Exactly five years ago, I decided to write an article that would talk about an upcoming event in Walt Disney World (WDW). It was quite a challenge because I really wasn't sure what to expect. The article was about the first Mousefest that took place in 2003.
I described it as a gathering of Disney fans all coming to Walt Disney World to celebrate their love of Disney.
For those interested, I sent them to Allearsnet (link) to give them more information, especially about something we were calling the Mega-Mouse Meet.
Two weeks after writing that article, I attended the first Mousefest. It was quite an experience. For all the times I had been in WDW this time would be far different. At no other time had I enjoyed being in Orlando with so many people who, up till then, I had known only by a stage name in a chat room or an obscure e-mail address.
That changed quickly; names turned into faces and chat room words turned into voices.
It was fun spending time with so many people with whom I had known only via the world of e-mail and I found the experience to be so rewarding. Little did I know that this was only the beginning.
When Mousefest 2003 was over I found myself thinking how much different this trip was than all my others.
Imagine, spending time in Walt Disney World with many friends who share your passion for Disney.
It turned out to be quite an experience.
But I had no idea as to what kind of an evolution was in store for Mousefest. Mousefest 2003 was a rousing success but we knew it would get better, we just didn't know how much better.
Mousefest 2004 saw somewhat of a leap in attendance and this was best seen at the Mega-Mouse Meet.
There was a bit more of an organizational feel to Mousefest. We had learned what worked and what didn't work the year before. We were good students.
Then came Mousefest 2005 and with it came an explosion. It seemed like attendance had doubled over the previous year. This was seen in some of the meets.
Speaking of meets, they, too, took a leap and, in addition to the official Mousefest meets, there were many community meets held throughout the week.
The meets and gatherings were so tempting that those attending Mousefest that year soon became members of a special club; the no-doze club because many of us found ourselves getting maybe two to three hours of sleep every night. We didn't want to sleep. We wanted to spend more time together, having fun, talking Disney, escaping from reality.
Mousefest attendees were still learning from this event every year. The education has gone well, as each Mousefest has seen more smiling faces than the previous year's event.
Mousefest 2006 saw the assembly of a true Mousefest Organization Committee and planning for this annual event took on a new approach. With so many communities involved it made sense to put the collective heads together to determine how Mousefest could be better, more organized, and more enjoyable to attendees.
There have been many dividends realized as a result and that includes the crown jewel of Mousefest: the Mega-Mouse Meet, which is "one-stop" shopping for those who want a chance to meet with authors, Web masters, and podcasters who add so much value to the Disney Internet community.
Although the Cruise and Land portions of Mousefest encompass only about a week. it takes close to a year to put together all the pieces that make Mousefest the success that it is today.
Mousefest 2007 looks to be the biggest, most celebrated Mousefest of them all. I hesitate to speculate just how many "festers" are descending upon Orlando for this year's event. I hesitate because I know I will underestimate the true number.
This year's cruise portion takes place between Dec. 2-6 and the land portion is from Dec. 6-10.
For the land portion designated park days are similar to last year's designated park days:
Each day includes official Mousefest community meets for that park. For a list of all events, visit www.mousefest.org where you will also find just about anything you need to know about Mousefest 2007.
If you are among those who will be attending Mousefest for the first time next month here are some guidelines that I hope will help make your experience enjoyable and memorable:
The first piece of advice involves planning. Visit www.mousefest.org and review the events that are scheduled for each of the designated park days. Choose your events wisely. Can you do them all? Well you could try but you will be quite tired. Choose those that most appeal to you.
If you are a member of one of the many Mousefest communities then you should check to see what specific community meets you may be interested in attending and be sure to map out a realistic schedule that allows you to do the meets without the stress of running around.
Take advantage of this opportunity to meet and greet those who you have only known from exchanging email and chat room messages. You will never find another gathering of passionate Disney folks than you will at Mousefest.
Don't be shy when it comes to talking to one of the many authors, webmasters, and podcasters who will be attending Mousefest. They look forward to seeing everyone and welcome the chance to say hi and to speak with as many festers as possible.
Don't forget to sleep. Sure it sounds cool to say, "I was up until 2 a.m." But it will catch up to you and you will find yourself not enjoying the last half of Mousefest if you are not careful.
Regarding attractions: Tt is best to work your attraction visits into attraction meets. For instance, if you are a big fan of Expedition Everest be sure to do the Expedition Everest Meet on Saturday morning.
Being at WDW during Mousefest is a "must-do" for those who love people and enjoy a festive atmosphere.
Imagine walking in any area in any Walt Disney World theme park and seeing several friends. That is what happens at Mousefest. Even attendees who travel to Mousefest solo find themselves anything but solo.
Mousefest has evolved into a very special event for me. The fact that it takes place in WDW is secondary to me. What Mousefest offers me is a chance to see those people who share the same passion I have for all that is Disney, to see my fellow colleagues who do so much to bring the magic to those who visit their websites, read their books, and listen to their podcasts.
Mousefest has proven to become a vehicle for forging friendships as I have seen many friendships formed as a result of this event and have seen these friendships nurtured over the years.
Obviously the backdrop of WDW is an important component in the Mousefest experience. It provides so much for the attendees to do as they enjoy each other's company and share in the laughter and joy that WDW delivers.
For those who have been coming to Mousefest since its inception in 2003 Mousefest describing the event usually comes down to such phrases as "A big party" or "Disney Fans Gone Wild" and in each case they are somewhat right.
It's much more than that.
It's seeing your Disney buddies that one time a year where you can catch up. Sure e-mails, chat rooms, and cell phones provide one way of keeping touch but there is no substitute for seeing your friends in person.
Mousefest originally was defined as "An International Gathering of Disney Fans!" and that definition is quite true and valid.
However, just as the event has evolved over the years so has what it means to so many of us who have been there from the start.
The event has become so important to us that we forego everything else to insure that we attend; that we experience it again; that we see our friends.
Mousefest is no longer an event; it's a happening. It's a time to celebrate what Walt had envisioned all along and that is that amusement parks should be built for families.
Mousefest to me is a gathering of my Disney family and wild horses could not keep me from this annual event.
If Mousefest 2007 is your first Mousefest be prepared to have some fun, to be moved by the holiday atmosphere; and to finally understand how Mousefest helps us all... Remember the Magic!
Next Time: I want you to meet a special Disney fan who travels quite a distance to visit her beloved Walt Disney World. You'll meet her next time.
(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.