Special Events Archives

January 1, 2015

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September 19, 2010

A "Really Cool Party": The New Food and Wine Classic at Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin


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So you've been to Epcot's International Food and Wine Festival numerous times, and feel like you've done all the various special dining experiences, wine seminars and cooking demonstrations. Now you're looking for something new, something a little different.

Well, you have no further to look than just beyond Epcot's International Gateway, where something new is cooking over at the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort.

According to Tony Porcellini, the resort's Director of Food and Beverage, the first Annual Swan and Dolphin Food & Wine Classic being held October 8 and 9, 2010 (coincidentally the second weekend of Epcot's big do) will give visitors a chance to attend "a really cool party, with cool scenery, entertainment, and a chance to learn about and enjoy food and wine in an unpretentious way."

"With our 17 restaurants and lounges, we have an array of food and beverage here at the Swan and Dolphin unlike most other resorts," Porcellini says, when describing how the Food & Wine Classic came about. "In fact, we have 600 people in our Food and Beverage Division. So we thought, 'Why not give people a chance to experience some of our passions?' We love food and we love to teach, so that's what we decided to do."

The two-day event will begin each evening by offering six different beverage seminars, led by one of the resort's beverage professionals. Porcellini, himself a master sommelier, will be heading up a session on "wine blending" that will look at a variety of wines and the wine-making process, followed by a chance to blend your very own meritage. These seminars, which range in length from 45 to 75 minutes, also include RIESLING RENDEZVOUS (covering the broad range of Riesling styles); MODERN MIXOLOGY (the science behind mixologists' methods); ALL THINGS SAKE (the history of sake along with tastings of various types); BEER, PLEASE! (discussing the process behind different brews and their impact on the food and beverage industry as well as a tasting of the multiple styles of beer); and BUBBLES (which of course covers the basics of champagne, finishing with a blind champagne tasting).

After these beverage seminars wind up at around 5:30 p.m. both evenings, the causeway between the Swan and the Dolphin hotels will be filled with a number of food and beverages stations that will allow guests to sample offerings from a cross-section of the resort's restaurants. Each station will be hosted by at least one chef or member from the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin.

"It was important for us to have one of our people at each table," Porcellini notes. "We want to try to demystify what we do, not do it pretentiously."

Among the offerings will be the chance to try a tasty morsel from Todd English's bluezoo. Friday night the station will offer a shrimp "steamroller," which fills an open-ended test tube with the elements of a classic shrimp cocktail that's been "deconstructed." On Saturday, you can sample bluezoo's southwest buffalo chicken "pipettes", presented in a similar unique style.

Shrimp Steamroller

Kimonos' station offers its classic "dragon roll" with salmon, avocado and shrimp tempura.

Dragon Roll


The Fountain serves up vegetarian falafel both nights, while the Cabana presents a tuna tostito on Friday and a molded watermelon and crab salad on Saturday. And at Il Mulino you can "mangia" on mini polpetti (meatball) sandwiches on Friday, or a special "pasta creation" on Saturday.

Mini Polpetti (Meatball) Sandwich


Or you can saunter over to the Shula's Steak House station either evening for a chance to "Pick Your Own Filet" -- you can literally choose your own 3 oz. portion of beef, which will be grilled to your specs, and served with creamed spinach.

Shula's Filet

And finally you can finish off your eating spree with some treats for your sweet teeth -- famed executive pastry chef Laurent Branlard, a two-time World Pastry Champion, will present five miniature creations.

Many of the wines and spirits offered during the tasting portion of the event will be selections served at the resort's restaurants, but Porcellini notes that some will be unique to the Classic. One station will specialize in champagnes and the varietals from which champagne is made, while others will feature wines from the Veneto region, Australia, and Spain. Rieslings and handcrafted beers will also have special stations, and there will be a spot that continues with the earlier beverage seminar's theme of "mixology" -- along with mixed drinks it will host a bartending competition.

