Here we are in early 2013 and Walt Disney World is marking another milestone anniversary…Animal Kingdom’s 15th birthday. Since its opening on Earth Day, April 22, 1998 it has set the standards for animal conservation and care and has become a favorite park for millions of Disney fans. On hand (Again!) to mark this momentous occasion is the core team of WDWCELEBRATIONS.COM. This amazing and dedicated group of Disney aficionados;  has since 2007 with their first event,   CELEBRATION 25, which marked the 25th anniversary of EPCOT’s opening, has continued to recognize major Disney milestones and anniversaries with like-minded Disney fans, meeting at the parks and sharing their love of Disney.

I have attended 5 out of 9 events, and have become a dedicated fan. If you fondly remember the old “MouseFest®” meet-ups, theirs is a similar format. But unlike the chaotic and sometimes conflicting meeting times of “MouseFest®”, WDWCELEBRATIONS are well organized and thought out. There is plenty of time for free roaming and all of their functions and meets do not conflict. For those of you who are not familiar with this group, a quick rundown is in order…Their main goal is celebrating Disney milestones with like-minded fans at the parks, complete with fun activities, meets and a way for fans to connect and embellish their love of Disney with each other.

The group began in 2007, as EPCOT’s 25TH anniversary was approaching and then former Vice-President of EPCOT, Brad Rex announced that Disney had no official plans to mark the occasion. Many fans were disappointed, and a message was posted on an internet Disney forum calling for fans to have their own celebration. Jason Diffendal and Adam Roth, both co-founders of the group, picked up the ball and helped plan the fan-based celebration. The event was named ‘Celebration 25’ and gained momentum; the media soon picked up on the plans as well as Disney management. 1200 people registered for this “first” event, had a dessert party, met with Jim Macphee, they even obtained exclusive tickets for speaking events with Marty Sklar.  It was so successful the people were asking us if we would do more of these meets” We never considered it at first, but since interest was so great, it is when we formed WDWcelebrations.com and have celebrated Disney milestones ever since” Adam said.

I asked Adam why this event, celebrating Animal Kingdom’s 15 anniversary was connected with two other agenda, namely Flora and Fantasy. He stated…”In planning our schedule, We just did “Celebration 30” (Celebrating the 30th Anniversary of Epcot) and were discussing what we could do next” Continuing, “Since we have a strong motivation in everything we do, that is to offer the best experience in celebrating the magic of the past, present and future, and raising monies for charity along the way, we wanted to add additional offerings that added to that experience” Adam explained that there were three things that transpired since Celebration 30 that were relativity important…EPCOT celebrating its 20th  annual Flower and Garden Festival, and the opening of the new Fantasyland, which was not opened at Celebration 30, and Animal Kingdom’s 15th anniversary. Adam continues…”So we had a play on words…”Flora, Fauna & Fantasy””

Marcus, another core team member chimed in…”Adam is correct. Looking back, we wanted to make this event a combination Signature and commemorative event by offering both the Flower and Garden Festival and Fantasyland’s opening in conjunction with Animal Kingdom’s 15th anniversary” continuing, “We wanted to show off all the new things at the Magic Kingdom, and since we never did anything centered around the Flower and Garden Festival, we combined all three and it worked!” Adam added…”New to this event is a new take on our long standing traditional history walk. We’ve been doing the walk since our first event, but have not offered it for the past two years. This year we brought in a trivia element. It’s an experiment that we hope people will think successful.

And the meet was without doubt, a success! Here is a quick rundown of the weekend festivities…Friday it was off to Port Orleans resort for a group dinner at Sassagoula Floatworks and Food Factory, than a meet for YeHaa Bob Jackson at Port Orleans Riverside Roost. Saturday, its EPCOT, starting with Test Track group ride, followed up with the Living with the Land group Boat ride. Then off to Canada for a group showing of “O Canada” Then is was free time till the “Tipsy Whipsy Dole” meet at Pineapple Promenade, followed at 9pm for group viewing of Illuminations. Sunday, it’s the Magic Kingdom and the new Fantasyland. We started off with a group encounter with “Enchanted Tales with Belle”, then a quick change of schedule, the famous History/Trivia contest at the new “Tangled Toilets” device charging area. Then off to a group ride at Under the Sea Journey of the Little Mermaid.  Then a group lunch at Gaston’s Tavern. Midday, the group took in the Royal Majesty Makers show, then the Giggle Gang show and my favorite, Dinner at Be our Guest restaurant.

Fantasyland festivities ended with a Walt Disney World Railroad group ride which departed from the Carolwood Pacific Station. On Monday, it was the Animal Kingdom for Disney’s official opening Ceremony in front of the Tree of Life, then a really nice lunch at the Flame Tree BBQ. After lunch, a fan favorite, the WDWCELEBRATIONS Scavenger Hunt. This was extremely fun and informative. Everyone learned something new with Marcus’ brain teaser!  After the prizes were handed out to the winning teams, a group viewing of Mickey’s Jammin’ Jungle Parade and a troupe picture. It was off to Primeval Whirl Group and dinner on your own. Sadly, the last group ride of the day, Dinosaur and fond goodbyes till next year. So what’s on tap for next year? Adam stated that the next event is called “Studio 25”, a follow-up to the “Studio 20” meet five years earlier. This multi-day event will celebrate the Studios 25th Anniversary. But Adam would not reveal any more details.

As you can see, the WDWCELEBRATIONS events are a lot of fun and a great place to meet and interact with fellow Disney fans. To get complete information about this dedicated group, visit their website at www.wdwcelebrations.com Check them out on twitter…@wdwcelebrations and Facebook is “facebook.com/wdwcelebrations.

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