Finally. After an interminable 7 months of waiting, it was time to see much of my Disney family again in Edison, New Jersey. We live about an hour and a half south of Edison, so we hopped right in the car right after Austin got home from school (fortunately it was a half day). Before I continue, I will say that timing was NOT on my side and I woke up on Friday with a horrible sore throat. No matter what I did, it would not go away. But once I walked into the hotel and I saw Christy, Marion, Nick and Deanna, I smiled and felt much better. I guess that we should add the work “medicinal” when talking about all the good things WDW Radio stands for! Marion gasped when she saw me as she said “MakAttack!” which I thought was the cutest thing. She doesn’t look at me and think “Makena”, she knows me as my box name first. We had a little hug fest before filling out papers and receiving our registration packet. In it were WDW Radio passports, nametags, a mystery ticket and a schedule of event page. Oh my, our event planner had been busy! (By the way, our amazing event planner was the one and only Christy Viszoki who was very ill herself). About 15 minutes later Tony, Beci and Lou walked into the hotel to find my family already there (yes, we were so excited to get to Edison that we were very early). Again, many hugs were exchanged as we reconnected with the “family” that we hadn’t seen since November.
We eventually checked into the hotel, got our room key and quickly dropped our luggage before heading right back down to the lobby. Lou chatted with me (okay, and everyone else) for a little bit before it was time to go to the Rainforest Café. We were lucky to have Lisa (you guys might know her as elbug10 in the box) ride with us. The ride was a lot of fun and we talked about how excited we were. Once we were at the Rainforest, maybe one of my favorite moments I have ever experienced happened.
I was talking to Marion, Karalyn, and Katelyn when Marion ran up to a little girl, and brought her over to us. She introduced her as Ruby, and then proceeded to go through each of our names. After we all said hello, we went back to what we were doing (sorting through rocks that you could buy). I heard Ruby whisper something to Marion, but I couldn’t understand it. She then looked at me and said “You are MakAttack?!?!?!” I replied, “Yes, hello!” and she had the brightest smiled and screamed (not an Otis scream, but a quiet one). She then told me all about her favorite blogs of mine and how she writes herself. (Note: Now I can say that I might have just met my biggest fan this past weekend.)
Like I mentioned earlier, I wasn’t feeling perfect. As if on cue, Beci Mahnken walked to our table. She knew I wasn’t feeling as great as I should be, and she gave me a pep talk. I don’t know WHAT she said that made me feel better, but all of a sudden I felt at least a burst of energy – just enough to talk to other people and push my sore throat aside for just a few hours. I was not letting this experience just pass me by. I think maybe Princess Beci has a little magic in those bangs of hers!
I ended up talking to Ruby again before Lou came up to us, looked at me and said, “Oh, Ms. Celebrity, someone wants to meet you.” WHAT? Somebody WANTS to meet me? He took my arm and led me to a table a few feet away where I met Lori (LoriLovesTigger) along with a few other people at the table. I thought it was great that someone actually went out of their way to get Lou’s attention to find me. It was like meeting members of my family for the first time!
After the group photo in front of the Rainforest Café (and another picture of Ruby and me), we headed over to the Disney Store for a few surprises. We took a scare class, were issued ID badges, received pennants, learned to draw Mickey and screamed in front of the store before leaving, which I am sure got some weird looks from others. I even had a few surprises of my own. I grabbed a big Winnie the Pooh stuffed animal and snuck up behind Christy, giving her a little scare of her own (because we all know how much Christy absolutely adores Winnie the Pooh). Mwahahahaha. After so much scaring and eating (or for me, watching other people eat) I was wiped out. I basically collapsed in our hotel room as soon as we got there and went to sleep never guessing how much fun was to be had the next day.
I woke up bright and early at 6 (still on a school sleeping schedule I guess) the next morning and got my ensemble ready. No, not outfit but ensemble. I have wanted a WDW Radio jersey for a long time. We always say we are the blogging “team”, so we might as well make a sports team! The front of the jersey had the WDW Radio logo and the back had “MakAttack” where you could find the player’s last name and “98” where you can find their number. I had my hair in a bun so everyone could see the back of my jersey and, to complete the look, I added the black swipes of paint under my eyes. I was so excited to finally show everyone my shirt!
