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It's MouseFest Time Again!
by Mike Scopa
AllEars® Feature Writer
This article appeared in the November 11, 2008 Issue #477 of ALL EARS®
It's November, and for me that means that means Mousefest is closing in fast. So please allow me to ramble a bit about Mousefest... how it's grown, and my own personal take on how to get the most out of this annual event.
I was there for the very first Mousefest, back in December 2003. I don't remember exactly how many people attended Mousefest that year. If I were to guess I'd say somewhere in the range of 300 to 400 people, but that could be a generous estimate on my part.
I recall attending a little get-together at the Celebration Hotel on either a Thursday or Friday evening. That particular meeting was in many ways a milestone moment in Mousefest history. For most of us lucky to attend that year, it was the first time that we were able to attach a face to a name that had been appearing on our computer screens over the years. It was the first time for authors and webmasters (Podcasters? What are those?) to meet face to face and discuss this new venture, "Mousefest."
The MegaMouse Meet was held in the Dolphin hotel in the Copa Banana Lounge. The MegaMouse Meet is the highlight of each and every Mousefest. That is when all the webmasters, podcasters, authors, and agencies gather in once place to meet and greet Mousefest attendees. In essence it's the "one-stop shopping" event for Mousefest.
Back in 2003 I'd say there were no more than 20 webmasters and authors for the fans to come see, meet and greet. We did not have tables to stand behind and trinkets to hand out…we just stood in our designated spot and those attending would stand in line to talk with us. Authors stood on the right side of the room and webmasters on the left.
The MegaMouse Meet was probably no more than a two-hour event. Guests would come in and chat with the authors and the webmasters and discuss all things Disney. I remember at the end of the event sitting down with Len Testa, co-author of the Unofficial Guide and hearing him exclaim, "Wow, these people actually came here to see us!"
We were amazed at the turnout. Little did we know how that turnout would grow over the years. We had no idea as to what the future held for Mousefest; how it would evolve; what kind of growing pains, if any, would sprout up as this event grew in popularity… or should I say, IF this event would grow in popularity.
Mousefest is actually two events in one. There is a Mousefest Cruise or Sea Portion and then a Land Portion. Some attendees take part in both but the majority of those who go to Mousefest attend just the Land Portion. Both portions are populated with events or "meets" involving getting together for a purpose -- to enjoy each other's company, to take part in some activity, to dine together or just to spend time in a theme park.
Although there is much work involved to put together both portions of Mousefest, the Land Portion offers a bit more of a challenge because of the four theme parks, as well as Downtown Disney and the resorts -- more places to gather than would be on the Disney Wonder cruise ship.
To help organize the Land Portion of Mousefest designated park days were put into place. Each day of the week was assigned a theme park. This move helped to optimize everyone's time. If a particular day was designated as EPCOT day then most, if not all the meets for that day, were scheduled to take place in that theme park.
By now, veteran Mousefesters know by heart which park they should be in just by recalling what day of the week it is, "If it's Thursday then I should be in the Magic Kingdom." I encourage you to visit the Mousefest web site for information on Mousefest 2008 designated park days.
Back in 2003 there were very few meets as compared to what's in store for 2008. Back in 2003 there were a few get togethers by some communities who were in the know about this thing called "Mousefest" but nowhere as to the level we will see for Mousefest 2008. These get togethers amounted to about 20 folks or so meeting at a restaurant or perhaps meeting at the front gate of a theme park to enjoy some attractions together. Basically it involved enjoying the wonders of Walt Disney World with a group of friends.
For the combined Sea and Land Portions of Mousefest 2008 there are over 80 "official Mousefest" meets. There are many more private community meets that I am sure will bring the grand total over the century mark.
As Mousefest and the number of meets grew each year it became increasingly more difficult to remember where and when these meets were going to be held.
Jennifer Marx of PassPorter Travel Press took on the task of creating a Mousefest Pocket Guide, which offers attendees a reference tool to keep them informed of all the activities for the week. This Mousefest tool has become quite handy, especially for those attendees who want to join in on as many events as possible. Those who register for Mousefest on the the Mousefest website receive this pocket guide, along with other credentials, a few weeks before Mousefest.
Each year, the crown jewel of Mousefest, the MegaMouse Meet, has required a larger venue than the year before. Not only has the number of attendees increased each year, but also the number of authors, communities, webmasters, podcasters, travel agencies, and assorted businesses who are there to greet the attendees. You can check out who will be there at this page on the Mousefest website.
