What an unbelievable weekend.
I was in Central FL to be a part of the last weekend of Epcot’s Food and Wine festival. Though I have been in Orlando many times, I really haven’t been to anything at Epcot for more than 20 years. I never had the time or inclination to ‘hit the parks’. Mostly I have been ‘flying solo’ and any visit to Disney really isn’t that special if you can’t share the memory with someone.
This time was to be a bit different. I was there ‘working’ and so had a team to hang with. So I had a chance to really enjoy the place with a group of like minded folks and it was a gas.
I did my little stint but got to hang around a bit longer in the Disney Beach Club hotel. Deluxe!
Culminating this 5 week celebration of eating and drinking was the “Party for the Senses”- a gala event that was the capstone to the whole thing. My client was involved in this as well but my part of the weekend was over and there weren’t enough tickets to allow me to attend.
Enter: my Disney Pal John surprised me when he told me he had just one ticket left and asked if I was interested in going.
Um, YAH!! so I spent Saturday on the DL .. resting up for what proved to be one of the best nights of my life.
I was to meet up with John and the rest of his contingent at about 7 but I knew that one of my favorite bands was playing at a wide open concert so I headed over to Epcot at about 5, figuring this was a good place to kill a couple of hours.
The nearer I got to the entrance the more people began to join in the stream of folks heading toward the turnstiles. This was an extremely popular weekend and there were more people in this stream than I have been around in a long while. I cleared the gate, (where I had to lay my finger on a scanner that took my fingerprint to get in! Very weird.)
As I entered the park, the atmosphere really began to rev up. There was already a river of people in the walkways and if you wanted to get out of the river, all you had to do was head to the side (the “riverbank”) and you could sit out and observe the flow. In this mix was an astounding assortment of people- from the most interesting and beautiful faces, sensuous bodies in an array of clothing options -to the most grotesque of shapes and sizes. I wonder how Americans are perceived by our foreign visitors??? and speaking of foreign visitors… this was as close to a European vacation as you can get. Besides the different themes, snippets of conversations in strange languages move past you as you make your way through the crowd.
I entered the park at “England” and skirted the lake as I headed toward the American Stage.. I suddenly found myself in “Japan”! -complete with the iconic Torii in the water and Shinto temple architecture. I was just in time for a demonstration of those big Japanese drums being played by three very intense looking Japanese girls in traditional garb rhythmically pounding out a complex drumming piece that I can only guess goes back thousands of years. I thought to myself, “I spent three weeks in Japan and never saw anything approaching this.” That I had to come to Florida to experience authentic Japanese culture was incongruent at best. I was spell bound as the drumming intensified and I could feel the resonance in my core. When they stopped, I just stood there vibrating and mesmerized by what I had just witnessed.
Shaking my head, I once again joined the river and was swept in to the “American” section where Big Bad Voodoo Daddy was just coming on stage. Wow. I LOVE the music they play…high powered swing music that makes it impossible to sit still when you listen. In my typical concert pattern, I couldn’t sit down and so I wandered all over the venue, occasionally getting close to band to feel that beat. As I made it back toward the ‘river’ I was able to witness a spontaneous dance number performed by two lithe and beautiful people. She was slim, long waisted with a short bob haircut and stunningly cute. He was long and tall and sinewy. They just burst into a high energy bop that had the crowd mesmerized- well, I was anyway. I fell in love with this girl in a matter of seconds.. so free, spontaneous, and boy! could she move.. I thought for a moment that they were cast members-so spot on was their dancing, but as the dance wore on, it was evident that they were just members of the ‘river’. Over as quickly as it started, they collapsed into each others arms before the end of the song, blended into the stream and disappeared leaving me slack-jawed at the exhibition.
I stayed for about 45 minutes and soaked in more of the high-energy music. Shaking my head at how wonderful this was, I joined the flow toward the big gates that kept the regular folks separated from those of us lucky enough to have tickets to the Party for the Senses.
A powerful thirst was developing and so I stopped into the ‘authentic’ British pub and got a cider and black… a drink that I had in England a long time ago but hadn’t had for years. Wandering out of the crowded pub, I began to look for a quiet place to imbibe, I headed to a bench overlooking the lake and struck up a conversation with two lovely folks who actually lived in Bristol, England and love coming over here and enjoying the world according to Disney. We compared and contrasted cultures and marveled at this thing called Epcot. It was a wonderfully engrossing fun encounter.
I had time to kill before the rest of the group showed up so I bid adieu to my Bristol friends and entered the stream again just going where ever it took me. I stood and watched a Canadian rock n roll band that featured a bagpipe player as lead! what a bizarre thing but really good! As I whirled around I was met with a most intense parade of humanity! Again, the beautiful mingled with the grotesque and everyone in between was also represented. Just as I was thinking how happy everyone looked, as if on cue, a dumpy woman clutching her cell phone with both hands hustled by going in the opposite direction, sobbing, ” She broke my heart! She broke my heart!” another 5 second vignette adding to the other ones that were happening faster than I can describe. I guess everyone wasn’t happy that night.
Groups of a half dozen 20 something kids, dressed in collegiate T shirts, in various states of conviviality would break into song or random cheering and then be gone only to be replaced by bored parents tapping on their cell phones while their strollers were bouncing with kids who were alternatively straining to get out of their restraints, glassy eyed from a whole day at the park or asleep. It is impossible to capture the constantly changing scenes that were going across my viewing screen other than saying it was as close to a psychedelic experience without actual hallucinogens involved. I was loving it.
And the main event hadn’t even started.
I met up with John and his wonderful crew of guests who included a new pal Jeff and his girl Kate who was vivacious and beautiful and had a ready smile.. and whose mom is also from Naugatuck.. what? are the odds.
At 730 promptly the queue started to enter the huge private circus tent. So our crew of 7, joined this feeder and Poof! we were in.
The place was simply buzzing with excitement. The soundtrack for the party was all Cirque music played live that just enhanced the dreamlike atmosphere. There must have been 40 food stations that each had two different foods -all bite sized-accompanied by different paired wines. A lot of thought went into this incredibly well choreographed evening. Without a moment’s hesitation we all dove into the swirling mass of people who had the single aim of eating as much different food and tasting as many different wines as we could.
Bison, veal, pork shoulder, exotic fish, vegetarian tidbits, many of which I had never even heard of before, tastefully arranged on little beds of grain that I had never heard of either. Delectable morsels of foods that were totally new to me! I thought I was fairly well travelled but grains like farro (?) and fish called Sable (?) How nice to find things that I have never experienced! All presented in the most delectable fashion.
Three different times, our attention was directed to the main stage where elements of Cirque du Soleil performed a couple of bits. a treat for the eyes if ever there was.
I managed to stay away from the brown liquors that would have probably put me in the ditch. As it was I had a pleasant buzz from the wine and the pervading vibe that was simply sublime. After 3 hours of eating as much as we could, the announcement for the fireworks came across the crowd and Jeff, Kate and I made our way through the throng to an ideal viewing area for the fireworks. Now, there are fireworks and there are Disney fireworks. This was an intense show that included many varieties of spectacular ‘fill up the sky’ types of pyrotechnics and projections on the clouds left over from the rockets. What a wonderful way to finish this evening off.
I floated back into the ‘Senses’ tent to say my good byes to the new pals I had made. Though invited, I took a pass on the invitation to the after party. I was pleasantly buzzed and just tired enough to make it to my room and hunker in for the evening. I am sure I missed a good time but when I lolled awake the next morning my I was thankful I had made that call.
It was a grand night –
Thank you John, thank you Phil, thank you all for making this one of my grandest nights ever.