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Memories of MouseFest 2004

m. We proceeded to wake the one year old Princess Marion, who surprisingly was unfazed by the commotion. We headed out to lovely Newark Liberty airport a couple of hours later, and we were on our way!

We arrived shortly after 10 a.m., loaded up our trusty Dollar rental minivan in true Clark Griswold style (saving over $100 off other companies´ prices) and headed out the South exit towards WDW. We stopped for some groceries and baby needs at the Super Target at Exit 11 and were quite pleased at the selection (and prices).

My giddiness was getting the better of me as we headed towards Port Orleans: French Quarter. Stopping for lunch before check in was not an option… I had to get onto Disney property as quickly as possible. We checked in and made our way to our room on the first floor of Building 5. I specifically asked for this building, as it was close to the main building, pool, laundry and river. We had a lovely view of the quiet courtyard, which didn´t really matter, as we don´t spend a great deal of time in the room, and even less staring out the windows of it. The room, which was recently renovated as part of the Port Orleans rehab, was bright and spacious, and we were pleased to find double sinks in the bathroom, which was separated from the b main room via a sliding curtain.

We literally dropped our bags and headed over to the Sassgoula Floatworks for some much-needed refueling. The counter-service restaurant (there is no table service restaurant at French Quarter [FQ]), served the traditional pizza burgers and chicken fare, as well as some Cajun-inspired dishes and sandwiches. I inhaled my food (as I usually do) in hopes of rushing the girls (Deanna and Marion for those of you who may now know my wife and daughter) so I could get to the parks ASAP. My Muffaletta sandwich was quite good (or I was really starving – one of the two).

Back into the wagon to Wally World… I mean, the Magic Kingdom – my favorite of all the parks for so many reasons (many of them purely sentimental). I won´t get all sappy and recount the feeling of stepping onto Main Street – the sights, sounds and smells unleashing that inner child once again (not that he ever left). The weather was quite warm, at about 80 degrees, so the sight of the amazing Christmas decorations adorning the building was somewhat out of place, but the sounds of familiar carols made it truly feel like the holidays. Our first ride was Dumbo, as Marion was wide awake and we wanted her to ride something she would enjoy. Plus, a sneak peek into the 20,000 Leagues under the Sea Lagoon from that vantage point would make a good picture of two anyway. From Dumbo, I tried to explain to Deanna why I needed to go into the Pinocchio Village Haus. I just HAD to find that little bit of scratched off paint on the window overlooking it´s a small world. From there, I could hopefully sneak a peek on what was going on inside. Needless to say, I wasn´t disappointed. I was able to get the camera nice and close and see exactly how extensive the rehab was. The entire inside seems to have been gutted, and new facades have been built. It clearly has a more Mary Blair/Disneylandian look and feel to it, with the gold towers, etc. Looks like I´ll be back in early 2005 to check it out firsthand!

We strolled a bit and made our way to the Crystal Palace for the first of what would be many Priority Seatings. As with everything else in WDW, the Palace was adorned with Christmas decorations with a Pooh flair. The food was once again delicious, and Marion´s waving and pointing while softly saying “Poooooooooh” were memorable in themselves. We then made our way to the Rose Garden, a favorite place of mine to watch Wishes. From Tinkerbell´s flight to the chorus of children, Wishes is still (to me) the finest of Disney´s nighttime spectacles. It never ceases to stir emotions and leave impressed. Well, it´s been a long first day… let´s not burn out on Day One. Time to head back to the room (the days of going “Commando-Style” are kinda over) and rest up for what will be a long week.

We got back to the room (with stroller, backpack, etc. in tow, of course), and were surprised to find a basket of goodies on the dresser. With nothing in the card other than “Welcome Back”, we had no idea who it was from. The Disney florist was closed, so I could only guess. We thought, “Wow! These Disney people are great! Sending us a basket for no reason!” I´d have to wait until the morning to find out who the culprit is… The florist said there was no name on the card or in their information. I couldn´t believe they didn´t know who sent it, so after a little goading, she told me it was Sam R. A smile came across my face, as I knew instantly that it was Sam from my online community. I was blown away by such a wonderful gesture, having never even met Sam face to face (and even more so by the goodies inside!).

