MagicMeets ’08 Recap and Review

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It’s the most wonderful time of the year….No, I’m not talking about Christmas (although that’s wonderful too). I’m referring to the Northeast’s answer to satisfying the Disneyholics need for some pixie dust. MagicMeets was once again held this year in Camp Hill, Pennsylvania, right across the river from Harrisburg. Organizer Fred Block is celebrating his fifth anniversary of the largest gathering in the Northeast for Disney fans. This year turned out to be even more robust than previous years with events on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.

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Friday night events started with the ticketed event “The Meet Before the Magic” which was sold out. This meet was billed as the event kickoff party where guests could meet old and new friends, have some appetizers, beverages, and desserts, and – always important – win some prizes!! The first 100 guests also received a coffee mug from AllEars.Net. Yours truly was the lucky recipient of an AllEars.Net baseball cap. Entertaining guests was David Funn performing a little bit of magic. One of the best of parts of this event was that guests who came to this meet had an early check-in for the main event on Saturday, which meant bypassing the line of 400+ people! Guests were also treated to gift bags that evening, including a Disney World Trivia backpack and AllEars.Net mug.

Friday night also introduced Celebrity MagicTunes. For a $5 contribution at the door (for the Dream Team and Deb Wills’ Avon Walk Against Breast Cancer), guests were treated to MC Mike Scopa dishing out Disney sound bites while contestants Lou Mongello, Annette Owens, Steve Barrett, and Deb Wills had the chance to test their knowledge. I unfortunately missed this event, but a little birdie told me that our very own Mr. Mongello broke out in a moonwalk when Caption EO music came on (oh…that video is soo online already…).

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Now on to the main event, ladies and gentlemen….Saturday, the BIG meet….Event check-in was 9 a.m. to 10 a.m., but those returning attendees knew to get there early! Getting there early helps avoid being at the end of the check-in line and gives you time to visit the many, many sponsor tables. Lucky for me this year, I went to Friday night’s meet and was able to bypass the very long line!! Once inside, it was clear Fred Block and his staff once again had hauled some pixie dust up to Camp Hill, PA. There were more sponsor tables than any year before, the décor was Disneyfied, and the crowd was pumped. The sponsors, returning and new, included MEI & Mouse Fan Travel, DisFriends.com, Hidden Mickeys Guide, Central Jersey Disney Pin Traders, The Magic in Pixels, MouseSurplus.com, GoodyPak.com, WDW Today Podcast, AllEars.Net, DVCByResale.com, PassPorter Travel Press, Guide to the Magic, Kathie’s Christmas and Collectibles, ALL STAR Vacation Homes, and our very own Lou Mongello and his DisneyWorldTrivia.com/WDW Radio Show. I spoke with Tim Foster from Guide to the Magic and he said one of the things he liked about MagicMeets was “meeting all of the cool people, especially the kids.”

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Anchoring off the room was the yearly Dream Team Charity Silent Auction for the Make-A-Wish Foundation. This year there were over 120 lots or items to bid on. MagicMeets attendees had the chance to win one-of-a-kind items such as Breakfast with Deb Wills from AllEars.Net on an upcoming Disney Cruise; an Animal Kingdom 10th Anniversary Laser Cell signed by Imagineer Joe Rohde; a personal Hidden Mickeys Tour with the author of the Hidden Mickeys book, Steve Barrett; and even the chance to be “Co-Host for a Day” with Mr. Mongello on the WDW Radio Show! Bidding began at 9:15 a.m. and went to 2:30 p.m. but more on that later….

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Opening ceremonies began at 10:05 a.m. with meet organizer Fred Block starting us off. This was a special year, as it was MagicMeets (formerly known as DisMeets) fifth anniversary. What once started out as a small group of Disney fans in a NJ mall has grown to one of the most talked about Disney meets in the US. It’s always a pleasure to see Fred zipping around on his Segway.

