A Picture Perfect Mousefest 2006 Snapshots from Eight WONDERfully Magical Days

by Deb Wills
Editor-in-Chief, ALL EARS®

Feature Article

This article appeared in the December 19, 2006, Issue #378 of ALL EARS® (ISSN: 1533-0753)

MouseFest 2006 has come and gone but the memories (assisted by many photographs) will remain for a very long time. Yes, it was a lot of hard work – co-chairing the cruise with Jennifer Marx, hosting events on sea and land (many thanks to the AllEars team), setting up the hall for the MegaMouseMeet, managing the MouseFest.org website, supporting Chairperson Dave Marx and the many other folks who made this year’s MouseFest a huge success!

All that said, I came home feeling exhausted and elated at the same time. Images of smiles and hugs and even tears of joy float around my mind as I think of the incredible experience that just concluded.

Every year since the first MouseFest in 2003, the event has grown. This year there were more attendees, internet communities, webmasters, authors, and podcasters than ever before. Each year it gets harder to choose which events to attend. But it’s not just the numbers that grow – the feeling of camaraderie, the spirit of unity among participants grows, too. Each year, MouseFest becomes a fuller experience of sharing the magic and cherishing the special friendships of people from around the world, many of whom we only see once a year.

In trying to decide on the theme of my MouseFest article, I spoke with AllEars® team member Linda Eckwerth, who came up with what I think is the perfect way to summarize MouseFest – through snapshots. It’s impossible to talk about every event I attended and even more impossible to name every person I met, reconnected with, or saw during our eight days… so please know that each of you hold a special place in my MouseFest memories. Your smiles and encouraging words during MouseFest kept my adrenaline flowing, and my heart smiling.

Here are my MouseFest 2006 Snapshots:

December 2 — BoardWalk Villas: Linda and I arrived in town a day before the MouseFest cruise and spent the afternoon busily preparing for the days ahead. After dinner, we sat on our balcony and watched the fireworks from the Magic Kingdom and then Epcot’s IllumiNations. It was our calm before the storm of activity MouseFest would bring. We spoke about MouseFests gone by and wondered what the next eight days would have in store for us.

December 3 — Cruise Day: With assistance from Annette Owens (MouseFanTravel.com) we cooked up a magical surprise for two of her clients, Matt and Maggie, who were staying at one of the All Star resorts. She had told them she would take care of their transportation to the port. Sunday morning Annette pulled up in her car, packed to the top, and told the duo apologetically that she was making calls to get them alternate transportation. About that time, we pulled up in a stretch limo. The driver got out with Matt and Maggie’s name on the card. Once they realized the limo was for them, they screamed with delight! Needless to say the ride to Port Canaveral was quite lively.

This being the fourth MouseFest cruise, we looked forward to seeing old friends and were greeted at the Port with warm hugs. We also got to meet many new MouseFest cruisers. We had more than 70 AllEars goodies bags to hand out and it was a wonderful way to meet folks we’d be spending the next four days with.

December 4 — Nassau: This day was a blur as meetings and events packed the schedule. By the time our 8:15 dinner had arrived, I realized I hadn’t stopped all day. What a joy to get to know first-time MouseFest cruisers Michelle and Jimmy from Maryland. These folks blended right in with the others at our dinner table and we all hit it off “fa-mousely.”

December 5 — Castaway Cay: The now annual MouseFest parasailing meet took place bright and early. Thirteen MouseFest cruisers showed up to fly through the sky. The energy, excitement — and nervousness – were palpable. Four of us were “vets” and the other six MouseFesters on my boat would be parasailing for the very first time. The nervous laughter quickly changed to sounds of joy and triumph once the newbies were back on board after their flight in the sky. Chants of “We did it, we did it!” filled the boat and smiles were larger than you can imagine. We had a special bonding experience that morning — it was a very empowering experience. As one parasailer later told me, “It was my favorite MouseFest experience yet!”

December 6 — Day at Sea: I hosted a walk to raise funds and awareness for the Avon Breast Cancer Crusade. MouseFanTravel, the official travel sponsor of AllEars, donated $5 for every person who attended the walk, as well as an amount for each booking made in the month of October (Breast Cancer Awareness Month). I was anticipating a check for around $200. Imagine my shock when presented with a check for $1,000! In addition to the money the company donated, many of the agents made donations as well. I was overwhelmed by the generosity. Then, three of the MouseFest cruisers presented their own personal donations — they had given up their pre-cruise manicures and pedicures and donated the money to the cause. Again, I was overwhelmed. It was a very special moment — a snapshot of what tremendous good we can do and the difference each of us can make!

