Walt and Lillian Disney celebrated their 30th wedding anniversary on July 13, 1955. Though Walt was spending hours preparing his park for opening day, Disney wanted to spend his anniversary at the park he had dreamed of building for so many years. With 300 guests in tow, the party took the maiden voyage of the Mark Twain Riverboat and enjoyed the unofficial first show in the Golden Horseshoe.
Like most parties, there was a lot going on to prepare for that night. Admiral Joe Fowler, the man Disney put in charge of building the Mark Twain, was a little nervous. The ship had never gone around Tom Sawyer Island and Fowler later admitted that he had nightmares the night before that the river would dry up again like it had just a few weeks earlier. With an hour left until guests would start arriving, Fowler arrived to make sure everything was in working order. He was surprised to find Lillian Disney, broom in hand, sweeping the deck. With her help, the ship was ready to go when guests arrived. Sipping mint juleps and listening to the Dixieland band, the party enjoyed their cruise down the Mississippi.
The guests were then invited into the Golden Horseshoe Saloon for dinner and a show. Wally Boag, Donald Novis, and Judy Marsh performed their first “unofficial” show, which the guests loved. But the best part of the show was Walt. Although he was sitting in the balcony box, he was interacting with the actors. Towards the end of the show when Pecos Bill was shooting his gun, Walt used his fingers and shot right back. Before his family knew what was going on, Walt had climbed over the railing and down onto the stage. The party guests loved it and cheered him on. Diane Disney remembers watching her father standing on the stage looking over the crowd, taking it all in. She recalls, “He was loving every minute of it, just grinning at people.”