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The day started off with a great laugh. Those who listen to the WDW Today podcast know where this is going. Months ago, co-host Mike Scopa, a New England Patriots fan, made a bet with Fred Block, a Giants fan, made a bet as to who would win the Superbowl earlier this year. Because Mike (and the Patriots) lost, he had to wear a Giants jersey for the first hour of the meet. Good times were had by all, well, maybe not so much for Mike.

The keynote speaker of the day? An Imagineer. That’s right, a Disney Imagineer. How cool is that? David Anderson has worked with WED Enterprises and has served as an Imagineering Consultant to WDW. He is associated with Disneyland’s Matterhorn, Disney’s Hollywood Studios Streetmosphere, and EPCOT. His topic, Walt Disney: A Mentor in Perseverance, discussed Disney’s greatest achievements and what he went through to get them there. Dave discussed Walt’s traits, such as leadership and problem solving through creativity, traits that made him the man he was and Disney the brand it is. Dave also discussed one of Walt’s hardest decisions on Disneyland’s opening day. Because there was a plumbers strike, Walt needed to make a decision, either have water in the bathrooms or water in the fountains. Those who are familiar with the story know Walt chose bathrooms and was later accused by public and media of purposely doing so to drive up the sales that day of soft drinks. Dave also provided a slideshow with exclusive video and images.

Following the keynote speaker was the first of two breakout sessions. This year, the offerings were, Let’s Go Cruisin! with Deb Wills of AllEars.Net, which discussed the Disney Cruise Line. Also offered was Revealing Disney’s Best Kept Secret: DVC, with DVC By Resale owner and broker Shontell Crawford offering insights to the Disney Vacation Club. And for the wee ones, Johnny Zotto showing them How To Draw Mickey.

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Last but not certainly least was the breakout session I was able to be the last one into before it was closed off, Dreams DO Come True: Disney’s CMO, Justin Muchoney. Justin was chosen as Disney’s Chief Magic Official this past April after going through a contest of over 1,000 candidates earlier this year. Justin was offered a 12-month, part-time position with the Walt Disney Company that focuses on public relations, marketing, and publicity. He is flown to WDW or Disneyland once a month to attend events and meet with the media. You have to imagine one of the traits Disney liked about Justin was his enthusiasm and love for Disney, which was evidently and abundantly clear throughout his talk and the whole meet. Justin even has his own set of vocabulary words for Disney. How about possivisionouraging? That’s “Justinese” for a state of being, often considered a leadership attribute, in which one shares a positive vision in which anything is possible with others in the most uplifting and encouraging way one can. Justin told stories and had a slideshow of his first few months as CMO where’s he’s been busy creating magic (and meeting John Lasseter!!). You can see more of Justin at his site, http://www.dreamcmo.com/. He offered some words of advice for when you see Dream Squad Members….”Walk slow and don’t say no!” I spoke with Justin after his session and asked what he thought of his first visit to MagicMeets. Justin said, he had “no idea how incredible” MagicMeets was and that it blew his mind!

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Before lunch there was more time to visit the sponsor tables and a chance for more goodies. Trent Schwartz of Disfriends.com was hanging out his tropical table and when I spoke to him about MagicMeets, he said, he “likes the feeling of a family event” and that he has met a lot of Disney fans since last Mousefest. When I asked him how his site Disfriends was going, he told me it’s up to 1000 members!

After a fulfilling lunch, it was off to the afternoon breakout sessions. The offerings were: Hidden Treasures of Adventureland with Lou Mongello, Join in the Hunt for Hidden Mickeys with Steve Barrett, Magical Experiences with David Funn for the kiddies, and MagicTunes with Mike Scopa, Mike Newell, and Trent Schwartz. I headed on over to MagicTunes after reading PRIZES were involved. Sadly, I was not one of the ones chosen to play, but darn it! I so would have won! Contestants were given the opportunity to play a trivia game with Disney tunes from the parks, movies, and TV shows.

