With our recent restoration of the River Country home movie from 1978 (http://www.retrodisneyworld.com/imageworks/films/river-country-78) we recieved a few comments from our followers - on in particular was BJ Major, and we asked her to wite a short story about the Cast Member Preview weekend for RC back in 1976. We thank her for sharing her memory with us! Here is what she had to say:
Hello, my name is B.J. Major and I was asked to write and comment about my experience as a Cast Member attending the special Preview Weekend opening of River Country in Fort Wilderness. I had only been working for a few weeks as a new hire at Walt Disney World in the Lake Buena Vista Shopping Village when this opening weekend occurred. My roommate Debbie and I (we both worked at the "Lite Bite" in the Village) were very excited to attend the opening. In actuality, it had been the first water park experience I had ever had.
Please understand that this experience for me was as a 22 year old, 39 years ago; I'm obviously a lot older now and all of the details aren't as recallable as they once were. But I do remember that it was a very fun day; everything in the new water park was working just fine and being the obsessive that I am about theming at Disney, I loved everything that was made to look old and rustic in order to recreate the experience of an old fashioned swimming hole. I'm pretty sure I got as much out of that as I did enjoying the water attractions. I liked the "cove" feeling of the park; you were right there on Bay Lake but just secluded enough to feel separate from everything else going on. Fort Wilderness was always one of my favorite WDW areas and at this time, even the Fort Wilderness steam trains were still running.
I also remember that the chocolate chip cookies at Pop's Place (the River Country snack bar) were simply amazing. I'm surprised that I remember this, but I do. If I recall correctly, only our photo WDW ID cards were required for entrance that weekend, I don't think it required special tickets of any kind. The employee newsletter, "The Eyes and Ears of Walt Disney World" had the Cast Member Preview Weekend as its front page story with the headline "The World Has A New Country, River Country!". Some of the Disney characters were there in costume also, appropriately attired for the occasion (Goofy in a one-piece old fashioned bathing suit, etc.)
There were some River Country photos taken of Debbie and myself that day; unfortunately, they did not survive my cross-country moves until I could digitize them. I do attach here a photo of Debbie (blonde on the right) and myself outside the Lite Bite restaurant as one of the few that I have which did survive from that era. I do collect certain Disney pins and I made sure to get the commemorative River Country pin that was made a couple years ago. I have strong opinions about the neglect that River Country has received since its unfortunate closure. If anyone would like to read that, it's an editorial entitled "Upholding Walt Disney's Standards" on my Disney music discography at the address below.