Jeff Reitz started going to Disneyland every day in 2012 to keep his spirits up during a stretch of joblessness. And then, well, he just kept going. And going, and going, and going …
“It was something to do to keep things fun,” Reitz, 44, of Huntington Beach said Thursday after walking through Sleeping Beauty Castle on his 2000th daily visit to the park.
His repeated visits have made him a bit of a celebrity; several television stations were on hand Thursday morning to record his 2,000th trip through the turnstile.
Back in 2012, Reitz was going every day with his friend Tonya Mickesh of Lake Forest. Both were unemployed at the time, and used the daily visits as a way to keep their spirits up.
Later that year, Reitz landed a job at the VA Long Beach Healthcare System, and Mickesh found employment too. After succeeding at going everyday that entire leap year, they were rewarded by the park with a night in the Disneyland Dream Suite. Since then, the couple has gone their separate ways.
But Reitz kept going, and in 2014 he hit the 1,000-days-in-a-row mark.
He still visits daily, sometimes alone and sometimes with current girlfriend Karen Bell of Costa Mesa. Because of his job, his weekday visits are frequently in the late afternoons and evenings. On weekends, his visit times can vary.
Retiz tells DisneyExaminer.com that the streak has come with some costs.
“I’ve missed family events and funerals for close friends,” he said, although he quickly added he doesn’t blame Disneyland for missing events. “You can’t plan for a lot of these life things. I didn’t intentionally miss these things. Sometimes life doesn’t line up with your plans.”
He told DisneyExaminer that some have criticized his Disneyland visits, even calling it a sickness, he – perhaps obviously – disagrees.
“I don’t consider coming here a necessity,” he said. “If I really didn’t enjoy it to this degree, I wouldn’t push myself to keep coming.”
While Disneyland ticket prices range from $97 to $124 per day, Reitz uses annual passes for his visits. Those cost between $619 and $1,049 per year at the moment, with the top-tier pass allowing visits every day of the year.
Reitz, a veteran of the Air Force, has memories of the theme park from when he was 2 years old and rode the Matterhorn – still his favorite attraction.
“I have memories of riding it with my mom and holding onto my blankie,” he said. “I love sitting in the front row, holding the handle and leaning into the turns.”
Reitz says none of the attractions faze him anymore, even wilder rides like the new “Guardians of the Galaxy: Mission Breakout” at Disney’s California Adventure.
“He said it helps him decompress at the end of the day,” Disneyland spokesman John McClintock told NBC4. McClintock told the TV station he’s not aware of any comparable records at the park. “I do think that it’s an unbreakable record.”
Along the way he’s met many celebrities, and tried the food at nearly every restaurant saying, “Pizza Port is my go to place. I love going there for the pasta and the soft drinks.”
He’s made many friends at the park, including a number of its cast members (what Disneyland calls its employees) and other regular visitors to the park. Many times he says he’ll just walk around or find a place to sit and watch people while listening to the area music.
“The number one thing I tell people is to bring your patience. With the summer time crowds and the heat I tell people to relax and have fun.”
He admitted he does not know when he will stop going every day.
“My current pass is good until January of 2018, then we’ll see.”
The Orange County Register contributed to this report.