spaceship Earth peeking over the lush Florida tree canopy. My sister had just about convinced my baby brother that it was a gigantic golf ball. We were in love at first sight.

And then, hyped up on magic and a 10-hour car ride, there we were: Fort Wilderness! My father began to set up camp, with the 'help' of my brothers, as my sister and I (and who are we kidding, my brothers, too) began asking the question travel-weary parents dread:

"Can we go to the parks yet?"

After about an hour of sheer torture, we FINALLY left camp for the kingdom, the MAGIC Kingdom.

Ashley's Easter Parade

I cannot convey the happiness via 'typed word' of that first visit. I can tell you that sixteen years later I am still enamored with my favorite place - to the point of blogging about it - and it was that first visit which hooked me. I am forever a fan.

So what made it so magical? Was it the sense of childhood conjured by all that Disney magic? Was it the laughter shared during rides like Mr. Toad's Wild Ride? Was it the nighttime light parades? Was it staying in the parks so late that I perfected the art of sleeping while standing on the ferry ride? To all that: YES!

One of the best parts of our stay was that it was near Easter. What a great time to see the parks! Yeah, it was crowded. But, it was amazing, especially since we got to be a part of the taping of the Easter Parade in the Magic Kingdom. They filmed a backup parade that day just in case of weather problems, and I seriously thought/hoped/prayed that some torrential down pour would occur so that I could say to my friends and family back home: "Look for me on the parade today... I was there during the taping!"

No such luck. It was a sunny Florida day, and the parade aired live.

Ashley Seeks Herself

But the magic of that day lives on and can still be found hiding in Easter decorations, such as a chocolate bunny that reminds me of a parade float or songs like 'In Your Easter Bonnet'. Best of all, though, is YouTube. I scour the site hoping someone in the crowd that day filmed the backup parade and after all these years posted a video that includes a glimpse of eleven year old me.

A couple of weeks ago, as usual, I entered 'Disney World Easter Parade' in the YouTube search box, found a new video in the list, and watched it.

Like Marty McFly taken back in time, I heard the familiar songs and saw the 'fashion' of the day (mostly neon - what up with that, 90s?). The Easter parade is done up in classic Disney flare, complete with bonnet adorned ladies, clucking chickens, larger than life Easter baskets, and of course, the Easter Bunny himself.

The most endearing thing is that this parade has stood the test of time. It doesn't look 90s, it doesn't look 'today' - it's clasic Disney World and has a magic that comes only from a timeless celebration like the Easter Parade.

I remember we sat at the start of the parade in Frontierland. As I peeked over shoulders and between strangers, I caught a glimpse of this memorable moment.

The video (uploaded by Disney4life2005) is shot near Town Square but, when I watch it, I can smell the deliciousness coming from the Main Street Confectionery, I can see the Train station, I am a kid again.

And even now I am fooled into believing maybe, just maybe, we were sitting somewhere within camera view of this video. I look for me. I don't find myself or my family, but I find something even better: vivid memories of my sweet family and in the background the skipping beat of my heart as it is filled with my love for all things Disney!

What a magical thing!

So this week's post was awfully sentimental for me. But can you blame a girl who just stinkin' loves Disney World?