20 December 2008

MouseFest 2008 – There and Back Again

Thursday, 11 December 2008

My wife and I actually started our journey to MouseFest on my birthday, Wednesday night, as soon as she picked me up from work. We caught terrible weather all the way through North and South Carolina, but upon reaching Georgia the weather seemed to have lifted. A few hours later, and a three hour pit-stop at the Florida border (in which I didn’t get any sleep because I had just finished an energy drink), and we pulled up to Pop Century just in time for breakfast.

At check-in they told us our room was ready, at 6:30 in the morning! We grabbed our bags and headed to our room. I had received a text message from Doc the night before telling me his room number, and I quickly realized that we were in the same building, the 60s. I called him to make sure the number he had sent me was correct, and it was, Doc’s room was right next door to mine! We had booked different lengths of stay with different travel agencies, and yet, as fate would have, we ended up right next door to one another.

After I gave Doc a surprise wake-up call, and meeting his nephew, I packed up my geek gear and Aileen and I headed for the Magic Kingdom. The morning was spent taking photographs and researching articles I wanted to do for the Gazette, while trying to avoid the few drops of rain that had begun falling. We caught up with Doc and his nephew and the Nerdy Girls of North Carolina, and caught a couple of attractions together before the rains really started. I missed the MouseFest 101 meet because I was trying to stay under shelters and not get my shoes drenched in the deluge that was upon us.My wife headed back to the room for a nap, and I picked up where I had left off on my photographing earlier. I managed about half an hour’s worth of research before it was time to meet everyone for Dole Whips! Afterwards Glenn, Lou, and I waited about almost 30 minutes for fresh egg rolls at the Sunshine Tree Terrace. By the time they arrived, we had been told they were almost there three times, and so, we went to pay they said that the egg rolls were on the house. Free food always tastes best.I began to make my way towards Main Street to prepare for The Disney Obsession/Main Street Gazette Unofficial Rocking Chair Meet. I was able to secure two chairs, but every other chair was filled by a dedicated rocker. I would have been thrilled if more than Doc, my wife, Glenn, and I had showed up, but when Brian Fee, Ray and Enchanted Rose, April Baker, and others began to show up, well it gave me a sense of pride to know that our first time out we had gathered so many wonderful people, scratch that, friends in one place for a few moments.

Aileen headed out to dinner with my friend Elizabeth and the Nerdy Girls, soon to be known as Gazette Girls (sorry George), and so I was left with the boys and their cameras club for Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party. After taking some pictures of Main Street covered in lights and snow we moved on down to the Hub to finally get some of my own pictures of the Castle Lights. All I can say is wow! From there it was on to a couple of the shows, Holiday Wishes, Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Parade, and lots of cookies and hot cocoa before finally having to crash after two days of no sleep.

Friday, 12 December 2008

Another morning, another batch of fast and furious researching, this time in Disney’s Animal Kingdom. Aileen and I caught what was problem the best ensemble I have ever seen for Finding Nemo the Musical. In fact, they touched me so much, that I caught a tear in the corner of my eye once or twice. The remainder of the morning consisted of a few attractions, lunch at Yak and Yeti Local Foods, and as many pictures as I could muster. We caught up to Doc and his nephew and transported our group to Disney’s Hollywood Studios. It was sad to me in a way, because I love the time I get in Disney’s Animal Kingdom, and I knew I was only going to get this half a day this trip.Over at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, we immediately picked-up our glasses for the Osborne Spectacle of Lights. Aileen once again caught up with the Nerdy Girls and headed off for a drop on Tower of Terror. I took some more pictures, ran into our good friends, Glenn, Lisette, and Danny, and then made my way over to PodFest 2008.It was amazing to see all of these personalities in one setting. This was also an excellent opportunity for myself to get out, shake some hands, and really let people know who I am and why Disney means so much to me. Unfortunately, I have a hard time advertising for myself, and my shy nature kicked in rather quickly. Thankfully, my wife was a Public Relations major in college. She grabbed the business cards she had printed up for me and began making the rounds. I really don’t know what I would do without her. It was during PodFest that I finally caught up to Bryan Ripper for a moment. He and I didn’t get to talk long during MouseFest, but I am sure we’ll catch up again real soon. We had met back in April, and had been hearing each other’s names for the past couple of days, and finally got to say hello again face to face. After talking with Glenn, Bryan, Ray, Enchanted Rose, Greg, Lou, Lori, Lisette, Danny, April, and a multitude of other friends, Aileen and I headed out.We grabbed an early dinner at the ABC Commissary, a late showing of MuppetVision 3D, and then several dancing light songs on the Streets of America, which had been magically transformed by millions of lights. After a quick tour through the streets, we made a b-line to Epcot in order to attend the Mouse Fan Travel IllumiNations dessert party.

