Welcome back to 40 Days to 40 Years! Take a long look backward, as we count down to Walt Disney World’s 40th Anniversary. Each day the series will bring you a new blogger to share their most precious Disney moments. Today, we say hello to D.J. Jones from The World of Deej, and introduce the year 1996.
Ah 1996…What a great year both for the world, and for me personally. My beloved Florida Gators won the National Championship, the Yankees the World Series, and Atlanta was showcased to the world in hosting the Olympic Games. 1996 saw the re-election of Bill Clinton as President, a golfer named Tiger Woods turned professional, and two students at Stanford started a company named Google. On a personal level, I turned 16, and discovered the liberation that every kid dreams of with the newly granted ability to drive a car.
1996 was also a great year for Walt Disney World, as the resort held its 25th-anniversary celebration, the Boardwalk Inn & Villas debuted, and the first Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party was held. But without a doubt, the best piece of Disney history with its origins in this great year is the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival….Better known by us devout attendees as simply Food & Wine.
Since the festival’s inception, Food & Wine has grown to become arguably the most popular annual event held at Disney. Every year, countless devoted fans like myself make their annual pilgrimage to this holiest of events, clogging reservation lines the moment special events become available for booking, and filling resorts to capacity nearly a year in advance. Scoring a room at the Beach Club Villas 6 months prior to the festival’s opening weekend is about as likely as getting a table at Victoria & Albert’s dressed in your bathing suit. The festival is hugely popular with local residents also, often giving a Saturday in World Showcase the feel of New Year’s Eve on Main Street.
To understand why so many love the festival, one needs to look no further than its name…Food & Wine. Oh, and there is plenty of beer too…Lots of beer. As the festival has grown in popularity, many of the items on the menus of the various booths have developed a cult following also. There’s the “Ice Wine” in Canada, the “Pot Stickers” in China, the “Escargot” in France, and perhaps my personal favorite, the “Filet of Beef and Smashed Sweet Potatoes” in South Africa. Simply put, the festival is the perfect combination of good eats, excellent drink, and perhaps most importantly, the beautiful fall weather of Central Florida.
Oddly enough, as huge of a fan as I’ve become of the festival, I discovered its greatness not in 1996, but over a decade later. My first experience at Food & Wine coincided with my 26th birthday, and I was immediately hooked, with every birthday since having been celebrated at Food & Wine. Our affection for the festival has only grown over the years, and what started as one trip per year, has now morphed into two or three-weekend visits devoted entirely to the festival.
This year, we plan to kick off the festival by taking part in the Wine & Dine Half Marathon Relay, which happens to be on the 40th anniversary of WDW, as well as spending the weekend doing “research” for The World of Deej, and other blog friends for which I’ll be posting. It’s a tough job, but somebody’s gotta do it…
No doubt about it, 1996 was a great year, and of all its history which I hold dear, the origin of Food & Wine is firmly cemented on the top of the list.
What’s your favorite Food & Wine menu item?
D.J., do we have to pick just ONE?! What a perfect “pairing” to yesterday’s Cooking With Mickey post. As you have both pointed out, Disney’s food and beverage has improved in leaps and bounds since the Park opened, and the mid-’90’s certainly was a turning point. If you see D.J. (@TheWorldofDeej) at the Wine & Dine Festival, be sure to say happy birthday!
Tomorrow, Melissa from Disney on Wheels will feature 1997 and the 25th Anniversary of Walt Disney World. Who remembers what the castle looked like for that celebration? Melissa does!