MouseFest 2008 – The Homestretch
Day 4 – Saturday
Saturday was an early call.
I got up early and met Michelle at the 50’s pool and we headed off to the Yacht and Beach Club.
I know she’s going to give me a “look” when she reads this but I need to say here and now how much I appreciated my MouseFest buddy Michelle Scribner-MacLean for always seeming to know what is needed to do… knowing I would probably not make time to take care of myself Michelle had taken the time to get up early and grab some breakfast for me…yes…Michelle is as my wife says one of my wonderful “Disney wives”…each one of them being a special person.
Well the Mega Mouse Meet was pretty special. If I had not seen everyone by this day I knew I was sure to finally meet up with them. Seems the Mega Mouse Meet is the only time I get to talk with people such as Kevin Yee, among others.
I was pretty excited to sit with former Walt Disney World Vice-President of Operations, Lee Cockerell as he welcomed guests and signed his book.
Once again I was thrilled with the number of people who took the time and effort to come and say hello.
The Disney internet community is made up of some wonderful folks and it is at the MMM that the glow from these people shine the brightest.
I would love to give a shout out to each and every one of you who spoke with me at the Mega Mouse Meet…but I would hate to overlook anyone.
But I must share a story with all of you…and I find myself wiping tears as I relate this story.
Back at MouseFest 101, after Mark Goldhaber and I had finished and Dave Marx had delivered his Chairman’s kickoff speech, I met a lot of people and made sure I respected everyone’s time and talked with everyone.
One of those with whom I talked was a young man who had several questions. We had a pleasant conversation and afterwards he thanked me for spending the time and answering his questions.
Two days later towards the end of the Mega Mouse Meet a woman came up to me and said, “Hi Mike. I just wanted to let you know how much I appreciated you spending the time and helping my son the other day.”
“Your son?” I asked.
“Yes, at MouseFest 101. He waited to speak with you and you took the time to talk and answer his questions. You helped him tremendously and I can’t begin to thank you.”
Okay…I was kind of stunned. I had not done anything differently with her son than I had with any of the other folks in line. I was obviously missing something.
She looked at me and was obviously holding back tears.
All of a sudden it was if everyone and everything else in that huge ballroom had vanished and I became focused on this woman’s face. I was hoping she would explain more…and she did.
“You see Mike,” and her lower lip kind of quivered a bit, “My son has Autism.”
How could I have missed that? My wife has worked with children with Autism for years so I am not a stranger to children with this condition.
She went on to say that after he had spoken to me that she had seen a difference in him.
I was dumbfounded…did not know what to say.
I thought she was going to burst into tears as she said, “I can’t thank you enough from the bottom of my heart as to what you have done for him. It’s as if someone flipped a switch.”
So…I’m searching for words and fumbled around in my mind what would be appropriate to say. I don’t recall exactly what I said but I think the gist was that I told her that her son was a fine young man and that I had enjoyed talking with him.
I don’t remember if I hugged her…if not I wish I had.
I was touched.
It made all those days, weeks, and months of planning all so worthwhile.
That’s just one example of why a lot of us do what we do.
Every once in a while when we least expect it a moment like that takes We don’t get paid for all the hours and effort it takes to do our “thing” but when moments like those occur, it just fills me with so much joy knowing that I never know when somehow, somewhere, I can touch someone’s life, in a positive way…and it’s just from doing what my personal philosophy tells me to do …treat others as I would like to be treated.
After the MMM it was off for a quick change and then to Disney's Hollywood Studios.
I strolled through The Osborne Dancing lights with several thousand people.
I noticed something unusual in one of the windows. Take a look at this photo and tell me if “A Christmas Story” comes to mind.
From the Osborne lights I headed over to Sunset Blvd. for the Fantasmic Dessert Party.
Following the dessert party we were faced with a decision….enjoy a private ride on the Tower of Terror or scoot over to see the Osborne lights one more time.
Michelle and I looked at each other and almost at the same time said, “We can ride the Tower all year long…the Osborne’s are once a year.”
It was a good move because the finale was just about to start and you haven't experienced the Osborne's until you see them dance to the sounds of the Transiberian Orchestra.
After the Osborne finale we slowly made our way to the exit…stopping off at Star Tours….hoping to hear Ewok chatter…they must have been asleep.
The park was emptying out…and so was our energy…it was a long day but very much filled with joy.
Day 5 – Sunday
No rest for the weary. Sunday was to start off early…just like the last two days. I got up early and headed over to host a breakfast meet at the Kona Café and gave away a few goodies…always so much fun.
This is the morning that starts the good-byes and after breakfast there were some sad hugs.
I escorted several friends over to Luau Cove to check out the Scopa family brick and then moved on to see the Gingerbread House at the Grand Floridian Lobby.
Sunday late morning and early afternoon was wonderful as I got to sit and talk with some of my most favorite people in the world and you know who you are.
Nothing beats sitting on a WDW bench anywhere…park or resort….and chit chatting with a friend who you just don’t get to see enough during the year. So when MouseFest offers that opportunity to me you can bet I will go for it.
The Capture the Magic Meet was held that afternoon. I did not participate but ran around and took pictures of the AllEars team who probably had more fun than any other team in the competition.
I noticed something during Capture the Magic. Stroller parking is becoming a huge issue at the theme parks.
I wonder if strollers were in mind during the design phases of WDW's Magic Kingdom.
