A WHOLE magical Mickey Mouse-themed year has passed since it was announced that the town was to become the first official twin of Walt Disney World in Florida.
The town was hand picked to be twinned with the Florida theme park, thanks to the creative mind of mortgage adviser Rebecca Warren.
Last December, Rebecca, of Upper Stratton, was named as the winner of a national competition to compete for the official status of being twinned with the world’s most famous theme park.
And it seems to have been a perfect springboard to give the town an international reputation.
Ian Cotton, director of economic development for Forward Swindon, said: “When I found out Swindon was lucky enough to win it I began to think about how we could make the best of it.”
He said as well as big events generating lots of attention such as Mickey Mouse switching on the Christmas lights, Disney staff had done many more things at a grassroots level. I know their staff have been involved with Richard Jefferies house at Coate doing work in the gardens and have gone into hospital to visit the children’s ward.
“I think the main thing we have got out of it as a town is national and international exposure. I think it made people think about Swindon being a bit different.
“It was quirky and I don’t think anyone took it too seriously. I don’t think there is any way of measuring what economic impact it had on Swindon but it definitely raised a lot of interest.”
North Swindon MP Justin Tomlinson said: “I think it has been a fantastic year and a positive boost for Swindon.
“Even during these challenging times, we always welcome a sprinkling of Disney magic.
“For the residents, it has been really positive and has really helped to put Swindon on the map.”
Last year Disney hosted a launch party for specially invited guests, took part in the Old Town Festival and Mickey, Minnie and Goofy turned on the Christmas lights last month.
Hugh Wood, vice president and marketing director of Disney Destinations International, said the twinning had proved a huge success.
“Swindon was the first town in the world to be twinned with Walt Disney World Florida and it’s been a great year,” he said.
“We’ve been delighted to bring a sprinkling of Walt Disney World magic to the town, from our initial launch event and residents party through to community projects – and we hope that Swindon has enjoyed it as much as we have.
“Thanks to competition winner Rebecca Warren and the people of Swindon, this successful and pioneering partnership will go down in Disney history.”
More than 500 people from across the country nominated their home towns, but Rebecca’s entry, a video slideshow of the town with a poem she wrote, wowed the judges.
Swindon beat the likes of Blackpool, Aberdeen, Chester, Milton Keynes and Wigan to win the title and has enjoyed a number of Disney-themed events throughout the year, topped off with the successful Christmas lights switch-on in the town centre last month, which attracted an estimated 30,000 people.
The twinning comes to an end at the end of this year, but Swindon will still be twinned with Salzgitter in Germany, Ocotal in Nicaragua and Torun in Poland.