Burnt Orange


bluezoo's "Bazooka Joe"


Throughout the entire affair, music from three different live bands -- Philadelphia's Pieces of a Dream, The Latin Jazz All Stars and The Groovemasters -- will provide a "nice, laid-back vibe and atmosphere," as Porcellini puts it.

"We think this is the kind of event, and the kind of venue, where people will feel free to walk in and out," he adds. "Maybe they'll want to grab a glass of wine, then go to dinner at one of our restaurants, then come back out later. Or maybe they'll stay until the event ends at 9:30, then go to visit one of our lounges, at Shula's or Kimonos. It's not that structured and has a certain simplicity."

Yes, a laid-back event that is held outdoors. But what if the weather fails to cooperate? Don't worry, Porcellini asserts. There is a back-up plan that entails moving most of the festivities into the cavernous lobby of the Dolphin, and perhaps even over to the escalators that lead directly down to bluezoo, which also could host its own station.

While this all sounds like an ambitious start, Porcellini notes that they managed to pull this year's activities together in just four or five months.

"This is an event we're excited about, and we'll begin planning for 2011 immediately after this year's is over," he adds. "It's our intention is to grow bigger and bigger every year."


The first Annual Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Food & Wine Classic will be held Friday and Saturday, October 8 and 9, 2010. Beverage seminars begin at 4:30 p.m. The causeway dining begins at 5:30 p.m. and runs until 9:30 p.m. Cost for the event when purchased in advance is $50 for the entire evening -- that includes one beverage seminar and unlimited tasting from 5:30 to 9:30 p.m. Food and wine samples also can be purchased "a la carte" on the day of event. Tickets are $2 each or 25 tickets for $45. Note that some samples may require more than ticket. Or you can purchase a bracelet for $50, which allows you unlimited food and beverage samples for the evening.

The Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin is also offering for AllEars® Readers hotel packages that include this event. For reservations, call 1-888-828-8850 and refer to rate code EARFWC.

For beverage seminar reservations only, call 407-934-1609.

March 20, 2010

Epcot's Flower and Garden Festival Follow-up

Festival Follow-up
by Debra Martin Koma
Senior Editor, AllEars®

It's not often that I get to visit Walt Disney World two weekends in a row, being that I'm from out of state and all, but due to an unusual confluence of events, that's what I found myself doing recently. As a result, I was able to tour Epcot the weekend *before* the annual Flower and Garden Festival started, and then again the weekend *after* it started. It was kinda neat to see the changes just a few short days had made, so I thought I'd share them with you.

When I was in Epcot before the festival started, the main entrance display had not yet been installed, so I was eager to see it. As horticulture manager Eric Darden had told me previously, the display featured Donald and Daisy Duck, as well as Goofy and Pluto, in a Canadian Rockies setting, camping out and "Celebrating the Great Outdoors," the festival's 2010 theme.




True to form, the 14-foot Goofy topiary showed our canine friend in the awkward predicament of hooking his own pants with his fishing pole, while Canadian Mountie Donald and Pluto looked on. Off to the side Daisy calmly roasts marshmallows, the flames of her fire portrayed by bronze and copper-colored blooms. The scene is beautiful, accented by a waterfall and pine trees in the background, all set against the globe of Spaceship Earth, glinting in the sun.



Another thing that was interesting to note were the individual topiary exhibits. Darden had commented during our tour that they were constantly looking at ways to improve upon each display, and I saw several cases of their last-minute tinkering. The Lion King exhibit in front of Spaceship Earth, for example, which features Rafiki holding the baby Simba up for all to see, had sparse foliage behind it when I saw it before the festival opened. But on my more recent visit, you can see how space had been filled in with bushy plants to give the whole scene a lusher look.


In the Twining's Tea Garden in the UK pavilion, too, I saw the work of additional detailing. See the teacups before...


and after...


When I had visited before the festival had started, it had been a cold, dreary, rainy day, so many of my shots looked dull and lackluster. This was especially true in and around the Pixie Hollow Fairy Garden. But on my subsequent visit, not only was I treated to a blue sky and more vibrant colors, but the butterflies had been released, and I was able to capture quite a few flitting around Fawn's Butterfly House.




