I've been home from MouseFest for two weeks as I write this, and I'm still struggling to put my experience at the event into words. As a member of the organizing committee (including serving as schedule coordinator for the land portion) this year, I can say that a lot of people worked extremely hard to pull this year's events off, and that it probably exceeded the wildest expectations of all of us. The big question looms, though: What can we possibly do to top it next year?
Representatives of all web sites participating in the Mega Mouse Meet gather for a photo before the deluge of guests enter the ballroom. Photo courtesy of Mark Goldhaber.
With 2,071 registered attendees for the event, 289 of whom went on the MouseFest cruise, the fourth annual "gathering of the tribes" of the Disney Internet communities was the biggest event ever. An estimated 800 people attended the Mega Mouse Meet alone, visiting the two dozen tables in a ballroom probably twice the size that was used last year. The 75 official meets on land were up from 65 one year ago, and the 21 shipboard events were a big increase over the 13 held last year.
A dozen authors were represented at the Mega Mouse Meet. Photo by Mark Goldhaber.
An interesting development this year was the shift in the makeup of the participating communities. From just two last year, the number of podcasts represented at the event shot up to over a dozen, outnumbering the authors this year. That growth foreshadows a development here at MousePlanet, where we will debut our own podcast in 2007. (The first show is targeted to go live in the next few weeks.)
More podcasts were represented at MouseFest than authors. Photo by Mark Goldhaber.
MousePlanet's scheduled meets proved popular again, with Mike Scopa's Third Annual Dole Whip Meet attracting an estimated 75 people and David Koenig's Ramble in Roy's Footprints tour drawing so many people that he needed to break it into two sessions. Our mini-MouseAdventure sent over 30 players scrambling around Disney's Animal Kingdom for 90 minutes of fun. About a dozen people joined us for our second annual meet centered around the favorite treat of our MousePad discussion forums, "shocolatte mousssse."
Mike Scopa's Third Annual Dole Whip Meet was again the place to be to kick off MouseFest. Photo by Mark Goldhaber.
At the Mega Mouse Meet, Mike Scopa (stationed where the tables for MousePlanet and his WDW Today Podcast met) drew a huge crowd, with the line to meet Mike extending so far that it had to be redirected to the center of the room. Related jokes included a suggestion that he needed a Disney character greeter and a question as to whether he was actually listed on Disney's entertainment Times Guide for the day.
David Koenig speaks to his first tour group at the former Swan Boat dock in the lower Rose Garden. Photo by Mark Goldhaber.
Almost two dozen door prizes were donated by various communities, requiring quite some time to give away. MousePlanet's door prize gift basket included not only a T-shirt and mug from our brand-new Café Press store, but a four-day, three-night stay including one breakfast buffet, thanks to the generosity of MousePlanet sponsor Radisson Resort Orlando-Celebration (formerly the Radisson Resort Parkway). That door prize was won by Rebecca Jones of Abilene, Texas. We also gave away another mug and three T-shirts at our table and distributed over 300 buttons during the course of MouseFest.
Rebecca Jones of Abilene, Texas was the winner of MousePlanet's door prize, which featured swag from our new Café Press store and a four-day, three-night vacation at the Radisson Resort Orlando-Celebration. Photo by Mark Goldhaber.
But MouseFest was so much more than just MousePlanet. Other events attended by huge groups of people included the always-popular fireworks meet during Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party, hosted by Deb Wills of AllEarsNet and Dave Card of Tagrel.com; Lou Mongello's TriviaFest and Ricky Brigante's Inside the Magic podcast meet.
Lou Mongello and Nathan Rose of the MouseTunes podcast welcome the crowd to PodFest. Photo by Mark Goldhaber.
The Kilimanjaro Safaris meet, always popular, again drew a huge crowd. The new kid on the block, PodFest, hosted by Lou Mongello and Nathan Rose of MouseTunes, drew a huge crowd of podcasters and listeners. The Soarin' and Brunch at the Ball meets hosted by Tagrel.com were again big draws.
Over 30 adventurers pose with Expedition Everest in the background before they set out to solve the quests and find the eye spys at the Mini-MouseAdventure at Disney's Animal Kingdom. Photo by Linda Mac.
There were also many popular group tours. Steve Barrett (author of the Hidden Mickeys Guide) gave tours searching for Hidden Mickeys in each theme park. Kim Button (author of the Disney Queue Line Survival Guide) ran three scavenger hunts in two parks. Tim Devine (of TheMagicInPixels.com) ran three instructional photo tours in two parks.
MousePlanet staffers and readers alike work on the puzzles leading to quests in the park during the Mini-MouseAdventure. Photo by Mark Goldhaber.
The rec.arts.disney.parks Usenet newsgroup (RADP) also had a long slate of events held during MouseFest. With Adventurer's Club meets on most nights and a marathon of events running through the Magic Kingdom on MouseFest Sunday, there were 25 events either hosted or co-hosted by this group. (RADP was the progenitor of MouseFest, born at the group's seventh annual meet when Deb Wills and Jennifer and Dave Marx wondered if a similar event could be held that would include all of the Disney Internet communities. The next year, MouseFest was born, held in conjunction with RADP 8.)
But with success and huge growth comes a dilemma. The cost of the room rental for the Mega Mouse Meet is growing rapidly as the room size grows The sheer number of meets is causing a great deal of overlap, making attendees choose between several simultaneous meets that they might be interested in. The experimental split-day schedule for Friday (Disney's Animal Kingdom from opening through 2 p.m., Disney-MGM Studios from 2 p.m. through closing) resulted in not enough time in either park, especially after a last-minute schedule change at the Disney-MGM Studios had the park closing 90 minutes early for a private event for Pop Warner attendees. We're not sure yet how we're going to manage next year's event, but it is likely that some changes will have to be made.
The crowd of approximately 800 Mega Mouse Meet attendees filled the ballroom at the Dolphin for over three hours. Photo by Mark Goldhaber.
It's not certain yet how we will handle the financial and scheduling issues, but it's quite possible that funds will be raised by requiring or requesting financial contributions from either participating communities, attendees or both. Scheduling conflicts might require either creation of "tracks" of events, a restriction on the number of events or expansion of the number of days on which events are held. Nothing has been decided yet, but one thing is certain. Some changes will be necessary.
Representatives from all of the participating communities, publishers, vendors and podcasters gather in front of the Mega Mouse Meet banner. Photo by Lisa K. Berton.
The organizing committee will be starting discussions for next year very soon, and a survey for attendees will likely be created shortly as well. When that survey appears, we will publicize it here in our weekly Walt Disney World Park Update from the date it's announced until the date that the survey closes. I ask everyone out there that attended MouseFest to complete that survey when it appears so that we can do the best job possible in planning next year's event and give you the fun and frolic at MouseFest 2007 that you're looking for.
This year, MouseFest was a smashing success, and I hope that we can manage to pull off an even better event next year. Thanks to all who attended, and I look forward to meeting you all again at MouseFest 2007!
(Send an email to Mark Goldhaber)
Mark (@MPMark) is a veteran of dozens of trips to Walt Disney World starting in 1972, with a few Disneyland trips thrown in for good measure. As a Disney stockholder and a Disney Vacation Club member, Mark is always in touch with what's going on with The Mouse. Mark serves as MousePlanet's Walt Disney World content coordinator. Mark is a senior information technology manager working for the State of New York. He lives in the suburbs outside Albany, New York, with his wife and son.