The Anatomy of an EPCOT Festival

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It’s early day of the 2022 EPCOT Interntional Food & Wine Festival at Walt Disney World. This year the festival is running from July 14 to November 19. Less than a week later, on November 25, 2022, the EPCOT International Festival of the Holidays will begin, running until December 30. Then comes the EPCOT International Festival of the Arts. The 2023 dates have not yet been announced, but in 2022 the Arts Festival ran from January 14 until February 21. And then we get the EPCOT International Flower & Garden Festival. Again, 2023 dates have not yet been announced, but in 2022 the Flower & Garden Festival ran from March 2 to July 4.

For those keeping track at home – this means that each year there is only about six total weeks when EPCOT does NOT have a festival running. Visitors to EPCOT are more likely than not to encounter a festival in the park.

While there are four different themes that happen during the year (Arts, Flower & Garden, Food & Wine, Holidays) there is much overlap in the feel and offerings for these events. Here are the common components of all EPCOT festivals.

Food Booths

The offerings vary from festival to festival, but every event will have at least a dozen or more freestanding food booths stationed around the World Showcase lagoon. The booths have themes nominally tied to the main event. For example, during the International Food & Wine Festival, most of the booths are themed to the countries of the world and their traditional foods. During Flower & Garden the booths might focus on food items grown in a particular way. During the holiday festival, the booths will offer traditional winter treats of various regions. And during the Festival of the Arts, the booths will have names that allude to some artsiness, for example “The Painted Panda” at the China Pavilion.

The foods offered at the booths are typically tasting-sized portions of perhaps four to eight bites, depending on the dish. Most are priced between $5-9 per item. You can make a full meal of three to four dishes if you’re eating alone, or four to seven dishes if you’re sharing with a friend.

Typically there will be one or two booths that feature vegan options. Vegetarian options are available at most booths and are noted with a “V” symbol on the menus.

Park Decoration

Every festival involves some embellishment of the pathways throughout the park. The most obvious of these are the plantings and topiaries for the Flower & Garden festival and the Christmas trees and twinkle lights for the Holiday festival. These events will also have a large welcome sign at the front of the park and a smaller welcome sign at the International Gateway park entrance located near the France pavilion.

The signage in particular is a popular backdrop for photos of all sorts.

Educational Elements

Every festival has some element of nominally educational content. For the Flower & Garden Festival, there are small gardens of horticultural interest, as well as a butterfly garden that explains their role in pollination. The Food & Wine Festival offers (in non-COVID times) lessons on wine tasting and cooking techniques. The Festival of the Arts showcases artists, many of whom are available to discuss their process with guests. And the Holiday Festival features storytellers recounting traditions from various countries.

Entertainment

The America Gardens stage is the venue for major Festival concerts. These concerts are given loosely themed names such as “Eat to the Beat” for the Food & Wine Festival, but the differences end there. Most of the Festival performers are formerly famous B, C, and D-list musicians – and I say this with all the love in my heart. Anyone over the age of 30 is bound to find a performer that they absolutely loved during their youth.

The exception to the oldies performer bookings happens during the Festival of the Arts when active Broadway singers are often showcased.

Merchandise

Each festival will have an array of t-shirts, mugs, housewares, and art emblazoned with the festival name, date, and themed artwork. These items are sold throughout the park in stand-alone stalls as well as at Creations Shop (formerly Mouse Gear) and at the shops in the intersection between the World Showcase and Future World sections of the park.

In addition to Disney-themed items, there are also merchandise booths related to the festival theme. For example, there may be booths selling gardening tools during Flower & Garden, booths selling artistic works during Festival of the Arts, booths selling Christmas ornaments during the Holiday Festival, and booths selling cookware during the Food & Wine Festival.

Fun for Kids

During festivals, EPCOT erects small playgrounds or open play areas. There are also scavenger hunts (for a small fee) and some kid-focused learning opportunities.

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Erin Foster

Erin Foster is an original member of the Walt Disney World Moms Panel (now PlanDisney), a regular contributor to TouringPlans.com, and co-author of The Unofficial Guide to Disney Cruise Line. She's been to WDW, DL, DL Paris, Hong Kong Disneyland, Aulani, DVC Vero Beach, and DVC Hilton Head. She's a Platinum DCL cruiser and veteran of 10 Adventures by Disney trips. Erin lives near New York City, where she can often be found indulging in her other obsession - Broadway theater.

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