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After the final breakout sessions it was back to the main room for an “Experts Panel Discussion – Broadcast Live!” They pulled out the heavyweights for this entertaining forum where the experts answered questions from MagicMeets attendees. Hosted by Matt Hochberg, included on the panel were our very own Lou Mongello, Dave Marx, Len Testa, Deb Wills, Beci Manhken, and Mike Scopa.

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Finally, and sadly, it was time for closing ceremonies. This is one of the saddest and best parts of the day. You know the day is ending, but you also know all the big giveaways happen now and the results of the silent auction are announced. First, Fred and Beci started to give away a prize, but they decided to hold off drawing the winning number until after announcing the results of the Dream Team’s Silent Auction. Each year, the staff from DisneyWorldTrivia.com do a fabulous job preparing this auction that benefits the Make-A-Wish Foundation. At the last two MagicMeets I’ve attended, they raised approximately $4,000 and $9,000. When I saw the amazing display of auction items this year, I went up to Pat Whitson, who is the main coordinator of the auction and told her I thought they would clear five digits this year. Her response was she thought they just might. Let. Me. Tell. You. They cleared five digits all right. CMO Justin Muchoney started reading out the numbers, starting out with donations from Tim Devine (The Magic in Pixels), WDW Today, and the Celebrity MagicTunes event. And finally, the complete total with the auction proceeds: over $16,600. Silence, then amazing clapping and cheering all around the room! Then Beci from MEI & Mouse Fan Travel stepped up and announced they had an additional $2500 donation to add to the total. Everyone was teary-eyed. (I’m getting goosebumps and teary-eyed just typing this). That raised the total to over $19,000!!!!! And to add some more tears and joy to the mix, our very own Lou Mongello came up on stage and said he would personally contribute the rest to make it an even $20,000!!! Absolutely amazing!!

The day was closed off with what a lot of guests deem as the most exciting part of the day. GIVEAWAYS!! As always, there were fabulous prizes given away. A new prize this year, probably the crème de la crème, was a Disney Cruise giveaway from MEI & Mouse Fan Travel! Now here’s where it gets interesting….The first two raffle numbers called didn’t come up. Deb Wills from AllEars.net came on stage. You see, Deb’s raffle number was one of the first two called. She didn’t want to accept the prize because she’s been on cruises so many times. She wanted someone else to experience that magic. Wow…..How awesome is she!? Finally, on the third try, an attendee sprang from the crowd! There were also table giveaways (a Castle cookie jar, a Disney picture frame, and a MagicMeets ornament) and closing remarks.

But just when we thought it was over, Mike Scopa stepped up to the microphone to make a presentation to our host, Fred Block. The community had come together on the fifth anniversary of MagicMeets to honor Fred and all his effort and work that goes into this magical day. Fred was presented with an honorary citizen plaque for Walt Disney World, a card created by the children there, and gift certificates for the Hershey Spa for himself and his wife. Everyone that spoke let Fred know how much we appreciate his work and dedication to spreading the magic. Fred was overwhelmed with joy as the rest of the room was. It was a very touching moment. Fred said he does it for everyone, and it’s not about him. I spoke to Fred earlier in the day and he had to say that the most fulfilling thing about MagicMeets was, “the friendships he comes away with…the people he sees only once or twice a year.”

The main meet was through, but the magic wasn’t over! Saturday night also included a Scrapbooking Soiree and a Pin Trading Event. Sunday featured some more breakout sessions and a group meet at HersheyPark!

Each year gets bigger, better, and more magical. Each year I wonder how this one will be better than last, and I haven’t been disappointed yet and I’m sure I never will be. Fred and his team and all of the sponsors do an incredible job bringing a little pixie dust to us all. And we are grateful and inspired. Thanks Fred.

To find out how you can attend this magical event next year, check out www.MagicMeets.com and sign up for email notification.

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