The aftermath of every Mousefest is something to behold. It is really a challenge for me to describe to anyone who has never been to a Mousefest just what goes through my mind after spending several days to a week in Walt Disney World with webmasters, authors, and friends. We sometimes lose the reminder that we are all drawn together as a result of one man's dream to ride a carrousel with his daughters.
However, that is the task at hand for this author and it's time to roll up my sleeves.
I've been there from the start; from the first Mousefest meet that took place at The Celebration Hotel inn December 2003. We had no idea what was going to happen and there is no doubt that we never imagined Mousefest to grow and to emerge into what it has become today.
There was someone who may have had a clear vision. I remember Deb Wills addressing us in the Copabanana lounge in the Dolphin Hotel and mentioning how we all contribute to bringing the Disney Magic into people's lives. She thanked us for coming and for a second showed a little emotion. Perhaps Deb knew what doors we were about to open.
Mousefest has grown into an event that takes all year to plan, savor, and anticipate. As the excitement builds you begin to wonder how to go to every event; how to do everything; how to see everyone; and oh yes, how to also try to fit in an attraction here and there.
More importantly, for me it's not about the meets, not about the WDW attractions; not even about the holiday celebrations. It has become more than that; it has become personal.
2006 saw an explosion of excitement over Mousefest as we saw over 2,000 people register for the event. Who knows how many more came for the event but never got around to registering? If I were to make a guess I would say that the number of Mousefesters probably approached 2,500.One thing for sure, for as many people as attended this year's event, there are that many stories. My story is just one of those thousands and it is just this humble author's recollection of an amazing week spent in the land of talking mice.
Mousefest week is a time in which you find yourself riding an emotional roller coaster. There are highs of seeing friends and enjoying good times and lows of not being able to spend quality time with as many people as you would like and of course there are always those dreaded goodbyes.
When you do a deep dive into the Disney Internet community you form friendships and strong ties with many people, some of whom become quite special. Mousefest offers the opportunity to create and share great memories with these Disney friends and there are no words to properly describe what that means to me.
It's thrilling for me to see friends I haven't seen in a year. Sure, during the year we exchange e-mail, partake in an online chat, perhaps even talk on the phone. However, those are no substitutes for a smile, a handshake, or an embrace.
Mousefest comes down to an appreciation of people and an appreciation for their efforts to bring everyone together and to bring smiles and joy to many others.
I have to salute Jennifer and Dave Marx, and Deb Wills for all their efforts. Without their tireless work Mousefest would not be what it is today. Sure, there is now an organizing committee to help out but these three people are the backbone of the event and for every smile, every laugh, every happy tear that any of us has experienced at a Mousefest event, we owe it to this trinity of amazing visionaries.
This was the best Mousefest ever, and why not? We've had three years to get it right. This is not to say we've ever gotten it wrong. We have just been able to tweak a bit here and there to the point where it has now been totally embraced by the Disney community. There was a formula I followed this year that resulted in my having the best time ever. I'll share this formula with you. You may want to think about using it next year.
Sure I was tired but not as tired and wiped out as I would have been. I did fewer things than last year but the quality of the meets and the quality of my experience was uplifted.
Without further ado, here are the people and events that I will remember from this Mousefest for a long time and why they made this Mousefest a very personal and memorable experience.
Everyone who took the time to come up and say hi to me. I met so many people at Mousefest that it was just an amazing time for me and a chance to meet and greet so many people who share a love for all things Disney. It was a refresher course to tell me just how huge the online Disney community is and how it continues to grow.
Beci Mahnken of MousefanTravel who is my new adopted sister. Beci and her agents worked very hard to make sure they clients enjoyed their Mousefest. I heard many accolades regarding how MousefanTravel made their clients feel special. Hey it starts from the top, and that means Beci. I love ya sis. It seemed whenever I saw Beci she was looking to make sure someone was having a good time.
Annette Owens, who was the absolutely hardest working person (one of MousefanTravel's agents) during Mousefest. She made some sacrifices so that others could enjoy their time. How hard did she work? Hey, I'm not even one of her clients and she made my Mousefest special. Thanks Annette.