The party started when everyone started arriving. Get your auction tickets, bid on items, talk to people that you recognize from last year, meet new people. It was going to be quite a day! We had an overview of the event before jumping right into an ice-breaker…the Get to Know You Mixer. We had been instructed to bring a prized Disney themed memento with a story behind it. At the event we walked around and discussed our item with three people. At least they were the instructions but I wanted to hear about as many momentos as I could. After about 25 minutes we all sat down once again and you could nominate someone to explain their memory in front of the group. (I brought a pass that one of my family members wore when I won a trip to Disney in 2011. It was an essay contest about being healthy and I was one of 50 national winners. Disney flew us down to do exclusive events for three days. The contest proved to me that I was good at writing, and look at where that has gotten me!) Everyone really had a great Disney story and I wished there would have been time to hear them all but we had to move on.
After that, we had an ice-breaking round of Mouse Fan Bingo. How this game works is that each square had something written on it like “is an annual pass holder”, “screams louder than Scott Otis” or, my favorite, “can explain what prank the box pulled on Lou for April fool’s Day in 2013.” You had to find someone who is/has done/knows what was on each square and have them sign your square. You could only write you name in ONE square on someone’s paper, and you couldn’t write on your own. I met a lot of people this way. Of course, the person who filled the entire board first won a prize so it was a frenzied “Hey, have you ever…..” usually followed by “No, but I …..”, get the signature and move on to the next person/square. Who knew you could learn so much about someone in such a short period of time?
Once bingo settled down, we began a 20 question-or so we thought- WDW Radio Trivia Game. I don’t want to give all of the questions away in case they are reused in a future event, but a few were harder than others (the police thought we were Occupy Wall Street protesters?), and some weren’t centered around WDW Radio itself, but instead the people that make up the team (is Tony really building an R2D2 in his basement?). We then swapped papers as Lou read off the answers to check how many were correct. When we got our original papers back, I was surprised to see that I got them ALL right. Woo-hoo! Lou asked for everyone who had gotten them all right to please stand up. I stood up, and so did one more person, Lisa. How ironic that my friend and van partner was now my competition. We were called up front and had 4 tie-breaker questions before someone came out on top. Let me put this into perspective for you. There were only 5 TIE BREAKER QUESTIONS. And we went through 4 (Ronald McDonald shoes, a cat named Jiko and Main Street Gazette’s Ryan Wilson to start)! I will say what the final question was: In what year did WDW Radio receive its first podcasting award? I wrote 2006. Lisa wrote 2005. The correct answer was 2006. After a VERY close game, I won! Looks like my weird memory finally paid off. I got a Disney gift card that I will probably save for my next trip! Although everyone, including Lou, seemed surprised at our vast knowledge of (some would say) useless information, my mother was told more than once that I must spend too much time in the box….NEVER!!!
Have you ever played Apples to Apples? If not, GO BUY THE GAME RIGHT NOW. I guarantee that you will be laughing by the end of it. This is how the game works: you are given cards that have many different things written on them, including words like “wind”, “skipping”, “paying taxes”, “President Clinton” or “slimy”. Once game play begins, you are told a noun, like Smile or Memories. You then pick the card that you or your team believes goes along with the original noun. It might sound confusing now, but once you play it you will fall in love with it. The WDW Radio version however, is even better. When we first walked up to the registration table, you were given a piece of paper that had three lines. You were instructed to write three words or phrases that came to your mind when you thought about WDW. They were shuffled together and picked as the original “nouns” in this game. The row of five you were sitting with was your team (I knew there would eventually be a Team Mak!). In our row were my whole family and Kathy Kelly. We got our game faces on before the game began. Once someone collected what your team nominated as a good word to go along with the original noun, Lou would read them all aloud. Beci, Tony and Lou would then pick their favorites and one representative from each of the selected teams would then go to the front and explain (or defend) the reasoning behind their word choice. Everyone would vote, based on applause, and the winner got a point.
