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Disney Welcomes 500 Millionth Visitor

March 25, 1986 GMT

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. (AP) _ The Walt Disney tourist attractions welcomed their 500 millionth visitor Tuesday as Don McGrath of Millis, Mass., walked through the turnstiles at Florida’s Magic Kingdom.

″Well, well, I can’t believe this,″ said McGrath as he and his wife and four daughters were greeted by a host of Disney characters and company Chairman Michael Eisner.

In a ceremony at Town Square, the family was presented with a lifetime pass to all Disney parks - the Magic Kingdom and Epcot Center in Florida, California’s Disneyland and Tokyo Disneyland. They were made grand marshals of the Main Street Easter parade Tuesday afternoon.

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Eisner noted that the pace of Disney park attendance has increased radically in the past few years.

Walt Disney himself greeted the first guests, Michael Schwartner and Christine Graef, at Disneyland on July 18, 1955. It took Disneyland 16 years to reach the 100 million mark. But after the 1971 opening of Disney World here, it took just five more years to double the number to 200 million.

The four-park total reached 400 million in 1983 - the year Tokyo Disneyland opened and a year after the opening of Epcot Center.

″With our plans to open Euro-Disneyland (near Paris in 1991), who knows how soon it will be before we get to the 1-billionth visitor,″ Eisner said.

Eisner said company officials were sure the half-billionth guest would come through the gates at the Magic Kingdom ″since this is the only park that is open today at this time.″

McGrath and his wife Sue were accompanied by their daughters Justine, 14, Kiersten, 13, Amanda, 7, and Rory, 9.