Lou and Deanna Mongello. They are part of my extended family and do so much good that goes unannounced. The word "hero" gets tossed around so carelessly that, when that tag is bestowed upon a real hero like Lou, it goes unappreciated. Not by me. Lou and his lovely wife are two of the most genuine and caring people you would ever want to meet. They do so much for so many people and we are blessed to have them within the Disney Internet community. My Mousefest was enriched enormously by these two wonderful people.
Jennifer and Dave Marx who do so much work before Mousefest that everything runs so smoothly and then there's Jennifer and Alexander with those infectious smiles....very infectious indeed.
Kim Button, author of the Disney Queue Line Survival Guide Book. It was my first time meeting Kim and I was lucky to enjoy breakfast with her and found her to be quite a delight. Kim does a pretty good Chip impersonation. Thanks Kim for spending time with me. Also, thanks for the tip regarding the French toast at Spoodles.
Brian Bennett, who every year stands with me at the MegaMouse Meet and reflects as to how our lives have changed over the years and says, "It's all your fault, Mike!" Oh, I don't know Brian. I think we can share the blame, buddy. And I would not change a thing.
Mark Goldhaber, who does the business side of the house so I can do other stuff, like play. Thanks, Markus.
Matt Hochberg, one of my partners in crime of the WDWTODAY podcast who proposed to his lovely Marissa under the Angels at the Osborne lights. Best Wishes to Marissa and Matt. Thanks for letting me in on the secret, Matt.
Mousefester Masayo Kano and her friend Michiko who came all the way from Japan to enjoy Mousefest. I was lucky enough to have breakfast with these two charming ladies. I hope to see them at Mousefest 2007. I'm still not used to being called "Scopa-san."
Danielle and Chris for giving me a special gift. They had visited the Dole Plantation in Hawaii and had brought me back two pressed pennies with Dole Whip images on them. Pretty cool. Thanks guys.
My Taginator friends, including those "wild women" who really understand what it's all about and have lots of fun. Talk about energy.
Fred Block who will always be the first person I think of when I use the word "fun" and "Walt Disney World" in the same sentence.
My co-horts at WDWTODAY: Mike Newell, Len Testa, and Matt Hochberg. We are partners in crime but I see it as brothers in life.
There were other special friends who have names like Amy, Tracy, Zach, Lisa, Will, Byron, and Robin who made this Mousefest extra special with what they brought to the table. I need to thank them all and also everyone else who I wish I could list here but there is this thing called a word count that sort of prevents me from doing so.
So it comes down to this. As I flew home I thought about the special time I had and wondered if I had a special memory; a special moment that I'll always treasure. There were many...but one in particular that will never be forgotten.
It was the last night of Mousefest and a number of us were watching Illuminations from the United Kingdom patio. The main show had run its course and the Christmas tag was now filling the night with the sounds of "Let there Be Peace on Earth." As the finale approached I felt someone hold me and grabbed my hand and held it ever so tightly. I didn't have to turn around to see who it was. I knew. I held on tightly and gave the hand a squeeze as the sky lit up and the voices and music continued to build.
The emotions of the past week were welling up inside of me. This was a moment I'd never forget. I squeezed the hand ever so tightly and when the finale came I turned and gave a special hug to a special friend. It was Deb Wills, who I have often described as the heart of Mousefest. I'm not sure why the tears were flowing but they were flowing nonetheless.
The hug was between two friends who understood what Disney Magic is all about and understood how fleeting those special moments are in life. I will always remember and treasure that personal moment with my dear friend Deb. Perhaps I need to admit that for me Mousefest has evolved into something completely different than I had ever imagined.
It's no longer about meets with various online communities. It's no longer about going on attractions and seeing special shows. It's not even about visiting Walt Disney World during the holiday season. For me it's quite different. I guess I would use the term Friendfest because you see, this time and for years to come...
(Send an email to Mike Scopa)
Mike Scopa first visited Walt Disney World almost 30 years ago. Planning a trip was simple back in the 1970s, with only the Magic Kingdom and a few Disney-owned resorts in Orlando.
Over the past 11 years, Mike has been perfecting his WDW trip-planning skills as he has hosted chats and bulletin boards about Disney for a Fortune 100 company.