The first word was Tony Caggiano. I was taking notes, and unfortunately only wrote down the winning card, which was “punched in the face.” If I remember correctly, the reasoning behind it was that when he posts his funny Facebook statuses, it’s like getting punched in the face. The next word was Peco’s Bills, and the winner was “hugs” because eating Pecos Bills was like a hug for your stomach. The next one is the PERFECT example when I say that this game can get pretty weird pretty quickly. “WDW Radio Cruise 2.0”. You could think of many different things. Ship. Water. Evolution. Pajamas. But what did the lovely people of the Disney community (including myself) vote for? Milking the Cow. Yes, you read that right. The reason for this one is because the lady who represented that team used many corny cow jokes as she explained her reasoning (“don’t have a cow”, “udder-ly amazing”, you get the picture). Following that was “Box People”. Our team turned in “It’s a Small World,” with the reasoning that we come together from all over the world, love each other profusely and really are one family. Our card actually won this round, and put us in the running for winning with one point. Believe it or not, the next phrase was “River of Poo.” We nominated “blowing bubbles” because that is childhood innocence, and the river of Pooh flows through Fantasyland, which also relates back to childhood. Thanks to Kathy Kelly, who represented us, we won once again, giving us two points. The next one might have been the best. The word was Lou. What was the winning word? DIVA. A little eleven year old was the team’s representative and had everyone crying from laughter, calling Lou a prima-donna and claiming that she has been around long enough to know a diva when she sees one (look at the hair)! There was time for one more, and it was “Beci Mahnken.” The winner was Ursula, because whenever Lou tries to give information about an event, Beci takes his voice away. Even though there were so many GREAT teams, ours was the only one that got two points! We each won a Vinylmation! All too soon, it was time to move on!
Following this was Let’s Make a Deal. An email had alerted us to the fact that this game would be on the agenda so we came prepared. We brought a whole backpack of Disney things to the event including pins, maps, room keys, DVDs, Audio Guides, Pooh ice cream spoons, band-aids, transportation cards and MUCH, MUCH more. Lou would call out an item and the first person to put it in his hand got a prize. The contestant then had the choice to give up that prize for one of the mysterious Let’s Make A Deal boxes (nobody knew what was inside) or walk away with your original prize. Nice, civilized game, right? Nope…picture Lou in the middle of a stampeding pig pile with his hand extended hoping to stay on his feet! My brother, Austin, was our runner and we had all but two of the items requested but he was always beat to Lou so when Lou called out pressed penny, he ALMOST tackled Lou to the ground, which was pretty funny to watch. Austin chose Box #1 and brought us home 2 packs of Disney Jelly Belly jellybeans! WOO! My FAVORITE moment from the game was when Lou asked to see a Mickey tattoo (one of the two things we did not have). A lady raised her hand but then also started to raise her skirt! Lou immediately got flustered and said, “WAIT! I DON’T NEED TO SEE IT” and proceeded to take her word for it. Lou’s face was SOOOOO red! I think we all could have played that game for the rest of the day but it was time to move on.
Next was the live broadcast and recorded podcast show. We asked questions in what was a real-life lightning round. I had a few questions pop into my mind at times, but didn’t want my voice to crack so I was happy just being “out of the box”. There were some really great questions, including one that made Lou blush like CRAZY for the second time that day (you will have to listen to the podcast to find out what Kathy Kelly asked to fluster Lou!). But, my brother did have a question. He went up to the mic and asked “Who is you favorite box person?” I just died with laughter. No, I did NOT put him up to that and the reactions were priceless! (Of course, we all know that Lou loves each of us equally!)
Always one with a mind for others, WDW Radio had hosted an auction to benefit the Dream Team. Our group of just over 100 people raised over $1700.00! As the day was closing, it was time to draw tickets to see who took home the prizes. My family won a beautiful Jim Shore Santa Mickey! Many people walked away with auction items but we were all fortunate enough to help spread a little Disney magic to kids in need!
Unfortunately the main event had to end. We eventually all met in lobby and had hearty conversations for 45 minutes before walking over to Harold’s New York Deli as a group. I sat next to Beci and we talked about Disneyland before I made my way around to the kids once again (they really are an incredibly entertaining group). In the blink of an eye, it was time to leave for dinner.
When Lou prepped us for Harold’s by telling us we need an eating buddy, he MEANT an eating buddy. I was not expecting the food to be THAT big. Everybody was running around, taking pictures of everyone else’s food. Someone ordered a milkshake which was HUGE, sandwiches made with pounds of meat and a pancake that was too big for the plate it was sitting on. When dessert started coming out, I saw a cannoli bigger than my arm and a “piece” of cake that was seven layers of chocolate icing and cake that stood 12 inches high! It was certainly a place where the food was the attraction!
