Are Epcot’s festivals simply becoming modified versions of one another? At this point does it matter if you visit in the spring or the fall, because both the International Flower & Garden Festival and the International Food & Wine Festival are beginning to offer similar opportunities? As with most conversations that deal with Walt Disney World the answer is not a simple yes or no.
The Marketplaces, the little food serving cottages and the longtime standard the International Food & Wine Festival, crept into this year’s incarnation of the International Flower and Garden Festival. Flower and Garden’s kiosks focused on items grown in gardens, which put fruits and vegetables at the forefront of every dish. Food and Wine’s venues always focus on the freshest ingredients, but there generally isn’t a theme that runs through all of the Marketplaces as there was with Flower and Garden in 2013. Also, the number of Marketplaces needs to be considered. Flower and Garden weighed in with only about a dozen venues while Food and Wine typically boasts an assortment of kiosks just under thirty.
Switching main components, what about topiaries at the International Food and Wine Festival? They are there, but like the Marketplaces at Flower and Garden, there are nowhere near a comparable number in the fall. The garden areas of World Showcase are well manicured all year round, but during Food and Wine they do tend to take a slant towards ingredients in dishes. Cabbage in Morocco, pineapples and peppers in the promenade entrance, and the list goes on and on. So, while there aren’t as many topiary figures, the gardens are still an attraction unto themselves during Food and Wine.
The Festival Center, housed in the former Wonders of Life pavilion, is always abuzz with activity no matter which event you are attending. There is a difference, however, in who the special guests are. Chefs and culinary experts arrive in the fall to help guests in their kitchens and prepare some amazing dishes. Garden designers and horticulturists come along in the spring to assist guests in getting the most of their outdoor spaces. Even the merchandising opportunities, aside from the typical logo gear of the given event, are dramatically different.
Then there are the intangibles. Where Food and Wine has extra Marketplaces, Flower and Garden has water wise, butterfly, and creative gardens. Both have playgrounds for children to climb on when they get bored with their parents’ fawning over the food or flowers, and these play areas are generally tied into an upcoming or recent film release children would be interested in.
So, are the festivals becoming mirror images of each other? No. Are they utilizing the best aspects of both during either festival? Yes.
Food and flowers have both been ingrained in the fabric of Epcot since the beginning, long before there were even festivals to celebrate either of them. With the inclusion of Marketplaces into Flower and Garden, Epcot has given guests yet another reason to want to spend more time at the festival. Granted I would love to see the dishes offered up differ bit more from the Food and Wine offerings, beef to pork sliders and changing the cheese in the tomato salad doesn’t seem like to big a leap to me, but it was only the first year. Pristine gardens have always been a staple of Food and Wine, so it’s never been seen as a blending of the two, and yet it most certainly is.
If all guests are doing is walking casually around World Showcase, noshing here and there and taking note of the beautiful gardens, then I don’t suppose it truly matters during which festival time they visit. However, for those who truly take time to get under the surface of an event and want to take some tips home, even just those printed on placards in the gardens, it absolutely matters. Cooking aficionados aren’t going to gleam as much from a horticulturist as the gardening enthusiast is, and vice versa with chefs. Allowing the events to slightly bleed over into one another doesn’t detract from Flower and Garden or Food and Wine, it simply makes them a more accurate representation of the park in which they are housed and gives each a wider group of guests to appeal to.