During the dessert party we caught up to several friends again. Ray and I talked for quite a while and then set up tripods in order to capture some magic in action during the show. Spending some time with Ray, a writer I have been impressed with since I first started reading Grumpy’s Hollow (and now the articles in Celebrations Magazine), was fantastic for me. I tend to get wrapped up in moments like that, with good friends, and so, thanks to my wife again, she reminded me there was good food to be had that I was not even touching.
After what was probably the best view I have ever had of IllumiNations, I began a whirlwind tour of the World Showcase countries at night, attempting to capture some of the great elements. Then it was back home to Pop Century for a few hours of sleep.

Saturday, 13 December 2008

Saturday was filled with excitement. I woke up early to attend the Passholder’s event at Downtown Disney’s World of Disney. My wife had a ten mile run to accomplish that morning, and my friends Elizabeth and Doc were, apparently, smarter than I, and backed out of attending. It was utter chaos! I feel like they had some great ideas (wristbands, separate pick-up for the free gifts, etc.), but that their execution was lacking (only one person handing out 1000 wristbands). I picked up a few items and headed over to Disney’s Hollywood Studios.Doc, his nephew, and I were horse-collared at the Disney’s Hollywood Studios with the break-down bug. Toy Story was running on a delayed opening with no time-frame as to when it would be up and running, a star speeder at Star Tours malfunctioned just before we boarded, and we had to take the chicken exit on Rock ‘n’ RollerCoaster after watching the lights all come on and the limo at the entrance to the tunnel be evacuated. Doc’s nephew and I were, well, let’s just say we were hesitant to get on an elevator at the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror. On the plus side, this morning jaunt did give us a chance to see Rock ‘n’ RollerCoaster with the lights on (my pictures either were blurry or caught a glitch and are showing up as invalid format now) and we were given re-entry passes, a rare piece of Disney paper that went straight into my collection.
From there we made our way to the Beach Club for the Mega Mouse Meet. So many geeks, so little time! That’s really all I can say about this fantastic get together. I finally got to catch up with my good friend Marissa, whom I hadn't seen since April. She later informed me of one of the more interesting moments I had during the weekend. Apparently I left the Mega Mouse Meet a little early, because as I headed back to Epcot just before the meet ended and I missed out on an XM Radio when they called my raffle number!At Epcot, I attended David Koenig’s NeverLands walk. This was a whirlwind tour of the World Showcase that never, or almost, was. Russia, Equatorial Africa, Spain, shows for Japan, Italy, Germany and many other interesting concepts were all discussed on this well-attended walk. More than once I heard friends that were bitter or saddened by the fact that some of these events never came to pass, sentiments I feel deep down inside as well.

