"Celebrating Florida's Historic Coastal Communities"

Art Deco Weekend

JAN 12, 13, 14, 2024

JAN 12, 13, 14, 2024

"Celebrating Florida's Historic Coastal Communities"

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What in the World?! How Walt Created Disney World

Sunday, January 14th @ 2:30 pm - 3:30 pm

Gary McKechnie - Disney talk

When Walt Disney realized cheap tourist traps were enveloping Disneyland, he began a nationwide search for enough land to hold every dream he could imagine. What happened next would require a heightened degree of CIA-level secrecy for Disney’s undercover team, which launched a misinformation campaign that included dummy corporations and secret transactions. However, when a keen-eyed reporter cracked the code, Disney was forced to show his hand. Audiences will be amazed to learn of subterfuge, monumental innovations and engineering feats required to create a whole new world.


About the Speaker

Gary McKechnie is a member of the Florida Humanities Speakers Bureau, with presentations including this talk as well as ‘Sunshine State Soundtrack’ (a round-up of famous Florida-born musicians). McKechnie is a former stand-up comedian improv actor, and author of the nation’s best-selling motorcycle guidebook, Great American Motorcycle Tours, and a two-time National Geographic author (USA 101 and Ten Best of Everything: National Parks).

McKechnie has written for Walt Disney World, Fodor’s travel guides, Rand McNally, AOL, People, National Geographic Traveler, the Washington Post, Harley-Davidson, Orlando magazine, Florida magazine, Chicago Tribune, Atlanta Constitution, Orlando Sentinel, Miami Herald, and United Airlines’ Hemispheres.

Additionally, he is a two-time winner of the Lowell Thomas Travel Journalism Award, a member of the Society of America Travel Writers, and covered back road destinations throughout the state as Visit Florida’s ‘Off the Beaten Path’ Insider. In 2014 he was selected by the Motorcycle Industry Council to appear as on-camera talent and chronicle the Cannon Ball Centennial Ride, a 3,450-mile cross-country motorcycle expedition.

Together with his wife, Nancy Howell, he owned and operated Mount Dora’s Coconut Cottage Inn from 2000-2018 and also teamed up to write ‘A Brief History of Mount Dora’ for the History Press. At sea, he lectures on American travel, culture, and music aboard the Queen Mary 2, Queen Victoria, Queen Elizabeth, and the ships of Seabourn and Silversea. As a community activist, he initiated the drive to renovate the Mount Dora Community Building and created a 501(c)3 non-profit Mount Dora Community Building Foundation to aid in its operation. He also formed the non-profit Mabel Norris Reese Tribute Fund, Inc. which was successful in crowd-sourcing the funds to create a monument to the courageous editor of the Mount Dora Topic who faced repeated death threats for her defense of civil rights during the 1950s.

In 2018 he ran as the Democratic candidate for Florida State Senate, District 12. Most recently, he initiated the successful drive to honor Desi Arnaz with a Florida Historic Marker which is scheduled to be unveiled in late 2023.


Sunday, January 14th
2:30 pm - 3:30 pm
Event Category:


Art Deco Museum and Welcome Center
1001 Ocean Drive
Miami Beach, FL 33139 United States
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