15 March 2009

EPCOT '94 Springs into Bloom

Later this week, the Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival will blossom for its sixteenth year. This festival is the most family-friendly of the events held at Epcot, and aside from the shoots, sprouts and blooms that will erupt with color and fragrance, the Flower and Garden Festival is never the same festival twice. Today’s Back Issue takes a look at the first festival, as presented in the April 28, 1994 issue of Eyes & Ears, for glimpse into what the Cast Members thought about the event that was about to unfold.

EPCOT ‘94 will bloom with the color and beauty of floral wonders during the inaugural EPCOT International Flower and Garden Festival Presented by Better Homes and Gardens, April 29 through June 5.

During the five-week festival – a first for the Walt Disney World Resort – more than 30 million buds will burst into bloom throughout World Showcase and Future World. Flower and garden lovers will be able to participate in daily conducted tours of the gardens, as well as backstage growing areas and greenhouses. Lectures will be presented by internationally known horticulturists and Disney experts. During the flower festival, Guests can go behind-the-scenes to see where topiaries and other floral exhibits come to life. The “Backstage Horticulture” tour – offered each Friday through Sunday during the festival – will take Guests from the Theme Park to the Walt Disney World Tree Farm and Nursery. Garden enthusiasts also can enjoy a guided “Gardens of the World” tour each Monday through Thursday during the festival.

Guest speakers include Dr. Marc Cathey, President of the American Horticultural Society (April 29 – 30); Roger Swain, host of television’s Victory Garden (May 6 – 7); ethnobotanist, conservationist and author Mark Plotkin (May 13 – 14); noted garden author Suzanne Bales (May 20 – 21); Rayford Redell, author of the best-selling Growing Good Roses (May 27 – 28); and Tom MacCubbin of the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (June 3 – 4).

Disney horticulturist will discuss and demonstrate “Gardening with Mickey” in a series of presentations, from the fascinating way in which gardens help tell a story to Environmentality in the garden of the ‘90s. Other sessions will focus on everything from the basics of gardening to the art of topiary gardening.

Even top Florida artists who celebrate the beauty of flowers in their paintings are planning to participate during a weekend focusing on “art in the garden.”

“Horticulture has always been integral to our ‘show’ – that is, to the Guest experience at our resort,” said Katy Moss Warner, Director of Horticulture and Environmental Initiatives. “Usually it’s a subtle complement to theming, but this festival brings our very special horticultural traditions – and our Horticulture Cast Members – to the forefront. More than 60 Horticulture Cast Members,” Katy explained, “will be giving lectures, and conducting tours during the five-week event. Of course, our talented Horticulture Cast Members have been working hard for months to make the event a reality. In addition to EPCOT Horticulture Cast Members, those from other areas were also tapped for their creative ideas, which will be showcased throughout EPCOT Center. The festival is a great way for Guests to see the variety of gardening techniques used at Walt Disney World Resort – from dainty hanging baskets to giant topiaries.”

Some of the extraordinary visual features of the festival will be Fantasia Gardens, with twirling topiary hippos, ostriches and alligators plus World Showcase Topiary Plaza with 25 other animated Disney characters “sculpted” of living plants. Brand new topiary creatures “born” just this spring will depict favorite characters from Beauty and the Beast and Aladdin. At the EPCOT festival, Guests will see Belle’s beauty like never before: an 8-foot-4-inch topiary, a shapely growth of ivy covering a metal frame. Standing in the garden near Belle and the Beast will be their ever-faithful servants, Lumiere and Mrs. Potts – the latter weighing in at 1,200 pounds. Other guests at this floral affair include Aladdin on his flying carpet and Genie. The new topiaries are joined by a host of classic Disney character topiaries, including Mickey and Minnie Mouse, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, and Winnie the Pooh.

An amazing horticultural display, including perennials, flowering trees, award-winning rose gardens, flowering baskets and exotic bonsai trees – plus some 165,000annuals in more than 250 freshly planted outdoor beds – will highlight the nations of World Showcase and pavilions of Future World. Even flowering fruits and vegetables in The Land’s greenhouses are part of the show. All are being planned for a maximum bloom during the festival.

“Thirty-four million Americans turn to Better Homes and Gardens each month for inspiration and guidance, and gardening is one of their greatest passions,” said Garden Editor Douglas A. Jimerson. “We’re delighted to be celebrating gardening at EPCOT ‘94 this spring.”

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