MouseFest always brings with it impromptu meetings and Sunday afternoon was no exception as certain matters were discussed before heading off to Epcot for a nice dinner with friends and then taking in a very traditional viewing of Illuminations while enjoying a dessert party at the Rose and Crown Patio.
Anyone who knows me understands what Illuminations does to me, especially when the song “We Go On” is heard around the World Showcase Lagoon.
As that song was being played I looked around at my friends who were there enjoying the night and the atmosphere and I yearned to hold them all close…it was the last full day and night of MouseFest and I knew it would be sometime before I would again be in their company…it was a bittersweet moment.
Following Illuminations we were treated to a private party at Soarin’…one last attraction ride together.
As we took off I suddenly realized that I had landed in Orlando some 110 hours go and this was my first attraction of the trip.
Following Soarin’ reality had started to hit me and I knew that as other MouseFest Sundays it was time to seek out those friends who would be flying out on the morning and to bid them goodbye.
The goodbyes in the morning were difficult enough but the ones on Sunday following Illuminations are ten times as difficult for me.
I was beginning to realize all too soon that MouseFest was indeed in the homestretch.
I had been a part of MouseFest from the start….from way back in 2003…I had experienced many MouseFest Sunday nights over the years…but nothing…nothing could have prepared me for the deep feelings that would drape over me on this evening.
Of all the MouseFest Sundays I have no doubt that MouseFest Sunday 2008 will stand out as the most memorable Sunday evening of them all.
Monday – The Finale
Monday would continue to bring MouseFest to a gradual end.
My day started off with wonderful breakfast company in Deb Wills, Linda Eckwerth, and Michelle. This breakfast, at Fresh at the Dolphin, was followed by the traditional “I don’t want to let you go” hug that always seems to befall me when I say goodbye to Deb and Linda.
After we said goodbye to Deb and Linda, Michelle and I walked over to International Gateway and made our way over to the Canadian pavilion to meet up with some friends to have a bit of fun on this last day.
The fun is called “Sip and Snack” in which a number of my friends and I walk around World Showcase and attempt to eat or drink something that is unique to each of the 11 pavilions.
It’s not as easy as it seems.
I took one photo all day. Here it is. this is Annette Owens contemplating the thought of starting off Sip and Snack by downing a small bottle of Maple Syrup.
This four to five hour commitment will find me making all kinds of decisions…decisions which all play a factor into whether or not I can actually complete the challenge.
But the point that I want to make here is that it’s not the challenge but the camaraderie that makes this so much fun. There is a lot of mini challenges between all of us that arise over the course of the day and these in conjunction with the friendly kidding makes “Sip and Snack” a wildly different experience each time I do it.
We recorded our experience that day and you can hear all the fun on the WDWTODAY Podcast
As the afternoon Sun settled we all knew that the final goodbyes were close at hand…well for most of us.
One unexpected tough goodbye occurred for me late afternoon and early evening.
This farewell was to my fellow New Hampshire buddy Michelle.
Michelle was flying home that evening; I was to fly home the next morning.
Throughout the week Michelle had been my best buddy. We supported each other knowing the hardship our families were going through back home.
As a result of the worse ice storm in state history our families were going on five straight days without power.
We watched over each other although she did far more for me than I had done for her.
Michelle remained true to her pledge to my wife Carol, and made sure that MouseFest matters did not cause me to wear myself out and not forget to eat.
I have learned never to stop learning and I learned this MouseFest how important it is to have your own personal “buddy system” at MouseFest.
For MouseFest 2008 Michelle was my buddy.
I know my MouseFest would have been far less enjoyable without my buddy there to kid with me and to show me what friendship is all about.
After saying good-bye to Michelle I headed over to meet some friends for dinner at Yachtsman Steakhouse.
During dinner Carol calls.
"Hi Honey…power on yet?"
"No…I'm staying over Holly's (our daughter) place until it does."
"Good. At least you’re warm."
"Where are you?"
"Oh just having dinner?"
"Oh just a restaurant?"
"So I'll see you tomorrow late morning okay honey?"
"Hmmmm….yes come to Holly's. Have a nice meal."
Talk about guilt.
After dinner I skipped through Cape May Café and found Mary Waring of Mousesavers and Bob Sehlinger of the unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World having dinner.
After exchanging pleasantries I sped off to pack for my 6:30 A.M. flight.
When I got to my room I sort of just collapsed and sat for a long time thinking about the week I had just experienced.
Thoughts on MouseFest 2008
This was the 6th MouseFest. I had been to all of them.
I have seen this annual event grow beyond my wildest dreams and exceed all my expectations.
As much as I have given to the event it has given me so much more in return…thrills….smiles….tears of joy…wonderful friends….random acts of kindness… and the understanding that life is too short NOT to stop and smell the roses.
I think that some in the Disney International Community look at each MouseFest and say "Wow I wonder how much bigger and better MouseFest will be next year?”
I don't look at it like that al all.
I recognize that each MouseFest has a personality…and that each year there are many MouseFest stories that take place…magical stories filled with good times and fond memories.
MouseFest doesn't have to be bigger or better for me…it just has to be there…or at least some vehicle has to be there…that draws all my friends from around the world to a place that we all love.
That's what counts….because it's those friends that make it so special…it's those friends who make me smile…it's those friends who help write my MouseFest story every December.
The story does not have to be bigger, or better, or brighter….it just has to be there…and that makes my December every year not just a month that brings snow and cold winds but friends who being warm smiles.
Is it a wonder to you as to why December is one of my favorite months?