This year I decided I would get into the Holy Land. I considered my plan carefully. Last year, parking involved long lines and was absolute chaos. I decided this year to park at the Millenia Mall and hike over I-4 to get to the park. When I got out of my truck the first thing I heard was helicopters. I knew I was once again entering a theme park war zone. When I approached the gate I entered last year, a security officer approached me and asked, "Got your ticket?" I replied, "No." He said, "You are going to have to go down the sidewalk and enter down there, that is where they are giving away tickets." He pointed.
I passed several news vans with their long coiled antennas raised. When I turned, there was a line of people stretching back in the parking lot as far as the eyes could see. The line switched back and I took my place at the end of the line. I stood behind a mother and father with their four daughters. One of the daughters shouted, "It's my turn, It's my turn!" The dad lifted her up quickly and kissed her face and neck several times,"mwah, mwah." The younger daughter then shouted, "Do me! Do me!" The father did this for as long as he could then he said, "No more turns." I turned and looked behind me, the line was growing longer. For a brief moment, a light breeze hit me, drying the sweat on my back. I resisted the urge to sketch since I had sketched the line last year and that was part of the reason I didn't get in the park.
A countdown started from a family in line, "3...,2...,1..." was followed by a shout of "Hallelujah". A little girl dressed in pink maneuvered her wheel chair with amazing dexterity. An old man relaxed in a lawn chair. There was no shade. Two Roman Soldiers all in red and gold marched through the line and into the park via a gap in the fence. A woman shouted out, "Hello everyone, Jesus Christ loves you all!" I didn't understand why she was preaching when everyone in line was drinking the Kool-aid. I finally inched forward to a spot where the line turned. I was shocked to discover that the line turned the corner away from the entrance for a hundred yards or so. I waited another half hour and then an angry woman walked past the line saying, "You are all waiting for no reason,. They ran out of tickets!" I immediately got out of line and rushed up to the gates to sketch. The Central Florida News 13 van pulled up and set up their camera. Two women approached the news anchor and said, "We never got a ticket. We came all the way from New Jersey only to be turned away." A policeman started shouting at the people still standing outside the gate, "Everyone to the left! We need room for vehicles to get through! People in the back of the line, back up, I need five feet clear in front of the gate."
Once a year, Holy Land is required to open the park for free in order to keep their tax exempt status. The park has a capacity of 2000 guests and then they have to close the gate. Last year the people who didn't get in, all got vouchers to return for free any time in the next month. A park spokes person said the vouchers resulted in a situation that was out of control. Hundreds of people showed up the next day resulting in more chaos. The voucher was the Christian thing to do, but if you think about it, also resulted in profits going down. Even if everyone used their free voucher, it would still be cheaper for Holy Land than paying their taxes.
As I packed up to leave, the line outside the park's closed gates continued to grow. People were waiting for guests to leave the park in the hope that they would then get in. I don't have the kind of faith needed to stand baking in the sun for many more hours.
On the walk back to my truck, I decided to treat myself to a Tutti Frutty Frozen Yogurt at the Millenia Mall. On the windshield of my truck I got this note from security officer Krigsner: "Mall at Millenia parking lot is for Mall at Millenia guests or employees only. Please relocate your vehicle if you are not shopping or working at the mall. Thank you." God I hate malls and theme parks. What am I doing in Orlando? Security guard Krigsner, my Tutti Frutty receipt is in the mail to you.