The finished Art of Green Living Garden lived up to the expectations I had had for it -- truly had become a relaxing place to hang out, so much so that I couldn't get a decent photo of the seating, due to all the crowds. Sorry, you'll have to see it for yourself. But the whole area is just so beautifully designed, like a Tuscan garden area.





Besides things that had been tweaked since my first visit, a number of activities and events had, obviously, actually started.

In the former Wonders of Life pavilion, operating under the name of "Garden Town" for the duration of the festival, the educational sessions were in full swing. I happened to run into festival manager Darden who was keeping an eager eye on things, who told me that the 2 p.m. water gardens talk that was underway was at full capacity -- 77 people. "There were that many in line 50 minutes BEFORE the talk started," Darden claimed excitedly. "It's a shame that we ended up turning people away, but that's never happened before - the turnout is great!"


Over in the France pavilion, attendance was great for the Guerlain Fragrance Garden Tour that I took, too. The tour is offered at 2, 4 and 6 p.m. daily. I attended the 4 p.m. tour, which Guerlain Representative Caridad Canales told us is given by an International Program Cast Member. The group of about 20 others and I were led through the fragrance garden by Abou, a young man from Lyon, France, who was giving the tour for the first time.

He started by sharing a brief history of the Guerlain company, founded in 1828. He then proceeded to lead us around the garden, which is marked by groupings of plants whose essences go into Guerlain's many fragrances. At the Flora Nymphea exhibit, for example, there's an arrangement of planters with orange blossoms and lilac, for those are scents that go into Guerlain's Aqua Allegoria collection. At each exhibit, you'll also find a "scent box" that allows you to get a whiff of the fragrances. This year, there are new boxes, with knobs that turn, rather than the "lift the flap" type exhibits of previous years.



Abou took about 20 minutes to walk us around the garden, also pointing on the hidden bees nestled among the plantings. Explaining that the bee is the symbol for the French monarchy, Abou added that when turned upside-down, the bee resembles a fleur de lis, a well-known symbol often associated with royalty. In addition to this walking tour of the garden, Guerlain also sponsors a scavenger hunt for children who would like to search for the hidden bees scattered around the pavilions floral arrangements. The tour concluded with Caridad handing out small complimentary samples of a Guerlain perfume.

Though this follow-up visit to the Flower and Garden festival did afford me the chance to see and do more, there were still plenty of things I didn't get to see, and a few activities I would have liked to have tried -- like the tour of the UK pavilion's Tea Garden (offered on weekends at 2, 4 and 6:30 p.m.).

Never mind. I'll get another chance -- lucky me gets to visit the Festival a third time next month, when I travel to Walt Disney World as chaperone for my son's school orchestra's trip!

July 22, 2009

Mike and Michelle Meet in the Magic Kingdom

On a recent trip, All Ears team members Mike Scopa and Michelle Scribner-MacLean held a small meet in the Tomorrowland Noodle Station. About 30 friends gathered to meet, take some photos, and chat about all things Disney.


There were even a few surprises. The newest All Ears team member, Mike Bachand (a.k.a. Dizney Mike) showed up to say hello.


WDW Today and Studios Central host, Matt Hochberg, popped in with his lovely wife, Marissa.


One of the special surprises was that three members of Team All Ears running team showed up to meet Mike and Michelle, who are serving as co-captains of the team. Amanda McKittrick Gonzales and Tracy Hughes Sabotin made it to the Noodle Station and Holly Aulen met us earlier in the day for a Dole Whip.



These ladies are part of our 50-person team who are all running a Disney race in January to raise money for Deb Wills' Avon Breast Cancer fund. The team meets virtually via a Facebook page, but it was a real treat to meet them in person.

Thanks for coming to say hello, everyone!!

February 23, 2009

ESPN Updated with Schedule! The Weekend Awaits!


by Debra Martin Koma
Senior Editor

ESPN The Weekend Schedule!
Saturday Part 1
Saturday Part 2
Sunday Part 1
Sunday Part 2

Some of you may know that I visited Walt Disney World during ESPN The Weekend for the first time last year, and that my son came away a winner after participating in the Dream Job Experience (read his blog a see video about the event HERE).