As if our body clocks weren’t already screwy, Deanna and I were awoken at 4:30 a.m. by an odd sound coming from Marion´s pack-n-play. Don´t worry, it was nothing bad. Odd. But not bad. Marion was standing, fully awake repeatedly saying “Hi” and waving incessantly to her silver Mylar Mickey balloon which we had purchased for her upon entering the MK earlier in the day. After about a half hour of talking her down, we “put Mickey to sleep” in the bathroom and eventually got our little Princess to chill out – she had many more days of Mickey to come.

Day Two- Thursday, December 9 – EPCOT DAY

Today marks the first “official” day of the MouseFest meets – well, the Land portion anyway, as about 200 MouseFesters took a Disney cruise beforehand).

We grabbed a quick bit over at Sassagoula´s again (loved the Blueberry Mickey-shaped waffles, BTW), and drove to Epcot. As we exited the car, (in full DisneyWorldTrivia.com regalia. OK, well a T-shirt) , I hear in the distance, “Looooouuuuu!! Looouuuu!!” Thinking I´m hearing things, I turn to see a smiling woman approaching. She comes over and shows me her pin, which reads “Carol”, and I knew right away it was “Ripkensnana” from the DisneyWorldTrivia.com forums. I extended a hand and received a warm hug. Carol had literally just come off the cruise and was heading into Epcot. She met my family and we made our way in together, where we met up with her husband, Bob.

We decided that we needed to shake up our breakfast a bit, so what better way to do that than on Mission: Space? There was absolutely no line whatsoever, so Deanna rode first while Marion and watched Spaceman Mickey and Goofy pose for pictures and sign autographs in the Planetary Plaza.

I rode next (man, this ride is awesome!) and Marion needed a little snack, so she and Deanna had a bit at the soon-to-be-extinct Food Fair in the Land while I headed to Spaceship Earth for my first official MouseFest event – Steve Barrett´s Hidden Mickey Hunt. Steve had a great turnout of over 35 MouseFesters, and this was my first opportunity to put faces with the names of many people I had met online, from DisneyWorldTrivia.com and other communities. It was quite overwhelming that people came up to me and recognized me from my pictures either in the book or on the site. I chatted for a while, picked up the girls from the Land, and headed over to Germany where the meet was going to end up. Along the way, I heard a group of corporate people asking questions to one another on some type of scavenger hunt. Eavesdropping, I barked out an answer for them. My wife told them about the book, and next thing you know, we´re all traveling around the world as I´m helping them with their hunt. We met up with Steve and chatted for a while with him and many of the other participants that finished. Steve had handed out a few sheets of Hidden Mickeys that you had to identify, along with some challenging questions about the surrounding attraction and areas.

We slowly made our way out of Epcot as we listened to the holiday storytellers from the various countries (and sampling a few treats along the way, too). That night, I had dinner off-property with my publisher and editor (Kelly and Sally Monaghan), Steve and a few other authors (yes, there really is a world outside of WDW – I didn´t believe it, either) at Seasons 52, a wonderful restaurant with food that was not only delicious, but healthy as well.

Day Three – Friday, December 10 – ANIMAL KINGDOM DAY

Friday was “officially” Disney´s Animal Kingdom Day for MouseFest, but I had previously signed up for one of Jim Hill´s tours of the Magic Kingdom. There, I was also able to meet Bob Sehlinger, author of the Unofficial Guides, Len Testa, who wrote the touring plan software for the book, Mike Scopa of MousePlanet, and Scott Liljenquist of Mouseketrips. Jim gave a great, funny tour of some of the tales behind the mouse (sorry for the oh-so-bad pun), and is a man that can really tell a story (and has many great stories to tell!).

After the tour, we had one of the fine hot dogs from Casey´s Corner and then headed on the monorail (one of my favorite attractions) to the Grand Floridian, where Cara Goldsbury, author of the Luxury Guide to WDW, was giving a tour of this signature property.

