Have you ever been a part of "group activities" at Disney? We have, and it can be loads of fun! We have met some wonderful people and made some lasting friendships as a result of our involvement in group fun at Disney.
Back in 2004 Carol was planning our December trip to Walt Disney World. She had recently gotten involved with Tagrel.com, an internet fan community, and in one of the threads she had read about something called "MouseFest". It was a group of different internet communities who gathered at Walt Disney World for the first time in early December 2003. MouseFest #2 would be taking place while we were there. She wanted to check it out. A few folks she had "met" online were going to be there and they had some activities or "meets" planned.
We had some reservations - What if they're all geeks and weirdo's? So we approached the whole event with caution. We were extremely wary as we sidled toward the group who had assembled for our first meet . . . we were trying to sneak up without being seen. If they were really weird we could just walk away!
This first encounter was a group ride on Kilimanjaro Safari. The event was hosted by some people we had never met before, Deb Wills and her AllEars.net team. What do you know, these people were normal . . . well, maybe not normal . . . but they were just like us.
Deb was there to greet us and we were extremely excited when she handed us each an AllEars button! Soon we were off; about 200 of us joined the line and our group filled truck after truck to ride through Africa. Most of the folks knew the recorded script by heart and before long we were all reciting the radio banter along with Warden Wilson Matua. Our driver attempted to stick with his normal story but eventually he abandoned the script and roared with laughter as we took over the narration. It was a great ride . . . I'm sure we must have seen some animals, but that seemed secondary compared to all the other fun we were having.
As soon as we left Kilimanjaro we walked down the road to nearby Harambe Fort to begin a Hidden Mickey search. Dr. Steven Barrett, the famous Hidden Mickey hunter, was there handing out clue sheets and explaining the ground rules. There were subtle clues directing us to some not-so-obvious Hidden Mickeys. Soon we had teamed up with a couple of Tagrel.com "friends" we were meeting for the first time and off we went. What a blast we had, searching for elusive images of the mouse and snapping pictures of them. Back at Harambe Fort Steve told us a bit about the origin and history of Hidden Mickeys and then he drew for some door prizes. Wow! I won one of Steve's Hidden Mickey books and he autographed it for me.
It was a great day! We met two well known personalities in the Disney fan universe, Deb Wills and Steve Barrett. We laughed a lot, we learned a little bit and we made some new friends and acquaintances. We were hooked! We never missed MouseFest after that! Each year it got bigger and better.
Alas, like many good things it ended too soon. The last MouseFest was held in December 2008. But don't despair . . . while MouseFest is a thing of the past, there are still plenty of groups who get together for Disney fun!
Tagrel.com has regular gatherings at Walt Disney World we refer to as "Tag-O-Mania" and when we occasionally get together at Disneyland it's "Tag-A-Venture". The next Tag-A-Venture will be held in mid October 2012 and the next Tag-O-Mania will likely be in early December 2013.
What do we do? Plenty!
Do we have fun? YES!
Picture us heading to It's a Small World. Yes, I know, many of you don't like it. The music just won't quit . . . it's in your head all day. But when you ride with 50 or 60 friends it creates some new memories. It's kind of special to remember sailing through this old attraction when the two boats in front of yours, and the two boats behind it, are filled with your friends and everyone in all 5 boats is loudly singing along with that tiresome old tune!
Once, at the Tower of Terror we filled an entire elevator car with Tag-O-Maniacs. At the end of the ride when the elevator car rotated and the exit door slid open we all screamed at the top of our lungs. It was quite a surprise for the doorman who was poking his head in the door ready to startle us!
Group meals are fun too. When the server asks, "Where are you folks from?" it's nice to be able to say, "I'm from Canada, he's from Boston, those two are from Albuquerque, she's from Seattle, the old guy is from Scranton and the lady in the corner - I have no idea where she lives."
The most frenzied activity I've ever seen at Walt Disney World was a Tag-O-Mania event called "Capture the Magic". We formed teams of about six people and took off on a photo-scavenger hunt. Each team received a list of about 40 riddles which had to be solved to find cryptic clues. The clues sent you to places all around the Magic Kingdom where the team had to be photographed in some crazy activity.
We had to find strangers, two generations in the family, to "Walk like an Egyptian" with us on Main Street USA.
We had to arrange the team in Liberty Square with the team's bodies (along with two total strangers) spelling out the word Mickey.
We had to find a cast member and have them join us as we performed a can-can dance in front of Country Bear Jamboree.
It was impossible to complete all of the tasks in the allotted 90 minutes but we sure had a blast trying!
One of the nice things about the Tagrel meets, and all the other groups too, is that you can pick and choose what you want to participate in. There is a published list of events and you select which ones to get involved in. There is no pressure and no one takes attendance! You can still have plenty of time to your self!
But of course Tagrel.com is not your only option if you're looking for group activities. There are plenty of other groups.
AllEars.net has regular meets in the parks throughout the year. You can find details here. There is a unique AllEars Trading Card created for each meet and these cards have become a very popular item with Disneyana collectors!
Last year we took part in "A December to Remember", the 15th Anniversary celebration for AllEars.net. It was magical - Mouse Fan Travel worked with Walt Disney World officials to dazzle us with some "extra magic"! As always they did a magnificent job. We enjoyed all of the events but one of the highlites for us was a session with noted Disney artist Don "Ducky" Williams.
Ducky has an amazing life story and he tells it very extremely well, all while drawing Disney characters on his easel.
There was some over-the-top pixie dust one night. Mouse Fan Travel arranged a private viewing of The Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights. After Hollywood Studios closed for the evening a group of about 150 of us were escorted back to enjoy the lights with no crowd! WOW! What a treat!
There are many other Disney fan communities who meet at the parks as well. Here are just a few of them:
Reunion, co-hosted by WDW Today & Mouse Fan Travel, takes place each year in early December. Details are here.
Lou Mongello of WDW Radio hosts a regular "Meet of the Month". Details are here.
RADP, the grand-daddy of all the internet groups, also meets each year in December. Details are here.
So if you are an avid Disney fan but you have not participated in any of the many group activities, what's holding you back? It's time you added this new dimension to your Disney experience! Find an Internet Fan Community that appeals to you and sign up for some fun. You'll be surprised how many new friends you will make!
If you have already taken part in some of the groups I've mentioned then you know how much fun it is when you get together with folks who share your addiction to Disney!
The previous post in this blog was Enjoy a Taste of Southern Comfort Food at Boatwright's Dining Hall.
The next post in this blog is Unearthing Hidden Treasures: A Review of “Epcot: The First Thirty Years".