Well, he's twisted my arm, so I'm taking him down for the event again this year -- we'll be heading to WDW later this week!

While I was in the World LAST week, though, I had the chance to speak about ESPN The Weekend to Jason Dobbins of Disney's product marketing. For those of you who also might be going to the see the star athletes and ESPN personalities, here's what he had to tell me about this year's event.

The format for the event will be the same as last year's -- as Dobbins noted, it was so successful last year, they didn't see any reason to change anything this year. So you'll still see the motorcades with the athletes throughout the day, and they'll still have conversations under
the Sorcerer Mickey Hat.

There will also be live broadcasts of popular ESPN shows like "NFL Live" and "1st and 10," live ESPN Radio broadcasts, and interactive game shows like the returning Dream Job Experience and Stump the Schwab for fans to take part in.

In the former show, members are selected from the crowd and have a chance to act as broadcasters of a major sporting event. The
audience votes who does the best job, while the participant gets feedback from some celebrity athlete judges. (That's the one my son the ham participated in.) In the latter, select members of the audience team up with an athlete to answer trivia questions, hoping to outscore ESPN personality Howie Schwab.

Dobbins added that they have been trying to add on another new interactive experience with one of the athletes scheduled to appear, but details weren't quite ironed out when we spoke... so keep your eyes peeled for something new on the schedule!

Shows like these and other activities will again be spread out all over the park, some taking place in the Theatre of the Stars (working around showings of Beauty and the Beast), others possibly in the Sounds Dangerous theater. One of last year's venues, the ABC Theater, is now home to the new American Idol Experience attraction, so instead some shows will be held in what's now called the Premiere Theater, back in the Streets of America area of the park. That theater, former home of the Hunchback of Notre Dame show, is now fully enclosed and air-conditioned.

The theme park will also host the ESPN SportsZone, located behind Rock'n' Roller Coaster and the Soundstages. You get a really cool perspective of the park from back there, plus there's lots going on -- basketball and baseball "clinics", autograph signing... you won't be bored, that's for sure.

Sort of a random note: attendees will be treated to the introduction of a new Powerade product -- apparently, Coca-Cola is giving ESPN The Weekend guests an exclusive first taste.

A tentative list of attendees for the weekend's festivities can be found HERE, but remember -- it'll be changing up until the last minute, as details are being finalized. (But Steeler Lamarr Woodley had better show up, or I'll have one disappointed Pittsburgh fan on my hands!)

If you're heading south for the event, have fun! And if you spot me in the park (I'm sure I won't get out of Disney's Hollywood Studios all weekend!) be sure to say hi!

Watch for a report on the weekend when we get back.

January 5, 2009

Capturing the Magic The All Ears Way

by Mike Scopa and Michelle Scribner-MacLean

Capture the Magic is a Tagrel Community MouseFest ritual that answers the age old questions: How many people can you find with Disney tattoos in the Magic Kingdom, is it possible to persuade guests to form a chorus line and do high kicks, and can you convince cast members to use their bodies to spell out the word "Mickey" in Liberty Square?

Picture this: several Walt Disney World veterans wearing matching shirts, running all around the World in a photo scavenger hunt for which the only prize for winning is a year's worth of bragging rights.

We decided to tag along as our All Ears Team, composed of our fearless leader, Deb Wills, and team members Linda, Gloria, Laura, Andrea, and Lisa tried to score points and beat the clock in this 90 minute challenge.

Two AllEars reporters grabbed their camera, notebook, and running sneakers as we tried to catch up with this energetic crew. Here are a few of the memories that we captured as they tried to work as a team to Capture the Magic.

AllEars team takes off!
With time of the essence, the AllEars team rushes to their first clue led by team photographer Lisa Berton. They were fast - even though both reporters are training for Disney races and found it a challenge to keep up with this determined crew.

