Carnation Plaza Gardens–Starring the Highlighters

I have a special place in my heart for the Carnation Plaza Gardens. It’s just a little stage with seating set back near the entrance to Frontierland. For amateur performing groups, this is the stage you usually perform on (unless you’re a marching band). Back in my misspent youth, I belongs to a performing group and we sang on this stage as well, so it does hold a great deal of nostalgia for me.

Put your cares away and step into the Carnation Plaza Gardens

You might be wondering why Carnation would sponsor just a little stage. It’s because back in the day, you used to be able to get burgers and stuff there. Not anymore. Now it’s just a peaceful, fun little place tucked away.

There’s a big gazebo that holds the stage, which is very cute.


The day I was trying to get on Oprah, I noticed a youth choir singing on the stage. I was immediately drawn in, partly because I was trying to take an inconspicuous picture of Oprah’s film crew, partly because I needed to refill my water bottle, partly because Theo was in a mood and this was making him happy, but mostly because the group there was really good.

Meet the Highlighters from South Kitsap High School in Port Orchard, Washington!

Because every choral group needs at least one podium


No idea where Port Orchard is? Me either, so I looked it up for you:

Welcome to Port Orchard!

Looks like a pretty cool place to live.

I was immediately drawn in by the Highlighters’ stylish jazz numbers. These guys sounded great!

I should probably take a moment to clarify that the group to which I belonged when I was young was not really that good. The Highlighters were significantly better than my old performing group.

They wore really classy outfits–black suits. Unfortunately it was 91.5 degrees that day, so they must have been positively sweltering. It reminded me of our family friend’s wedding in Arizona when it was a billion degrees. All of the groomsmen had ice packs in their pockets. Disneyland is not usually that hot at the end of March, but there ya go.

You're probably really overheated. I'm sorry!

After the Highlighters finished, I took the opportunity to accost two women who looked like they were a part of the group. Lucky for me, they were.

I spoke with Beth Allen, wife of Mike Allen, who is the conductor of the Hightlighters. Beth’s son Jake was also a featured performer. Beth said that there are 20 kids in the Highlighters and this is Mike’s 23rd year as director. Woo hoo!

I have to say, one thing I really love about Disneyland is their willingness to let youth groups like marching bands (that’s me!) and choral groups (me again!) in to perform for guests. It’s a lot of fun for the kids, a lot of fun for the guests, and just in general a lot of fun.

Beth told me that the Highlighters come down about every other year, and the kids fundraise their butts off to make it. Boy, do I remember those fundraising days. That was the worst part of high school. Okay, not the worst part, but it was pretty bad. Apparently, among other things, the Highlighters sang at a madrigal feast–which let me interrupt just a second here and say that I LOVE madrigal feasts. They also sold cookie dough and pizzas and all kind of other stuff.

However, as Beth said, “We stopped doing car washes.” To which I add a hearty “hear hear!” Car wash fundraisers seriously SUCK. If you ever find yourself in a position of having to participate in a car wash fundraiser, then do your best to get out of it. Fall out of a tree and put yourself in the hospital or something. I can assure you that whatever injury you sustain, it won’t be as bad as a  car wash fundraiser.

But I digress.

Here's another shot of the Highlighters in action

They did a fabulous job on the whole, but I have to say that my favorite part was at the end when they launched into the Glee version of “Don’t Stop Believin’.” I couldn’t help but sing along.

I also met Katie, who was a chaperone for the trip and a former Highlighter herself. Katie was so inspired by her experiences that she grew up to become an elementary school music teacher. Katie is on the left in this picture, with Beth on the right.

We need more music education in schools! Seriously, people!!! MUSIC EDUCATION IS SO, SO, SO IMPORTANT!!

Aren’t they fun?

I’d like to say that I was disappointed that I didn’t get to be on Oprah, but really, because of it, I did stumble across the Highlighters and was really glad for that.

And if any of the Highlighters are reading, leave me a comment! You did really well!


5 responses to “Carnation Plaza Gardens–Starring the Highlighters

  1. Beth June 19, 2011 at 9:55 pm

    Thanks for your write up Shelby. It was a pleasure meeting you. Sorry I’m so late in seeing and responding to this. I so agree that music education is so important. Music education teaches not just notes and music theory, but working hard, for the good of the group, and striving for excellence. BTW, Jake is now a graduate… that may have been my last trip to Disneyland as a chaperone. We shall see. Thanks again Shelby!

  2. Mike June 19, 2011 at 10:26 pm

    This is Mike – the director. What a great post! We had a blast and I definitely have a special place in my heart for The Carnation Plaza Garden. My first choir tour was to Disneyland in 1990! We’ve done that run a few times and it’s always a blast. The kids are always awesome! Again, thanks for the post.

  3. Cheryl Samford Chapa September 11, 2011 at 10:05 am

    I performed on that very stage several times back int he day as well. I can totally identify with your nostalgic feelings for the place. This past spring my daughter also got to perform on that very stage with her high school orchestra. It is now a family tradition so I hope the big D keeps this stage available for many more years. I have 2 other kids who need to perform!

    BTW – way back in the day (and I mean waaaaaay back) my grandpa was one of the strolling barbershop quartet singers down there on Main Street.

    • Shelby September 11, 2011 at 10:20 am

      I have some bad news, Cheryl. Disneyland recently released their plans to turn this area along with the secret passage from the castle into a new Princess Fantasy Faire. There’s no timeline on when this will happen, and the stage itself will likely still exist, but it’s not very likely that there will be community/guest performers like there is now. 😦

  4. BassBone April 1, 2012 at 10:19 pm

    Something you should do is check out the swing dancing on Saturday nights there. Every saturday they have a professional swing band and tons of people show up to dance. It’s a tradition stretching all the way back to 1955. All of the great big bands have played on that stage. It’s a shame we’re losing it to princesses.

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