Minnie Mouse wore a cheerleader uniform. Goofy showed up in his football gear. And the Black and Gold faithful helped the UCF Knights make Walt Disney World its own “Kingdom of Dreams” Sunday.
The football team, spirit squads and band took part in UCF’s very own parade to celebrate the Knights’ historic Tostitos Fiesta Bowl win on a picturesque day at the Magic Kingdom.
“It was outstanding. It’s just a great situation having Disney in the hometown. The only time I’ve seen them do this is for Super Bowl champs. So we feel very honored to have this done today,” UCF football head coach George O’Leary said. “The UCF family showed up in great numbers – it was three, four, five deep during that parade. I’m sure the players really appreciated that. I never waved so much and smiled so much in my life.”
Knights fans stood underneath black and gold balloons tied to the lamp posts that lined Main Street, U.S.A.
Kids sat atop their parents’ shoulders waving black and gold pompoms. Women accessorized their outfits with gold mouse ears.
There were periodic chants of “U-C-F” and “Go Knights!” as thousands of fans waited for the parade to commence.
“It was like a UCF takeover. All these fans came out to show us support and love. It’s crazy. It just shows how far we’ve come as a university and a team,” junior linebacker Terrance Plummer said. “Never in my wildest dreams did I think UCF would get its own parade at Disney World in front of all these people. Disney is a worldwide corporation – everyone knows about the Magic Kingdom and Cinderella’s Castle. I’m standing right in front of it. This is my first time being at Disney World and I feel like I’m 10 years old, and I’m 20. It’s just a big experience and I’m so grateful and thankful.”
O’Leary posed for numerous “selfies” at the request of fans. Players signed autographs for little girls dressed as Snow White and Belle.
It seemed those in attendance were just as thrilled to meet their heroes as the players were delighted to have them there.
“We got to see the football players and they videoed us,” 11-year-old Emma Jones said, referring to the UCF video department’s GoPro cameras fitted to several players’ championship hats. “Usually, it’s us videoing them.”
Jill Tocco, a 1997 alum, and her husband Todd, a former UCF baseball player and a member of the Class of 1995, had planned on taking their three children Sofia, Mia and Ben to Disney this weekend. When they heard about the parade, they knew Sunday would be the perfect day.
“It’s a dream come true,” Tocco said of the team’s success this season. “We’ve been waiting a long time for this.”
Many Knights referenced the famous “I’m going to Disney World!” tagline that newly crowned champions utter after being asked what they plan to do next. It may be a perk to be Disney’s hometown team, but it is also a perk that surely was not taken for granted Sunday.
“It was just an incredible turnout by Knight Nation,” UCF vice president and director of athletics Todd Stansbury said. “It was a fitting way to celebrate with our UCF family and our Disney family.”