Afterwards, more photographs in World Showcase. I was making my wife to my wife and the newly-christened Gazette Girls (sorry George), when I ran into Lou, Deanna, Lori, April, Ray, Enchanted Rose, and Glenn. Some hilarity ensued and, well, you can see the pictures for yourself…
I finally made it over to my wife, who wasn’t sure if she was in Germany or Norway (all this time with a Disney Geek, and she still gets lost), and we grabbed some pub fare at Yorkshire County Fish Shop before Lou’s Saturday Night IllumiNations Meet. This was probably the highlight of the weekend for me. One, I got to help out one of the men I most admire, but two, I got to talk to Deanna who offered me some sage advice and words of wisdom that I fully intend to follow. This was all happening, of course, with a few cocktails around and a few inside jokes shaking things up.

After IllumiNations everyone was heading over to Jellyrolls on the Boardwalk. I parted ways with the group at the International Gateway. My wife was going, but I knew I had a long drive ahead of me the next morning, and didn’t want to attempt it on no sleep,… again. As I made my way to the front gates of Epcot I had some time to reflect and realized that a lot of these people were fast becoming some of my closest and dearest friends, and that this, being a beacon in the overwhelming tide of Disney history and travel, is really what I want to do with my life.I slept really well that night, perhaps from exhaustion, perhaps from having a direction. Either way, it was the best sleep I had had in a long while.

Sunday, 14 December 2008

We woke up early to make sure we had everything packed, loaded up the car, and made one final trip over to the Magic Kingdom. We hopped the monorail to see the gingerbread house at the Grand Floridian before heading into the park. A few attractions later, and a lot of goodbyes on the Tomorrowland Terrace Noodle Station later, we turned the car north and headed for home. I wish we had had more time, and next year we will, but it one of the greatest trips I’ve ever had to Walt Disney World.

PLEASE NOTE: I did not get the chance to include links to all of the wonderful sites and shows my friends are a part of before I went to press with this article. They are all, however, listed on the side of the Gazette. If you are looking for someone site specifically, feel free to email me.


Anonymous said...

The Gazette Girls (sorry George) and I had a fabulous time! Can't believe it was only last week. Feels like centuries ago already.

Unknown said...


After all this time of great support of my blog, it was a pleasure to finally get to meet you. The fact that you and Aileen were at the Mouse Fan Travel IllumiNations party made it that much more enjoyable for me....sorry I distracted you from the food, but I was in the same boat.

My wife kept insisting that your wife was at Jellyrolls, but I kept insisting that she went back to the room with you. I guess, once again, I was wrong and she was right...haha

Maybe, one day, you can pass on the sage advice Deanna gave you at Lou's Illuminations party. She is quite the woman....Lou is a lucky man just like all of us for having such a supportive (and understanding) spouse.

Keep up the great work at the Main Street Gazette. You're a talented writer and make learning fun

lorilovestigger said...

Gazette Girls rolls of the tongue so much better than Nerdy Girls. Seriously, no girl EVER wants to be Nerdy.
It was great getting to spend time with you and Aileen again. I can't wait to see you again next month. Get those running shoes ready.

Lou Mongello - WDWRadio.com said...

Thanks for the great times and great memories! It was so nice to see and spend some time with you and Aileen.

Princess Fee said...

Sounds like you, and everyone, had a fantastic time! Thanks for detailing the trip so well - I almost felt like I was there! ;)

Ryan P. Wilson said...

Elizabeth - I though the same thing last night when I realized that we hadn't even been home for a week.

Ray - The pleasure was mine as well. To finally be able to sit and talk with you and Enchanted Rose was one of the great gifts of MouseFest, we'll definitely have to start making a habit of it!

And you are right, all of our wives are so amazing in so many ways, we are all very, very lucky men.

Lori - It is definitely going to be more of walking shoes, but I will try to keep up. See you soon!

Lou - It was great to see you and Deanna again! And here's to many many more opportunities.

Princess - It is amazing that, even with the number of people who were able to attend, that many more great friends were unable to attend. Still, even though you, and the rest of the missing friends, weren't there you were talked about and truly there in spirit!

bigbrian-nc.com said...

Mousefest was a blast, I hope next year to get to a few more of the meets you guys are attending too, it was nice seeing you though even as it was.