The Grand Floridian is truly one of the most visually stunning of all the WDW properties and she and Chris the Concierge pointed out so many of its wonderful amenities. WE visited the Presidential Suite (a bargain at $2400 a night) as well as the Victorian Suite, and other rooms as well. We also had the opportunity to visit the Grand 1, the luxury yacht available for rent and private parties. Also a true steal at just $375 an hour.

We boarded Monorail Coral for a trip back to the MK, where we were just in time for the Share a Dream Come True parade. We found prime seating on Main Street right near City Hall, and needless to say, when Marion saw Mickey, she went into convulsions trying to get out onto the street (in a good way. It was really quite cute).

From there, it was a carpet ride over Agrabah and then deep into the Jungles of faraway lands before visiting Peglegged Pete and the rest of his Pirate crew. A quick Baby Swap and mom and dad rode the wildest ride in the Wilderness (I often forget how fun that really is!).

Dinner was at Cinderella´s Royal Table at [5:30], which would allow us to stay in the park and exit just in time for Mickey´s Very Merry Christmas Party. I have to give a mini-review here and say that I was actually disappointed in our “royal feast” that night, Although the restaurant was not very crowded, it took quite a while for our server to visit our table, and even longer to get out drinks and food. Plus, the quality of the food (especially for the price) was far below what I had expected. I found myself wishing we had eaten at Columbia Harbour House or Cosmic Ray´s before we left (and certainly after receiving the bill). I´ll remember this for next time.

Mickey´s Very Merry Christmas Party – We exited Cindy´s, grabbed our wristbands at the Main Gate, and were transported to a Main Street like you´ve never seen it before – adorned with beautiful lights and projections of dancing snowflakes, the street and entire Magic Kingdom came alive with the spirit of the holidays. The slight chill in the air only added to the feeling that Christmas and all the festivities that surround it were rapidly approaching.

We went to the Galaxy Palace Theater in Tomorrowland for the `Twas the Night Before Christmas stage show, where the Fab 5 and friends put on a musical retelling of this classic tale. The place was packed to the brim and adult and children enjoyed this wonderfully produced show. We were a little late, so we ended up standing in the back, which worked out well. As the show ended, we were some of the first people to enter the metropolis Science Center for our free family photos. Yes, sadly the Timekeeper attraction had been transformed into a mini photo studio. I haven´t seen that attraction in years and clearly that would not change this time.

We met up with my publisher and editor from the Intrepid Traveler and found prime seating for the Holiday Parade. We stayed put (except to go get some complimentary hot chocolate and cookies) for Wishes and the show on the Castle Forecourt Stage. Of course, Marion decides that now is a good time to sleep, so she misses them both (thankfully I brought my video camera). I have to digress for a moment and just saw how much I love the Wishes show. I believe Disney has truly outdone themselves with what I feel is their finest nighttime show ever. Beyond the fireworks themselves, the musical score and narration (except for the oh-so-bad Genie trying to do Robin Williams, but hey…) truly evoke emotions in Guests of every age.

OK, I have to go and navigate the treacherous corridor of screaming kids, tired and broke parents, scooters, strollers, balloons and generally lost people that is Main Street, USA. It´s a long way back to the French Quarter.

Day Four – Saturday, December 11 – The MegaMeet

(Drum roll, please)…. Well, the big day is finally here. Believe it or not, I´ve been waiting for this day since November 30, 2003 – the day I got snowed in New Jersey and missed MouseFest 2003.

Since then, I´ve had the pleasure of “meeting” many wonderful people online, including Deb Wills, founder of Allearsnet.com and one of the primary organizers of MouseFest, Dave and Jen Marx (and kids), authors of the Passporter series of books and co-organizers of the festivities, Nathan Rose of MagicalMountain.net, Mike Scibetta and his daughter from the NFFC as well as others from the Unofficial Guide, MousePlanet, and so many more. Now, I would have the change to meet so many of the people who helped me spread the word about the book and web site.

We started with an invitation-only breakfast for authors and webmasters at Tubbi´s at the Dolphin. I was honored and excited just to be invited to this, as I felt I was the “new kid” on the block (no, not the bad boy band from the 80´s). I met Len Testa from TouringPlans.com and Bob Sehlinger on the way in, so I was able to walk in with someone and not fee like the geeky freshman at the high school dance going in alone.

