Woman Who Won Free Disneyland Pass in 1985 Finally Uses it Decades Later
The Happiest Place on Earth is in the business of making dreams come true — even if those dreams come 30 years later!
Tamia Richardson was 14 years old when she visited California’s Disneyland for the first time in 1985. Her inaugural trip couldn’t have come at a better time, as the beloved park was celebrating its 30th anniversary.
During her visit, Richardson, who lives in Sherwood Park, Canada, won a special free entry pass allowing her to return to the park whenever she wanted for a cost-free day of fun.
Three decades later, the Disney fan finally put the unique prize to good use on a special girls’ trip with her mom, sister and daughters Maren, 17, and Mia, 15.
Tamia tells PEOPLE she’d had the ticket in the back of her mind for years, but wasn’t exactly sure where she’d stored it.
When she finally found it tucked between photos in a box of mementos, she knew it was time to bring her girls to California for a day of family fun — as long as the ticket was still valid.
“I was just worried about getting in the park!” she says.
Luckily, Disney did indeed accept the pass, though a staffer had to double-check its validity with her supervisor before giving the a-OK.
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Richardson’s special ticket was given to her as part of the park’s anniversary promotion called the Gift Giver Extraordinaire, which Disneyland used to celebrate its 30th anniversary.
“I remember the Gift Giver clock and sign that they had, and I remember going through with the lights and the bells, something ringing,” she recalls. “I remember I got a pin that says, ‘I’m a winner,’ and I got to wear it all day.”
Prizes were given to every 30th guest, with gifts ranging from free tickets like Richardson’s, to plush Minnie and Mickey toys, commemorative watches and even a Cadillac DeVille for the 3 millionth visitor, according to the Los Angeles Times.
Though she didn’t receive a car, Richardson scored a great deal. A Disney park admission ticket in 1985 cost $16.50, while a one-day pass today costs up to $149.
Richardson says she was visiting the park that day with the daughter of her aunt and uncle’s neighbor, whom she befriended during a month-long stay with her relatives.
And when it comes to raising her own daughters, Richardson has passed down a serious love for the House of Mouse (and even brought them to Disneyland once before, in 2013).
“We had a movie night every Friday and we’d watch Disney movies,” says Maren, who works as a Disney princess in her hometown.
Mia tells PEOPLE that her favorite part of the trip was getting to experience the Disney rides, in particular, the Matterhorn, while Maren says meeting her favorite characters — namely Mary Poppins and Tinkerbell — was her highlight.