Reflections of MouseFest 2005

by Deb Wills, ALL EARS® Editor-in-Chief

Feature Article

This article appeared in the December 6, 2005, Issue #324 of ALL EARS® (ISSN: 1533-0753)

It's hard to believe, but MouseFest 2005 is over. I am left with many, many fond memories of touching moments, belly laughs, smiles and hugs from a wondrous week of celebrating at my favorite place on Earth!

You don't know what MouseFest is? Let me try to explain briefly... Simply put, MouseFest is a gathering of hundreds of Internet community members at Walt Disney World and on the Disney Cruise Line. These are folks just like you who read websites and participate on message boards related to Walt Disney World -- Allears.net, MousePlanet, MouseforLess, Tagrel, DIS and many others. MouseFest is also a gathering of authors -- like Hidden Mickeys guru Steve Barrett, Jennifer and Dave Marx from PassPorter Travel Press, David Koenig, author of Mouse Tales, and many more. The idea behind the original MouseFest was to bring together as many Disney fans as possible in the same place at the same time. Now in its third year, I think it's safe to say that the concept of MouseFest is a success.

In fact, MouseFest 2005 exceeded our every expectation. More than 55 meets, involving hundreds of Disney fans, took place on both land and sea during the weeklong celebration. This year, more than ever, it seemed that no matter where you traveled at Walt Disney World during MouseFest week, you saw someone sporting an oval MouseFest button, or a DisneyWorldTrivia pin, or an Allears.net lanyard, or some other identifier that let others know they were part of something special. More than 1,000 folks attended at least one meet, more than 250 gathered for the Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party fireworks on December 1, at least 500 came together at the Mega Mouse Meet on December 3, and more than 150 cruised on the Disney Wonder. And there were many, much smaller gatherings of folks enjoying attractions, meals and more.

To give you an idea of what MouseFest is, and was, here is a recap of just a few memories from a number of attendees:

According to MousePlanet's Mark Goldhaber, MouseFest offered the chance to experience a number of unique opportunities. "I got to hunt for Hidden Mickeys at the Studios with Steve Barrett, the man who literally wrote the book on the subject; visit the Adventurers Club with Lou (Mongello) and Nathan (Rose), and attend DisneyWorldTrivia.com's TriviaFest," he notes. "During the Very Merry Christmas Party, I viewed Mickey's 'Twas the Night Before Christmas with Ray Sharpton and the DISBoards folks, and watched the fireworks from the lower Rose Garden with a whole mess of folks from Allears.net and the Tagrel forums. I even had time to stop by the launch of Kevin Yee's Ultimate Orlando Challenge on Saturday night, though I didn't have time to play, as I had to run off to an event featuring Jim Hill of JimHillMedia.com and Disney historian Jim Korkis." Read Mark's full article on his MouseFest experience here: http://www.mouseplanet.com/articles.php?art=mg051214mg

-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-

Dole Whip Meet at Magic Kingdom: Co-host Mike Scopa from MousePlanet says, "When I got to Aloha Isle I could not believe my eyes. The number of people there was quite overwhelming. Where do I begin? How about with Kathi, Brian and my virtual daughter Cara, who was finally going to enjoy her first Dole Whip in the presence of her Uncle Mike? Of course many of the Taginators (from Tagrel.com) showed up. Deb Wills showed up and was handing me stuff left and right. Then Steve Barrett and Lou Mongello showed up. I also finally got to meet Annette Owens from MEI-Travel. Jennifer Marx and Alex eventually came by as well. Over the course of 90 minutes the Dole Whip meet brought out close to 50 people and spanned at least five communities. It was so gratifying to see this happening before my eyes... It was an awesome meet."

-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-

Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party Fireworks Meet: While this meet has been billed as co-hosted by Tagrel.com and Allears.net, it has become the early gathering place for all MouseFest attendees to come together, says Deb Wills. "This year, more than 200 of us literally took over the lower area of the Rose Garden path, all the way down to the old Swan Boat dock. Everywhere I turned were familiar faces I haven't seen in way too long, or folks saying, 'Hey Deb! I'm SoandSo on SuchandSuch message boards.' There were folks from RADP, MousePlanet, DisneyWorldTrivia, PassPorter, Magical Mountain... and of course the teams from Tagrel and Allears.net!"

