ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) _ Disneyland, the granddaddy of the modern theme park, marked its 50th anniversary with a ceremony that culminated with a fireworks-and-confetti display featuring Mickey Mouse and dozens of other characters brought to life by founder Walt Disney.
Thousands of fans, some waiting outside the gates since midnight, filled the theme park that was spruced up with touches of gold-colored gilding and fabric to celebrate the milestone on Sunday. Attendees were given gold-colored versions of the iconic Mickey ears for the occasion.
``Dad's vision called for this, for Disneyland, to be something that could grow more beautiful every year, and it has,'' said Diane Disney Miller, one of Disney's two daughters. ``I don't expect to be here for the 100th anniversary, but I'm certain there will be one.''
The celebration was set outside the Sleeping Beauty Castle under an intense midmorning sun and began with televised images echoing the fanfare of Disneyland's launch in 1955.
Broadcaster Art Linkletter, 93, who hosted the live telecast of the park's opening day along with Ronald Reagan and actor Bob Cummings, kicked off the ceremony joking that his longevity allowed him to be present at Disneyland's golden anniversary.
``I'm not only happy to be here, I'm happy to be anywhere,'' said Linkletter, who was also celebrating his birthday Sunday.
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who emerged from the castle gates with Mickey Mouse's white-gloved hand on his shoulder, praised the theme park's contributions to the state's economy.
``This is an engine that drives California tourism and our economy,'' he said. ``Thank you for 50 wonderful years.''
On Disneyland's opening day, officials had prepared for around 15,000 attendees to the $17 million, 160-acre park. Instead, people burst through the perimeter fence or found other ways inside, swelling the park's crowds by nearly double.
The success of Disneyland led the company to build other theme parks in Florida, Japan and Europe. Now, Disney operates 11 theme parks worldwide.
``It's everything America stands for _ imagination, ingenuity, commerce,'' said Jaime Lucero, 57, of Las Cruces, N.M., who brought his wife and two kids on Sunday.