I have to say how happy I was to see that everyone there was so welcoming to me! I sat down with Jen Marx, the Scopas, Mary Waring from MouseSavers and everyone was so friendly right away! I also had the chance to meet so many others, and everyone made me feel welcome. After some early-morning schmoozing, we headed over to the Swan to look at the room where the MegaMeet was to be held, starting at 1pm. The large room was lined with tables on the perimeter where each author, webmaster, etc, was assigned a table. I was with my publisher and Steve Barrett (the Hidden Mickeys guy) in the upper right hand corner of the room, between Tagrel.com and the lovely Cara Goldsbury of luxurydisneyguide.com. A few photos of the gang and then it was back to the room to pick up the girls and stuff for the meet.

We got settled in at the table, with my little piles of books, magnets, WDW Discovery Challenge Scavenger Hunt questions (which are still available for download at DisneyWorldTrivia.com along with the answer key), pins and more, and awaited the opening of the doors. Promptly at one, Deb kicked off the event and I waited anxiously to see what would happen next…

Well… It looked like Black Friday at Kmart when the doors opened – hundreds of ravenous Disney fans came through the doors. This is where the whole nerdy-freshman-at-the-high-school-dance anxiety kicked in again. “Would anyone come to my table?”, “Does anyone even know or care who I am?” My fears were quickly allayed I can tell you that! Right away, I was greeted by so many wonderful people who took the time to come over and tell me how much they enjoy the book and/or site, ask for a signature on their book, and even want to take a picture with me! Plus, I was excited to meet so many members from my forums who came over to say hi! I have to say that I was sincerely humbled and flattered by the outpouring of kindness by everyone! It was also nice to put faces to the names from so many people like Tiggerguy, KristaTX, BuckeyBadger, Dzneynut, etc.! It really gave me such a wonderful feeling to know that not only do people enjoy the book and site, but that they would take the time to let me know. It really makes all the hard work worthwhile – especially coming from such huge Disney fans! (insert warm and fuzzy smilie here)

I don´t know the actual attendance numbers yet, but I have to estimate that there was likely double the 450+ people that came to last year´s event. Plus, there were a number of drawings for great prizes donated by the various exhibitors, which was a nice treat for the attendees!

My thanks to everyone who made this event such a huge success, from the Greeters who volunteered their time, to Deb and her group from AllEars, along with the Marx´, who did an outstanding job of organizing this event. Everything went flawlessly!! I have to say that I had a blast at the event, and can´t wait until next year!!!!

Still with the smile on my face that I wore the entire time, I had to close up shop around 3pm and make our way out. We ended up going back to the room for a few just to relax, and then heard the parks calling once again, and drove the family truckster to MGM.

The Disney-MGM Studios (studio? What studio?.. I digress…) was (thankfully) a ghost town! We found ourselves on Mickey Ave. waiting for Playhouse Disney when we saw that there was no one (literally) waiting to visit with Mickey down the street. We walked in and had the Mouse all to ourselves! Marion of course loves him, and was staring at, hugging and kissing Mickey the entire time.

Playhouse Disney was our next stop, and I´m convinced that me and the other dads like this more than our kids do! Many of you have likely heard the horror stories about my singing, but I couldn´t help belting out a few lines from “Bear in the Big Blue House”. Thank God my daughter doesn´t frighten easily.

We had a quick bit at Pizza Planet and (quick review here) have to say that I was let down a bit. The pizza was cold and very undercooked, but a hungry Lou cannot be deterred. I, of course, ate the entire thing, plus the cookie that I “accidentally” ordered and just couldn´t put to waste.

As night fell, it was time to see Osborne Family Spectacle of Lights, which was not shown at the Studios (there´s that word again) due to the demolition of Residential Street. With quite a chill in the air, we got on the winding line that led Guests onto the Streets of America (remember when they were going to call that ” Big City Street”? Ugh.). Anyway, the lights are truly a spectacle. Although there are no 3D glasses this year (the lights were placed too close together for them to be effective), the lights and designs are astounding just in terms of sheer magnitude. Estimates put the lights at almost 6,000,000 this year!

