Mickey, Arnie Mark Disneyland's Birthday

07/18/2005 at 04:00 PM EDT

Mickey, Arnie Mark Disneyland's Birthday
BRENDAN MCDERMID/EPA/Landov
The Happiest Place on Earth hit the half-century mark on Sunday, prompting fireworks, confetti and the very odd pairing of Mickey Mouse and Arnold Schwarzenegger – who were both all smiles as they held hands together at the foot of Sleeping Beauty's Castle.

Said the Golden State's governor of his magical surroundings, Southern California's Disneyland: "This is an engine that drives California tourism and our economy. Thank you for 50 wonderful years."

Recalling the original dreams for the iconic playground by her father, Walt Disney (1901-66), Diane Disney Miller told the crowd: "Dad's vision called for this, for Disneyland, to be something that could grow more beautiful every year, and it has. I don't expect to be here for the 100th anniversary, but I'm certain there will be one."

Longevity was a top priority at Sunday's all-day gala, where veteran TV personality Art Linkletter – who, along with Ronald Reagan hosted Disneyland's July 17, 1955, opening day broadcast on ABC – also marked a milestone: his 93rd birthday.

"I'm not only happy to be here," said Linkletter. "I'm happy to be anywhere."

Also there on Sunday, according to the Associated Press: the park's first paying guest from 50 years ago, a retired professor named Dave MacPherson, now 72. (In 1955, admission was $1. Today, it’s closer to $60.)

On opening day, MacPherson recalled, the lines were so long that he didn't have time to go on a single ride and still make it back to campus for a college class. Still, his distinction came with a generous perk – a lifetime free pass for four to Disneyland and then to all the other Disney parks as they opened around the world.

Recalled MacPherson of his golden ticket: "I was the most popular guy at the college."

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