-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-

Cinderella's Golden Carrousel Meet: According to John Hayes of the DISBoards, "We arrived at Cinderella's Golden Carrousel at the appointed hour. The Fantasyland crowds had long since made their way down Main Street to queue up for bus, monorail, or ferry boat rides back home. All that remained were a rag-tag group of tired but otherwise happy adults wanting to glean just one more magic moment out of Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party. There were those of us in the party who simply hopped up onto their respective steeds, ready to take a magical ride on the carrousel. And there were those of us who, after struggling to get up onto their horses for the ride spent some time pondering just how they were going to get back down off their high horse. But that worry melted away as soon as the music started and the carrousel started to spin. For one brief moment, we were all children again, laughing and smiling as we rode round and round. When the ride came to a stop, we decided to stay put and ride again. For some of us, it was an easy decision. As there was nobody in the queue, the kind Cast Member let us ride the carrousel five times in a row. But all good things must come to an end and, as the clock struck midnight, we bid our trusty steeds adieu and joined the throngs slowly making their way down Main Street, pausing just long enough to enjoy the snowflakes."

-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-

Kilimanjaro Safari Meet: ALL EARS(R) Photographer Dotti Saroufim attended this meet and comments, "As hard as it was to get out of bed after closing the park the night before at Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party, I was so glad I went! Over 80 MouseFest folks, most of them much more bright-eyed than I, met up at the entrance to the Safari shortly after park opening. After the obligatory group photo, some serious pin exchanges, and lots of hugs from old friends who hadn't yet seen each other in the parks, we enthusiastically (and noisily) boarded two jeeps for our adventure. There's nothing quite like riding this attraction and having everyone in the vehicle join along with the lines. ("No one in Africa calls them Thompson's Gazelles. They're Tommies! TOMmies!") It was definitely a great way to start the day!"

-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-

Mega Mouse Meet: Once again, the gracious Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort hosted the Mega Mouse Meet. More than 500 Disney fans wandered through the Walt Disney World Dolphin's Hemisphere Ballroom with their brightly colored MouseFest loot bags, many of which were overflowing by the time they circled the room and picked up lots of goodies. Tables were sponsored by Disney-related Internet communities, authors, publishers and other related businesses. Everything from bright yellow T-shirts (compliments of DVCbyResale.com), buttons, pins, lanyards and even autographs were available.

In addition to all the authors and fans, this year's Mega Mouse Meet featured a very special guest -- Margaret Kerry, who was the original reference model for Tinker Bell. You can't get more pixie dust that that. MouseforLess founder Binnie Betten notes, "My favorite memory from this year's MouseFest was meeting and talking with Margaret Kerry (Willcox), the original model for Tinker Bell. Not only did Margaret have many interesting stories about working in Hollywood to share, but she personally knew my namesake, actress Binnie Barnes. It was wonderful to hear her stories about the original Binnie and how she was truly one of Hollywood's 'regal' stars, according to Margaret. Everyone at MouseFest extends a hearty thank you to Kendra Trahan of the NFFC for bringing Margaret to MouseFest!"

-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-

Give Kids the World Meet: According to host Tia Callas from the MouseForLess, this new meet was such a success that it is sure to be repeated next year. "We had a great turnout with 11 people," she said. "Our tour of the village was given by Margaret, head of the warehouse, but first we had a car full of donations to deliver. The MouseForLess group had a member who sewed gift bags that the list helped fill with Mickey soaps, little toys, stickers, etc. Other donations included material for various projects, toys, toothbrushes, hats, blank videotapes and blank DVDs. The Give Kids the World Village was such a magical place. We got to see most of the main buildings and walked by the villas. The villas look so lovely and the whole village looks like a great neighborhood. The kids were all so happy and excited to be there. There is a wonderful miniature golf course with interactive features. An ice cream parlor is another highlight of the village. Families can come in throughout the day and eat their fill of ice cream served up by wonderful volunteers. Our next stop was the beautiful little chapel. Best of all though was the Castle. We had the pleasure of attending on Mayor Clayton's birthday night so we got a chance to see the fun they organize every week. There were activities, face painting and even Spiderman showed up for the fun... I would highly encourage anyone who has the opportunity to visit GKTW. It was one of the best experiences of our trip and definitely worth the time. I will definitely be making a trip back and planning another meet for next year's MouseFest."

-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-

RADP Meets: Once again the folks who participate in the Usenet newsgroup rec.arts.disney.parks put forth a five-day schedule of meets. On Saturday, the RADP Big Meet and Greet attracted more than 100 to the International Gateway of Epcot for their yearly gathering. The most memorable meets happened on Sunday, Magic Kingdom day. After spending the morning doing the annual Frontierland and Adventureland meets, the afternoon will forever be known as "The Day RADP Broke Tomorrowland" -- somehow three Tomorrowland attractions went off-line as RADP folks got in the line. What made the RADP meets extra-special this year, says several RADPers in attendance, was the opportunity to see friends from New Orleans and Mississippi who had just weathered the worst days of their lives. Seeing them back at Disney this year made it a truly magical weekend.