We browsed through the streets relatively quickly, as they not only tried to keep people moving, but it was pretty cold out that night! It was also a long day, and MouseFest is far from over!

Day Five – Sunday, December 12 – MAGIC KINGDOM DAY

We met Nathan Rose of MagicalMountai.net and his lovely wife for breakfast at Boatwright´s Dining Hall at Port Orleans: Riverside before heading out to the MK. Besides the enjoyable company, the food was excellent! I had the Eggs benedict on the recommendation of our server (which were fabulous), while Deanna had the Crescent City Toast (French toast baguettes with cinnamon and sugar and bacon) which was to die for! I was eying Nathan´s banana-stuffed French Toast and was hoping he would turn away for a moment so I could steal a piece, but it was not to be.

OK, time to roll my fat butt out of Boatwright´s and hit the MK for Nathan and TheMouseForLess´ Tomorrowland Trivia meet. We met in front of Space Mountain at around 10am, where we were given 10 trivia questions and the task of having a Cast Member tell us one piece of trivia we didn´t know before. As people returned, scores were tallied, and we came to realize that yes, Cast Members do often give out wrong information. Why do I say that? Because the Carousel of Progress never moved in the opposite direction while at Walt Disney World I can assure you (although it did move in a clockwise direction while at the World’s Fair and in Disneyland. It’s direction was changed while still in the Anaheim park and stayed that way when it was moved to WDW).

Once the meet ended, we had to ride Space Mountain. Man, that ride never gets old. You almost can forget how fun it really is – from riding in the dark to the whole space theme, it truly is a classic attraction (now please don´t screw it up, Imagineers).

A leisurely ride followed along the WedWay PeopleMover…. oh, wait… what do you guys call it now? “The Tomorrowland Transit Authority”… again, one of my favorite and I believe most overlooked attractions in al of WDW. (be sure to really listen to the overhead narration… there´s quite a few great little jokes in there and references to the “old” Tomorrowland).

Lunch at Pecos Bill´s is something we´ve been dying for since our last trip. I don´t know what they do to those hamburgers there (maybe I don´t want to know), but they are delicious! It was then time to high-tail it back to Tomorrowland for the Passporter Scavenger Hunt.

We met in the lower tier of the Plaza Pavilion, where Dave and Jen (and little Alexander) handed out the packages to the pre-registered participants. Some instructions followed and at [1:30], we were off and running, trying to answers more than 50 questions in the booklet of varying difficulty and point values. Some required you to ride an attraction, while others relied on how well you knew your way around Tomorrowland. It was a fast-paced, fun event that required you to be back no later than 3pm to turn in your book and be graded (why do I keep having flashbacks of freshman year of high school on this trip?). No matter the results, it seemed like everyone had a great time. How did I do? Well, let me first congratulates James Dezern (dzneynut from the DisneyWorldTrivia.com boards) and his wife Linda for coming in first and receiving the gold Mickey statue. In second was the team of Lou and Deanna Mongello (that kid of ours really slows us down), who took home the Sorcerer Mickey plush (and a very happy Marion who loves him to death). Funniest moment? There were some questions on the Carousel of Progress that required you to pay close attention during the attraction. Of course, it´s very dark in the theater, so there´s Lou, pen and paper in one hand, opening can closing his cell phone trying desperately to get some light. Guess you had to be there, huh?

While waiting for the scores to be tallied, we shot over to the end of Main Street for the Share a Dream Come True parade. I not only love the parade and floats, but think the music is wonderful.

We stayed for a while longer before heading over to the Animal Kingdom Lodge, where we would be having dinner with the Steve Barrett and his wife, along with our mutual publisher. Having never eaten at Boma before, but hearing nothing but good things, I was excited about the meal! I am an adventurous diner, so I was intrigued by the variety of dishes whose names I had no clue as to their meaning (or ingredients). The food was beyond my expectations, and the traditional African songs sung by the staff was anice addition. I tried a little of almost everything, and (if I can read my notes), I really liked the Watermelon Rind Salad, FuFu (I don´t remember what that was!) , Coconut Pork, Mulligatawny, and of course, the Zebra Domes for dessert. Sadly, Marion was exhausted by this point (is it really 10pm already?), so it was time to call it a night.