AllEars Capture the Magic

The Eyes Have It
At one stop in Tomorrowland, the AllEars team members consider changing the name of our website to


Sharing Disney knowledge
The AllEars Brain Trust deciphers the next clue.


Abbey Road
The AllEars rendition of the Abbey Road album cover, as they follow their fearless leader to the next task.


When You Least Expect It, Disney Magic Happens
The AllEars Team shows that there is strength in numbers as they lift Merlin's Sword.


Are there enough coins in the world to ensure our beloved AllEars team wins this scavenger hunt?


The AllEars Rendition of the Dream Team
What exactly is it about the Hall of Presidents that makes you sleepy? Even being outside this attraction (currently closed for refurbishment) seems to make our fearless team members want to take a nap.


Checking to See What is Left
Keeper of the clues, Linda Eckwerth, keeps the crew on track while she checks to see what is left.


A Cast of Thousands Tried to Help Them Meet Their Goal
During the competition, the AllEars Team and some cast members got a big kick out of this stop on the scavenger hunt.


They're a Little Bit Country
A country jamboree AllEars style!


Really Minnie Mouse?
With 15 minutes to go and exhaustion setting in, the AllEars team apparently started to see imaginary characters (your humble reporters, however, noticed nothing".hmmmm).


Doing the Holidays the Disney Way
When on Main Street, U.S.A., it's always the right time to break out into hardy renditions of your favorite holiday classics.


See Ya Real Soon!
Although they may not have won, the AllEars crew had a wonderful team-building experience and got to see the Magic Kingdom in a different way.


We are very proud of their efforts on behalf of the entire AllEars team and these reporters are grateful to have tagged along during this spirited (and, at times downright strange) trip through the Magic Kingdom.

July 22, 2007

MagicMeets…what can I say?

All Ears® Team Member Linda Eckwerth attended this past weekend's MagicMeets festivities.

My memories are just unbelievable. Fred, you out did yourself, yet again!

mm07a.jpgThis is the third Meet that Deb and I have attended. I must admit that I was hesitant about the first one, (Fred's second). I thought it was just a gathering of a few folks - nothing that great, just go up for the day, say hi to some fans and then back home.

Boy! Was I WRONG! Each year it has been more fun than the last. And yes, each year has been more work than the last. Each year there are more new fans to meet and old ones to greet. Each year there is more laughter and magic to share with one another. Each year there are many more memories to embrace.

It's important to know that this type of an event doesn't just happen overnight. There is much planning that goes into it. In fact, for AllEars, we start planning right after the last meet ends.

Deb and I give much thought about gift baskets and collecting items throughout the year. What shall we include? We look for special sales just about every time we are in a store that just might have Disney related merchandise!

Would Deb be a Main Ballroom speaker or breakout session speaker? Deb chose the Breakout room for its intimate feel. What decorations would we have in the room? What items would we giveaway at our table? What items could AllEars® contribute to the charity auction? Would Deb Koma's schedule allow her to attend this year? Are we going to be able to get all our stuff in one car or have to take two?

Auction TotalsWell it all worked out! Everything looked great when the doors opened at 10:00 AM Saturday morning. All of us already in the room could not wait for those doors to open. We could not wait to share with each of you the excitement we had been feeling all year!

It is so hard to explain what that excitement is. I just get all warm and fuzzy when I think about it. Seeing folks with great big grins on their faces, hugging one another, hearing screams of joy, seeing photos taken to capture and hold the memories. It just amazes me each year. It is so wonderful to meet everyone that stops by the AllEars table and "thank you" for all of your thank you's!

The prizes have been awarded, the charity auction is over - $9000 to Make a Wish"AWESOME, all of the screams have quieted from the roller coaster rides at Hershey and everyone is safely home. Wait! Is it time to start thinking about next year?!

We at AllEars will do our part to help make 2008 as good or better! I can't wait to see all of you again!

Having fun sharing the Magic!

Linda Lou
P.S. Several folks at the meet thought I was LindaMac. So instead of just going by Linda, I'm now going to go by Linda Lou!!!! OK? So now, AllEars® has Orlando resident LindaMac and me, LindaLou!

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