-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=

Kimonos Meet: One meet that demonstrated the power of MouseFest to bring people together in fun and interesting ways was the Karaoke night hosted by the Tagrel.com folks Saturday night at Kimonos in the WDW Swan. ALL EARS(R) Senior Editor Deb Koma ventured out to this meet, and claims that it is one of her most treasured MouseFest Memories.

"I'd never been to ANY karaoke spot before, so I tagged along with a few members of the Allears.net team. When we arrived, the meet had been under way for some time and there were about 25 or so MouseFesters mingling with unsuspecting 'regular' patrons in the small restaurant -- I never realized how small this place was inside! Sadly, we learned that we had already missed Mike Scopa and his back-up singers the 'Pips' doing the Eagles' song 'Lyin' Eyes' -- we hear it was something to behold! But we were lucky enough to catch many of the truly impressive singers in the group -- a rousing rendition of 'Cabaret' from the lovely ddoll; a fun version of the Beatles' 'When I'm 64' by Moley; Geri singing the sultry 'Black Velvet'; Timon belting out 'Bridge Over Troubled Water'; a solo by the ambitious Mike Scopa, 'I Write the Songs'; and a poignant performance of the Little Mermaid's 'Part of Your World,' by ALL EARS(R) columnist Amy. Wow, can those guys sing! After perusing the Kimonos songbook (which must have had 3000 songs listed!), I was eventually inspired -- completely in the spirit of camaraderie and MouseFest -- to get up on stage along with the son of ALL EARS(R) photographer Dotti Saroufim. Knowing that I could never compete with those singers who had gone before, I left the vocalizing up to my partner and just provided back-up to a song whose name (conveniently) escapes me at the moment. We must have been entertaining, because everyone seemed to have a good laugh -- I know I did! -- and I feel that we made a bunch of new friends, extending our Internet community. (And if you want to find out which song we sang, you'll just have to come to MouseFest NEXT year, when we may perform an encore!)"

-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-

MouseFest 2005 Cruise: "Our third annual MouseFest Cruise on the Disney Wonder was an incredible time," says co-host Deb Wills. "Many faces from the first two MouseFest cruises were there, along with many new faces, too. More than 150 of us sailed the blue seas of the Bahamas on the 4-night Disney Wonder cruise. The weather warmed up nicely and many folks were in shorts at the Sail Away Party. Mickey, Minnie and the characters all came out for the countdown.

"Ray Sharpton hosted the Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony meet on the first night, which got us all in the holiday spirit (as if we weren't already). The characters were all in their holiday finest -- Pluto with reindeer antlers, Goofy as Santa Claus. To everyone's delight, it snowed right there in the atrium! After singing carols, a family was selected to light the tree and as they did all the characters threw Mickey Ears pixie dust on us all.

"One of our onboard activities was the Stateroom Door Decoration Contest. I have to say the competition was fierce and it was a very tough decision. The winning cabin, #6096, belonged to Joseph and Ann Healy, who made a MouseFest tree of felt and burlap, complete with photos of their previous trips to WDW. The Healys won two tickets to DisneyQuest, compliments of MapleLeafTickets and Allears.net. Second place went to LauraBelle Hime's cabin (#2108), which was decorated in green garland and offered sweet treats (candy canes) for the taking. Look for the Cabin Door Decorating Contest to be an annual event onboard!

"Despite some pre-cruise scheduling problems we were also able to have a parasailing meet on Castaway Cay. Everyone had an incredible experience. Special thanks to Ray Sharpton for getting us motivated. I decided to show off and go first this year (I was the last one up in 2004) and was thrilled to return to the boat to the cheers of my fellow cruisers. Even those who were a bit nervous at first returned from their journey in the sky with huge smiles on their faces. It's a memory that will stay with me for a long, long time. Ray summed it up nicely when he said, 'Our smiles tell the whole story. Fun, accomplishment, laughter, joking, and mostly just pure, honest love of every moment that we spend together. It was so good to see all of the communities sharing with each other at the MegaMouse Meet. Sharing the Magic at MouseFest is a huge success of fun, laughter, smiles, friendships, and child at heart magical moments.' "