Day Six – Monday, December 13 – DISNEY-MGM STUDIOS DAY

I promise I´ll try not to sing today if we go back to Playhouse Disney.

We started this morning with a dual-meet – the RADP meet at Rock n Roller Coaster and the MagicalMountain.net meet a few feet away at Tower of Terror. Grabbing FastPasses for them both, we child-swapped and rode ToT first with Nathan and the gang. While at the RADP meet, I was happy to meet even more online faces like “Flutter” and Sam (who was trying his best to deny sending the basket and frustrated when he learned the ruse was over).

Oh, did I mention that Tower of Terror remains one of the absolute best attractions in all of WDW? From the queue, to the preshow, the little details in the boiler room, the setup, effects, and of course the drops – this ride has it all. I can do it over and over again.

No need to use the Rock `n Roller coaster FastPasses – there was literally no one in the queue ahead of us! This ride (bad pun ahead) truly rocks! Although it´s a bit short (like me), it´s the best of the white-knuckle attractions in WDW.

OK, Lou… deep breath. It´s almost time for your meet. Now remember, you´re on the last day, late in the afternoon, so if no one shows up, don´t be disappointed. Based on people that I´ve spoken to at MouseFest, you know you have at least 7 or 8, so that will still be fun. I head out to the car to get my stuff, and while going through my body cavity search at the gate, a security guard asks me, “What´s the deal with the question mark logo? I´ve seen a bunch of people with pins and shirts with that on it here today.” Interesting. I may get 10 people to my meet after all!

Well, the day is absolutely perfect weather-wise in the 70´s, so I got that going for me. We stake out the outside umbrellas at the Backlot Express, under the looming watch of the AT-AT walker at Star Tours next door. I am comforted by the now-familiar faces of James and his wife, Brian, Sam, Carol, Jason (TrendyMagic) Cara and a few others. Counting Marion, we´re getting close to 10 people already!

Wait a minute! What´s this?! A wave of people (many with those nifty little question mark pins) descend on the unsuspecting Backlot Express! And I´m pleasantly surprised to see that Deb Wills from AllEars and the Marx family from Passporter have joined us! Wow! (see first word in this lengthy report). I can´t believe how many people have come!

Taken back by the attendance, I nonetheless get things rolling by hading out tickets to everyone who wants to play. We draw 7 random stubs from the box and we now have our contestants for Round One. I ask about 12 multiple choice questions of the group, and they held up the corresponding A/B/C/D answer sheet. At the end of the round, we took the top three for a tie-breaker round, but I told everyone not to leave, as there would be prizes for everyone! Winners had a choice of WDW Trivia Books, shirts, or pins, as well as signed copies of Cara Goldsbury´s Luxury Guide to WDW and beautiful Epcot lithographs kindly donated by Jason (TrendyMagic).

We had three rounds of play and a few tiebreakers that went the distance, with some impressive scores from some of our resident members of DisneyWorldTrivia.com. Again, I cannot stress how flattered and impressed I was at the turnout. The fact that so many people took time out of their busy vacation to come to my meet really meant a lot to me. For those of you that attended, my sincere thanks. I hope you all had fun!

A few of us hung around and chatted a bit, and timed the start of the parade just right. As the parade route begins from the door between the Backlot Express and Star Tours, we had prime seating (except for the sun directly in our eyes, that is).

We went to Hollywood and Vine for our Priority Seating dinner and looked back at events so far, still thrilled at the turnout and kindness of all the people we had met. The buffet-style meal itself was better than expected, and ranked as one of the best we had on the entire trip! The fish, pork, pasta and cornbread-thingy were delicious!