Until this year the Dolphin Hotel has been the home for Mousefest's MegaMouse Meet. But this year, for the first time in Mousefest history, the MegaMouse Meet will be held in a Disney-owned resort hotel. The 2008 MegaMouse Meet will be held Saturday, December 13th from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.. at Disney's Yacht & Beach Club Convention Center (Grand Harbor Ballroom North).
A Healthy Approach for Mousefest
If you are a seasoned Mousefest veteran then you probably have a handle on how you see your Mousefest week shaping up, what your schedule will be, and how each day will run for you. However if you are attending Mousefest for the first time, allow me, as someone who has seen Mousefest evolve from the start, to offer some advice that I hope will make your first Mousefest an enjoyable experience.
-- Plan Ahead. Put together a reasonable schedule and try to plan the next day the day before that day arrives. If you're one day (24 hours) ahead of the game then you will enjoy each day even more and not worry about making decisions on that day. Decide on Wednesday what you'll be doing Thursday, and so on.
-- Don't Over Plan. Do not try to make every meet; it's physically impossible. The suggestion is to look at the schedule and put a checkmark next to those meets that involve an attraction, a community, or a Mousefest celebrity that does something for you. Then look at what you checked off and put a value next to each with the number one (1) representing the highest value, the number two (2) representing the next highest value, and so on. Then you can put together a profile of each day. Remember, you cannot do every meet.
-- Know Your Limits. This is important because sometimes you may get caught up in doing so many things at Mousefest you may actually forget the importance of eating and sleeping to suit your own needs. You will need fuel to do all the things you want to do at Mousefest and you will need a good night's sleep to start each day refreshed. Do not live by the slogan, "No one sleeps at Mousefest." It's not true. If you deprive yourself of sleep early on, you run the risk of having a miserable second half of Mousefest.
-- Enjoy Walt Disney World's Holiday Happenings. Don't let Mousefest prevent you from enjoying the special holiday events at Disney World like:
-- Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party at the Magic Kingdom
-- the Lights of Winter, Holidays Around the World, the Candlelight Processional and Holiday Illuminations at Epcot
-- the Osborne Dancing Lights at Disney's Hollywood Studios
-- Mickey's Jingle Jungle Parade at Disney's Animal Kingdom
-- Disney resort decorations
The next three points are very important because they address the very essence of Mousefest and point out important things for you to keep in mind.
-- Mingle, Mingle, Mingle. Don't be afraid to join in any community's meet and don't limit yourself to just one community meet. This is a gathering of folks who are Disney fans like you, so mingle. There could be a screen name out there that you know and it's time to put a face to that name. Also -- and this is so important to so many of us who spend a lot of time putting together this annual event -- if you see a webmaster, book author, or podcaster you've always wanted to say hi to or that you've enjoyed their site, book, or podcast... well, go up to them and introduce yourself.
-- Remember the Purpose of Mousefest. Mousefest is not just a gathering of Disney enthusiasts, but also a gathering of Disney friends. Mousefest has and continues to bring people and communities together and also serves as a vehicle that forges friendships. There is no other vehicle out there that does this better than Mousefest. My closest and dearest friends have been delivered to me through Mousefest. It has been a blessing to me and others who have been here from the start. I wish the same blessing for you. But it has to begin with you. Don't be shy.
-- Have Fun. This may be a moot point simply because if you are able to follow the above guidelines you are guaranteed to leave Mousefest with a smile on your face, and it will take a long time for that smile to fade... if it ever does.
So for those of you excited about going to your first Mousefest -- you should be. For those of us who are fortunate to have been there from the start and are looking forward to our sixth Mousefest, the excitement is perhaps on a higher level.
We know what awaits us and the smile is already forming.
IMPORTANT MOUSEFEST INFORMATION:
MouseFest Registration closes very soon -- November 15, 2008! http://www.mousefest.org/register/
Subscribe to the MouseFest Newsletter for the lastest news: http://www.mousefest.org/newsletter.asp
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Mike Scopa has been a huge Disney fan for as long as he can remember. He first visited Walt Disney World in 1975 and has returned many times (how many? he's lost count!) since. Mike is a contributor to the Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World and Cara Goldsbury's Luxury Guide to Walt Disney World, and has served as keynote speaker for the 2006 and 2007 MagicMeets. He is also co-host of the WDWTODAY Podcast and writes a regular blog, The View from Scopa Towers, for AllEars.Net: http://land.allears.net/blogs/mikescopa
Other AllEars® articles by Mike Scopa: http://allears.net/btp/mikescopa.htm