-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-

There were so many more scheduled, as well as impromptu, meets, dinners and gatherings, that we couldn't possibly include them all here. But, as with most good times, the week of events passed way too quickly. As co-founder and organizer Dave Marx notes, "So much of MouseFest was a happy blur to me... Taking a tote bag overflowing with Pocket Guides and MouseFest buttons through theme park security, on my way to yet another meet, thinking, "Please, don't confiscate this stuff!" ... Arriving breathless at each meet, saying, "Would you like a Pocket Guide or MouseFest button?" until the tote bag was empty. ... Watching all the smiling faces around me as friends reunite or meet for the first time. ... Cheering as MouseFester James "NasaNut" makes it into the hot seat at Millionaire. ... Shuttling back and forth between TWO Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party fireworks meets, one bigger and more joyous than the next. ... Taking breaks with toddler Alexander at Pooh's Playful Spot and The Boneyard, where he learned, "Wow! If I hold this railing I can walk up these stairs, sit down, and WHEEEEE! slide all the way back down to Daddy!" ... Mega Mouse Meet, where we had JUST the right amount of space, just the right amount of people, and way too many happy faces for me to remember. Did I really talk myself hoarse announcing all the door prizes? ... Then away we went on the Disney Wonder, popping streamers at the Sail Away meet. ...Fourteen of us roaming 'round Nassau town while I played tour guide and, as promised, arriving back at the ship in plenty of time for lunch. ... Sitting in the spotlight in Studio Sea with Steve Barrett and Deb Wills as we fielded all sorts of questions about our books. ... Donning our buccaneer best for Pirates Night. ... Pushing Alexander's stroller up and down nearly every corridor on the ship while Mommy judged stateroom door decorations. ... So many fond farewells... See you again next year!"

That's right -- next year! For many, the countdown to the 2006 MouseFest has begun. As author Steve Barrett comments, "MouseFest has become a much-anticipated opportunity each year for me to reconnect with wonderful Disney friends. MouseFest is now the high point of my entire year!"

We guess the best way to sum up is with a quote from a member of many online Disney communities, WillCad: "This was my third MouseFest, and definitely the best yet. I spent much more time with my PassPorter buddies than the last two years, and also spent a lot more time with the folks from MousePlanet, the Unofficial Guide, and the WDWToday podcasts, and I still had plenty of time with my friends from Tagrel.com, many of whom I have known both online and offline for upwards of five years now. I was forever running into folks I knew in between the scheduled meets; it seemed like MouseFesters were everywhere! I hosted two meets for Tagrel.com this year and had a fabulous time. Next year, I'm going to try to host an open meet and try to get folks from every community that I'm part of to attend -- even if it's just ONE person from each board. Until MouseFest 2003 I had never been to WDW in December, never seen the Osborne Lights or attended MVMCP -- and never had to wear a sweatshirt in Orlando. But now, after three consecutive MouseFests, I'm hooked. I want to be at MouseFest every year, and I hope they continue for a long, long time to come."

-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-

As one of MouseFest's founders and organizers, I have to say that this year's MouseFest was successful beyond my wildest dreams. And I think I speak for most who attended MouseFest '05 when I say what a joy it was to meet so many people who share such a love for Disney!

THANK YOU to everyone who participated in MouseFest 2005: the Mega Mouse Meet special guests and greeters, those who hosted the numerous meets, and of course our very special thanks to all of you who attended -- you are why we did this, and why it was such a great success!

We have already begun planning for MouseFest 2006, December 3-12, 2006, which begins with events on land. Check the MouseFest website at: http://mousefest.org

Now... how many days is it to MouseFest 2006? We'll see you there... plan on it!

-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-

If you couldn't be at Walt Disney World during MouseFest, you haven't missed it entirely. The folks from MouseTunes.com recorded three live podcasts at Walt Disney World featuring MouseFest activities: http://mousetunes.com "Part of the fun this year was doing our MouseTunes.com podcasting 'live' from many of the events during the week with Nathan Rose," notes Lou Mongello, co-host of MouseTunes. "We had so much fun just recording events, ambient sounds, parades and walk-throughs, interviewing authors and webmasters at the Mega Mouse Meet, as well as MouseFest guests. Everyone was really beaming about how much they were enjoying all that MouseFest had to offer, and I think it really came through on the shows."

In addition, the WDWToday.com podcast anchors Mike Scopa, Matt Hochberg, Len Testa and Mike Newell scurried around the huge Mega Mouse Meet ballroom capturing the spirit of the gathering: http://www.wdwtoday.com/article.php?story=20051215141709832

Want to see some photos of the festivities? We're building a scrapbook -- check back here as we add more to it, and if you have photos you'd like to share, please send them along: http://allears.net/btp/mf/mf05/mf2005L1.htm

Want to read how it all began? http://allears.net/ae/issue221.htm

Also, for those of you who participated in MouseFest this year, please take our MouseFest Survey at: http://www.surveymonkey.com/s.asp?u=424511613524

To make next year even better, we'll need your help and honest feedback!


-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-

Editor's Note: This story/information was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all current rates, information and other details before planning your trip.