We were going to try and hit Fantasmic!, but it was a long day and the girls were beat, so we made our way to the exit. One comment here, though: It was approaching 7pm when we left, and there was only one turnstile open for exit at the far right of the entrance. Hundreds of people (and many of us with strollers) were crowded off to the side to exit. I timed it – 25 minutes just to leave the park, while what seemed like thousand of people were anxiously waiting to enter (I assume to see the lights). It was very poor planning on Disney´s part, and had there been some emergent reason to exit the park, it would have been chaos.

That being said, it was still a great day at the Disney-MGM Non-Studios. It was nice to get back to the quiet confines of the French Quarter, decorated in holiday lights and strolling back to our room to the background sounds of Christmas music.

Day Seven – Tuesday, December 14

Today is Deanna´s 29 th birthday (again). I think this is her fourth year at 29, but who´s counting?!

Tinkerbell must have stopped b yin the middle of the night and dropped off a few cards for her, including one that had one of her presents – a night on the town in Philadelphia for dinner and Disney´s On the Record show in January (had to keep the Disney theme going).

We had a PS for Breakfastosaurus, so, armed with her Birthday Button, Deanna, I and Marion made our way through the seemingly deserted (I´m NOT complaining at all!), Animal Kingdom. The restaurant was half-closed, so the characters were around all the time! Plus, our server was kind enough to get everyone in the place singing Happy Birthday to Deanna, which was nice and embarrassing.

We rode the Safaris (again, nice and empty), and although Marion once again chose this time to sleep, the animals were out, as it was quite chilly that day.

We strolled a bit then went back to the MK to have some lunch and meet up with a Cast Member who was incredibly kind enough to offer to take us someplace special. On the way in, we stopped to see Santa who was occupying the Tour Gardens, and was sitting all alone! With no wait again, we went over and introduced Marion, who wanted no part of St. Nicks´ lap. Mickey she goes to. Santa she doesn´t. I hope Mickey has no plans for Christmas Eve.

It was now time for the ceremonial first haircut at the Harmony Barber Shop. I´ve been looking forward to this since, well… since before I exchanged wedding vows. My child´s first haircut – right here on Main Street, USA. What could go wrong? Well, we waited for about an hour, and looking at my watch, I see that not only has Marion not eaten in quite a while, but nap time has come and gone. That´s OK, she´s a good baby… Fats forward to the chair. There she is, on her mother´s lap. As the first snip of the hair is cut, Marion decides she´s had enough. We make it through one or two more before calling it quits. We got the hair, the certificate, and the Mouse Ears with “First Haircut” embroidered on the back. No one has to know that she had a total of about 4 pieces of hair cut off. Still a nice moment.

There´s little time before we meet up with my Cast Member friend, so it´s Casey´s for a couple more quick dogs and some caffeine. We then met up with our (anonymous) CM, who offered to not only take us to the Cast Connection store (for CMS only), but to the huge, yearly Property Control event which was going on. What´s Property Control, you ask? Well, imagine an area backstage near the Cast Member stores where they have 2 huge tents set up. Inside those tents, imagine tables and pallets filled to the brim with WDW merchandise – everything from magnets, to pins to shirts to hats to monorail accessories to… you name it! What about furniture from WDW resorts and so much more! Now, imagine that everything you see is (ready for this?) 75% off the lowest price!!! And, how about a table where you could overfill a bag with stuff for just 10 bucks!! Sounds too good to be true?! Well, it was! I was like the kid in the candy store, and decided I´d figure out how to get all this stuff home later. How about a Dumbo and Haunted Mansion attraction for the monorail for just $5 each! Hats that were $2!! Oh, and how did I get this all home? They had a beautiful four piece luggage set, 75% off – only a hundred bucks. Problem solved. Oh, and to my CM friend – I would have bought more, but I didn´t want to appear greedy) 😉 Actually, one of the biggest parts of the event was being able to park in the STOL (short take off and landing) port. Not that there was anything really to see there, but for geeks like me, it was pretty cool.

While we originally planned to go the Flying Fish on the Boardwalk (one of our favorite places to eat in WDW) then see Illuminations for Deanna´s birthday, we opted to instead go to the California Grill atop the Contemporary and head back to MVMCP in hopes that Marion would stay awake this time.