After Harold’s we walked back to the hotel and had a 30 minute break before getting ready to head over to the AMC Theater. Time flew right on by as we piled into the van (this time lucky enough to be joined by Lisa and Fran (FranCEpcot) to drive over to Menlo Park Mall once again (the theater was attached to the mall) to see Monsters University in 3D. Waiting outside the theater I requested a picture with the infamous Tony Caggiano. We took one standard photo of just the two of us smiling, but I also wanted something different. Since he is the “funny one” of the group, I wanted a photo of us making a funny face or doing a funny pose. He did the hand point thing and I followed suit. This picture might be my favorite one out of the whole entire experience. The sassiness level is just too much for the photo. Not to mention, I didn’t realize until after Monster’s University that Sulley does something similar to this often in the movie.
We then proceeded into the theater where we met our waiter who explained how heaven- oh, excuse me, a dine-in theater- works. You hit the red button when you want to order something, and he goes into ninja mode, asks you what you want then brings it out a few minutes later. I really don’t have to get out of my seat to get more popcorn? I could get used to this! The chairs were huge and reclinable with tables attached to the front. It was AWESOME. As for the movie, I don’t want to share any spoilers but I did love it. As the credits were rolling by, I was on the lookout for a specific name. Nick Pitera. You might know him in YouTube as a man who duets with himself. He is an amazing singer who happens to work for Pixar and I really wanted to find his name. I thought he was one if the people who create the models for the characters, but his name wasn’t there. I told my mom my mission as we stared at the screen. Eventually I started to lose hope and turned to talk to my brother. That’s when my mom tapped me and said “Look. Nick Pitera.” I forget what he was under, but he was an International something. I probably slapped my mom’s arm 50 times very quickly as I gasped in excitement. I then leaned over and fangirled to my brother also. I am sure my smile was big as I watched my favorite Pixar worker’s name scroll up to the top of the screen and out of sight. Just a note, when you do see the movie, stay until the end of the credits! It’s just like Pixar to throw in something really cool!
I remember sitting in the car listening to Fran, Lisa and my parents talk about Up and Wall-E while staring out the window. I still had my 3D glasses on. Something was telling me to leave them on – or at least near me. I had them either on my nose where they belong, resting on my head, gripped in my hands or tucked into my shirt collar. The glasses just had to be there. At the time, I couldn’t figure out why I needed them on my person. Now as I am writing this, I realize why. I knew it was the end. Once I put those glasses down, that was it. The event I have been waiting for since November was ending. Even though technically it was already over and done with, it was more of a psychological thing. I held in my tears until we reached the hotel room, and I finally took the glasses off and let the tears roll down my cheeks.
I didn’t want to end on a sad note, but I couldn’t think of any other way to end it. These two days were roller coasters for me whether it was between healthy and sick or happiness and already missing things that haven’t even occurred yet. This is exactly what happened. I didn’t want to lie to you guys and say I went skipping of into the sunset with “The End” being embedded with a fancy font. That did not happen. I wanted to keep this as accurate as possible; even if it meant showing my sadness. However, as Walt Disney said, “With every laugh there is a tear.” So, even with a sore throat, not much eating and knowing that the end would be bittersweet, I wouldn’t have missed it for anything. I can guarantee you that you will see me there again next year!
Although the entire WDW Radio Team played a huge role in making this a spectacular event, I want to send special thanks to Christy Viszoki whose imagination and determination kept the fun coming and everyone on schedule! None of it would have been possible without her. I wonder how she thinks things went in Edison, New Jersey this weekend! Keep checking the blog to see Christy’s perspective on this very special WDW Radio on the Road Event.
Tell me in the comment section below what your favorite part of the meet was or which of these games you are going to include in your next party. *firework clap*
See ya real soon,
Quote of the week: “It’s a PUPPY!” ~ Lou Mongello, NJ Meet of the Month
Makena is a 14 year old high school student who spends much of her free time researching Disney. She enjoys sharing Disney facts and even plans Walt Disney World vacations (including searches for secrets and Hidden Mickeys) for friends and family. Makena began blogging for WDW Radio in December 2011.