The Disney theme parks have special places in the lives of many people, and Maria Menounos is one of them.
That’s why the “Extra” co-host and “Dancing With the Stars” alum is glad to help cover a holiday viewing tradition again this year. The Disney Parks Christmas Day Parade has its annual airing on Disney-owned ABC on Tuesday, Dec. 25, and Menounos will join her fellow “Extra” anchor Mario Lopez and “America’s Got Talent” host (and Mariah Carey spouse) Nick Cannon in bringing the festivities home.
“When I was about 8, my parents took us to Disney World,” Menounos tells Zap2it. “We used to clean nightclubs in Boston, and we’d save money in empty helium tanks. My dad would saw a little sliver in, then we’d put the money in, but couldn’t get it out … so we saved to go to Disney World, and we had such a great time.
“When I went back as an adult, it was really weird,” Menounos adds. “Everything was still beautiful, but it was smaller than I remembered it. It was different yet familiar, and I’m still trying to figure out if it’s more fun to go now. I think it might be. I know how hard it was for my parents to get us there, but they did. And that’s why I live to make my parents’ lives amazing.”
Most of the Christmas Parade’s special musical entertainment will be split between California’s Disneyland and Florida’s Walt Disney World. Among those featured in the West Coast segments will be Brad Paisley, Backstreet Boys, and TobyMac; East Coast performers will include Lady Antebellum, Colbie Caillat, gospel star Yolanda Adams and “American Idol” Season 11 winner Phillip Phillips. And, of course, Santa Claus will be on hand along with many Disney characters.
Even though Menounos works during the parade, it’s still a holiday for her. “I bring different people each time, friends or family,” she reports, “and we just have such a great time. We work, then we run through the park and go on the roller coasters and eat funnel cakes. It’s great. I live for this event every year.”