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MouseFest and You – Perfect Together

I was relatively new to the online communities and forums, and the thought of people actually getting together to meet face to face and talk about Disney was not only foreign to me, but first struck me as a little odd. Why would these strangers, who knew each other as nothing more than screen names like “MickeyBabe”, “CrazyHakim”, or “AKQJ10” (that’s me on a bunch of sites), want to get together?

Well, I was lucky enough to get a small introduction to this new idea back in the summer of 2004, when I attended my first “Disney Meet”, which luckily happened to be in the town I was living in. I was invited to this gathering to do some trivia, and I accepted, not knowing at all what to expect. I told my wife on the way there that if necessary, we would make our escape by whatever means necessary (we had our daughter, just a few months old, who would make for a good getaway excuse). When I first entered the meeting area, having no idea what to expect, my fears were quickly extinguished. I was welcomed by the host and everyone else with open arms, although having never even spoken to or corresponded with any of them. The meet was not only fun for us all, but incredibly successful, as people had made new friends, exchanged numbers, vowed to meet at next year’s event and so forth.

This was a good initiation for me, and one that I was happy I embraced. I found myself now looking forward to MouseFest 2004. In fact, I now found myself looking into hosting my own meet, which was a little daunting, considering I had no idea what to expect, having never even attended a MouseFest meet before. I knew no one that was going there, except for my publisher, and had only corresponded with a few others beforehand. However, I was up for the challenge, and told the coordinators that I was going to host “TriviaFest 2004” if they would have me. My inquiry was welcomed and next thing I knew, I was on “the list”. Get ready, kiddo, ’cause you’re hosting a meet at MouseFest. Now to figure out what to do…

Well, I prepared for TriviaFest, wrote out my questions, got together some prizes, and it was not just time to wait and see. December came around faster than expected, and next thing you know, I was setting up my table in a large ballroom at the Swan for the MegaMouseMeet. Having not met any of the other people before, I had no idea how I would be accepted, if at all. Well, I was made to feel welcome by everyone I encountered, and to this day remain friends with many of the other people I met that day. In fact, I’ve even gone on vacations and cruises with Nathan Rose and his family, as well as started a new Disney venture together, our MouseTunes podcast.

The MegaMouseMeet was an amazing event, and better than I ever could have expected, which is a testament to the event’s organizers. In addition to the incredible amount of people that attended, I was even more impressed at how friendly everyone was – and not just to me, but to one another. People stood and started chatting about their favorite websites, books, etc., with smiles all around.

What I also didn’t realize was the actual number of different communities out there! While some had “official” representatives at the Mega Meet, others could be found roaming the room in the wares and colors of their favorite communities. But what makes the meets, and MouseFest in general, such a wonderful experience is the chance to learn about and make new friends from places that they may have never visited before. While some people feel a loyalty to their “home” community, the real benefit of MouseFest is bringing together people who share a common passion and love for Disney, especially WDW.

All of us, as I like to say, “Get It”, as opposed to those people that question why we’re going to WDW AGAIN on vacation. It is this common thread (pardon the pun) that unites us, and affords us all the opportunity to make and meet new friends that we otherwise might never have.

If you’re going to MouseFest this year, or even considering attending. one thing to remember about the events is that it’s all about FUN. The organizers and meet hosts have done so much to make this week something extra special, and we all invite you to attend as many meets as possible!

And don’t be hesitant about meeting new people (and even some familiar names from online) face-to-face. It’s not as scary as you might think! In fact, it’s actually great to see people looking at nametages, seeing a screen name and asking, “Pat, is that you?” Often, these introductions are quickly followed by a friendly hug. For those that just want to remain “GoofyGuy1971”, etc., that’s OK, too. Share as much or as little about yourself as you like. It’s all about your personal comfort level, and everyone is considerate in that regard.

Most of the events and meets are completely free, and require no previous commitment to attend on your part. You can just show up and join the fun! All of these gatherings are quite informal, and all welcome each Guest the same way – with open arms. For example, if you like to ride Tower of Terror and Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster, why not join us on Wednesday and let’s all ride together? Like looking for Hidden Mickeys? Then why not search for them in all 4 parks with the man that literally wrote the book? Feel like having a Dole Whip, but have never even heard of MousePlanet? That’s OK! Just come on by on Thursday, grab a cool treat and make some new friends! And please don’t let the community’s name fool you! These meets are for everyone! This is the chance to try something new and have a great time. Not sure what RADP even is? This is your chance to find out! And if you go to a meet, and it’s just “not your cup of tea”, that’s OK, too – You can leave anytime, with no hard feelings.

This may all seem a bit overwhelming, especially for the first-time MouseFester (is that a new word?). I know it was for me when I went last year. But I took the plunge, went to as many meets as I could, and even hosted one of my own. Oh, and speaking of that, I can tell you now that, having no idea what to expect, I was a little nervous about the whole thing – Would people enjoy this? Did I know what I was getting myself into? Would anyone even come? Well, after reassuring myself that if my wife, daughter and I were the only ones there, I could come up with a list of legitimate reasons no one showed up, I got ready for my meet at the Disney-MGM Studios.

(insert flashback music and squiggly lines here)

OK, Lou… deep breath. It´s almost time for your meet. Now remember, you´re on the last day of events, late in the afternoon, so if no one shows up, don´t be disappointed. 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’ve 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 that I met earlier in the week. 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! 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. 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.

Looking back, I remember going to dinner later that night, looking back at the events of MouseFest 2004, still thrilled at the turnout and kindness of all the people we had met. On the plane ride back home, I found myself thinking about and planning for next year, disappointed only by how far away it seemed to be. Now, with just a few weeks to go, I’m looking forward to going to WDW more than ever.

So, you now have about 20 days or so until the festivities begin. Have I convinced you to attend a few more meets? Maybe even think about hosting one of your own next year? I hope so. I really wanted to share my personal experiences with you, and possibly persuade you to jump right in and have some fun. And I really hope to meet you sometime during MouseFest. I enjoy meeting new people all the time, and hope you come over and say “Hi!”, because that’s what it’s all about. (BTW, I’m the short guy in the DisneyWorldTrivia.com shirt).

For now, you can download the free Pocket Guide to MouseFest 2005 at http://www.mousefest.org/pocketguide.htm . This is the official program guide to MouseFest, listing the many activities on land and sea during MouseFest. As an added bonus, the Pocket Guide also includes the full program of events for RADP-10, which takes place during the same time frame.

See YOU at MouseFest!! (if you see a short guy walking around in the DWT gear, come over and say hi!!)