If you´ve never eaten at the California Grill, I highly recommend it, as it has quickly jumped onto the “must do” list. From the time you check in on the second floor and are escorted on the private elevator for the 18 second journey to the top, the ambiance of the restaurant is exceptional. The room is bright and modern, with a bar, open kitchen, and sushi chef. We had a glass of wine and shared a sushi sampler and goat cheese ravioli as an appetizer. Being a sushi lover, I doubted the quality of sushi would be on par with the local restaurant I have frequented at least twice a week for the past three years. I was mistaken. The rolls were large and the sashimi was fresh and delicious. And the ravioli was worthy of the praise our server Carol had given it. Somewhat full, we still devoured Deanna´s beef filet and my grilled pork tenderloin – both of which were fabulous. We couldn´t skip her birthday dessert, even though we were both full. Deanna had the sinful chocolate torte (allow 15 minutes cooking time) and I had some kind of berry sorbet thingie which was equally as good.

Despite the frigid air, I quickly went out to the observation deck to take a few shots of the Magic Kingdom and Cinderella Castle, wonderfully lit in the clear Florida night. We monorailed it over to the MK and hit MVMCP for a second time.

Although we planned on going to see the stage show for Marion, as well as Wishes and the parade, we ended up missing them all for one reason or another, Whether we were on a ride, meeting new people or dancing at the Fantasyland Hop, we still had a great time, while trying to keep warm. The wind chill that night was a balmy 20 degrees, so staying outside too long wasn´t cutting it. I´ll try to leave the scary details of my singing and dancing with Marion, Deanna, Pluto, Cinderella´s mice, etc. let´s just say it involved some Christmas tunes and some Wiggles songs and leave it at that. My girls were exhausted by this time (yes, Marion was asleep and Deanna wasn´t far behind), so we went back home and unloaded our goodies in the room.

Day Eight – Wednesday, December 15

Believe it or not, this week went fast, and I can´t see how it´s time to leave already. After packing up everything (these new suitcases came in quite handy), we went to Downtown Disney for an “Earl”y lunch at the Earl of Sandwich . (get it? I know. REALLY bad one, Lou). We browsed around a bit in World of Disney, Once Upon a Toy, the Disney Home store (needs a better selection in my opinion), etc. before leaving for the airport for our [5:30] flight. I wished we could have stayed a little longer, just to relax a bit and enjoy the holiday décor, but now that it was time to go, we realized it would be nice to be back home.

So, what else can I say about MouseFest 2004? Not much I guess, since it seems that I´ve rambled on long enough, right?

What I can say is that the entire week far exceeded my expectations. It was great to meet so many people in person, and in the process hopefully made some new friends. I can´t say enough about what an extraordinary job the organizers for MouseFest did. You can see the amount of time and hard work they put into every aspect of the week, and I know that the exhibitors and attendees are grateful. Speaking of the exhibitors, it was nice to meet so many friendly people that share the same passion for a place we have all come to love. Every person I met was both pleasant and helpful towards me, and I really do appreciate that. Finally, to the people that took the time out of their vacations to come over and say hello, extend a hand, give a hug, ask for a picture, and came to my meet, I cannot say thank you enough. You all made this experience enjoyable for me and my family. Without all of you, I wouldn´t have been there, and to you I offer my heartfelt thanks. You make all the work that is put into the book and site worthwhile.

To view the complete online photo album from Mousefest 2004 and our entire trip, Click Here

Did you go to MouseFest? Have a Trip Report or photographs you want to share? Email Lou (lou@disneyworldtrivia.com) and we’ll post them

Also, if anyone has any additional photos of the TriviaFest meet,

please email me. Thanks!

Mark your calendar for next year’s event

MouseFest 2005

December 2-8, 2005

Mega Mouse Meet Saturday

December 3

MouseFest 2005 Disney Wonder Cruise

-December 4 – 8, 2005


WDW Discovery Challenge Scavenger Hunt

questions and answers posted!

Did you miss MouseFest? Were you there and didn’t get your Scavenger Hunt Questions or Answers? Going to WDW and just want to have some fun?

Click here to download the WDW Discovery Challenge Scavenger Hunt

Click Here to download the Scavenger Hunt Answer Key