MouseFest Cruise High speed photos bursts:
— Laughs at the Christmas Tree lighting meet hosted by Ray
— Meet the authors with Jennifer, Dave and Steve
— Elie (aka Captain Jack), the hands-down winner of the Pirate Costume Contest
— Introducing the divine “Miss Dee Vah” at the Walk/Stroll for Breast Cancer

All too quickly, the cruise was over and we headed to Walt Disney World.

December 7 — Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party: This has become the place for an annual gathering in the Magic Kingdom’s Rose Garden for the joint Tagrel and AllEars MVMCP fireworks meet. This year, I was able to match more Tagrel screen names with faces and enjoyed being so warmly welcomed by this wonderful community. The snapshot that is in the forefront of my memories that night is of Masayo and Michiko (friends from Japan) arriving out of breath at the fireworks meet. Masayo explained how they had left Japan many, many hours ago and were delayed in a US airport. They were afraid they would miss the meet and practically ran from the bus depot to the Rose Garden to be on time. They were SO happy to be there and I smiled knowing that we really do share the magic worldwide!

December 8 — Kilimanjaro Safari Ride: More than 150 adventurers set out on a safari through the savannas bright and early on Friday morning. After the group photograph ritual, we set off to board our jeeps. I accompanied the participants traveling in wheelchairs and was able to sit next to a very special MouseFest attendee, MJ (aka Marjorie). This 5-year-old has multiple disabilities, but also a smile that warms your heart and makes you realize just what a gift she really is. As the Safari jeep approached the bridge that shakes, she looked at me, arms outstretched and said “hugs.” She held onto me very tightly until we were off the bridge and our driver headed into the savanna. I marvel at her spirit and that of her adoptive parents.

December 9– MegaMouseMeet: There were many special snapshot moments during the MegaMouseMeet. By themselves they could fill an entire article. I also want to make special mention of those of you who came over to me and thanked AllEars for being a site known for its accuracy. You thanked us for not speculating and not swirling the rumor mill, but for being a website and newsletter you could turn to for reliable and accurate facts and information. That means more than you can imagine to all of us on the team.

I want to thank everyone who came by the AllEars table and donated money to the Avon Breast Cancer Crusade. Your incredible generosity raised $483 for the fund. Thank you so very much! Between the two Breast Cancer fundraising events, we raised $1,543! Thank you!

December 10 — Kona Café breakfast and IllumiNations VIP party: Sunday was the first day in more than a week where I could actually breathe a sigh of relief and enjoy the festivities. Mike Scopa, Steve Barrett, Beci Mahnken and the folks from MouseFanCafe and I hosted 40 guests at the Kona Café in the Polynesian for some Tonga Toast and other breakfast delights. It was a lively and festive event and everyone seemed to be buzzing about their favorite MouseFest memories and the events still to come. But alas, for some of us, it was time to start saying “‘Til we meet again.”

MouseFest Land High speed photos bursts:
— Mike Scopa singing “Venus” on Karaoke Night at Kimonos.
— Riding Expedition Everest with Masayo and Michiko (and learning how to say “We did it!” in Japanese so I could share Michiko’s excitement).
— Not recognizing my dear friend Jane (from Gifts of a Lifetime) because she had lost so much weight! Jane, you look marvelous!
— Handing out Mickey stickers to complete strangers.

With all the incredible people I saw over the last week, there is one person who comes to mind whenever I think of MouseFest 2006. This person embodies the spirit of what MouseFest is all about. He exudes magic and love in everything he does. His wit and charm bring a special joy to everyone around him. His laughter is contagious. Those of you who know him, know what I am talking about. The man is Mike Scopa, a columnist for MousePlanet and podcaster for WDWToday. Mike is truly an ambassador of Walt’s spirit. I was honored to present him with a pair of Mickey Dream Ears on Sunday evening.

IllumiNations Reflections of Earth: How appropriate that my MouseFest 2006 journey would end with a special VIP reception and private viewing location for Epcot’s spectacular nighttime extravaganza. AllEars® gave away 15 tickets to this special viewing prior to MouseFest. Entrants explained in 50 words or less why attending a VIP IllumiNations Party would be a dream come true (tying into Disney’s Year of a Million Dreams promotion). We read each and every submission and choosing the winners was very difficult.

After everyone had arrived at the event, the special winners were invited to an area and I told them their dream event had still one more special surprise. Linda brought a huge Disney bag, and out came sets of Mickey Mouse Dream Ears that twinkle in the night, one for each person. The giggles of delight and the transformation of 15 adults to youngsters at heart was a sight to behold. From the couple from the UK who danced around their apartment when they received their congratulations email, to the cancer survivors, to the couple who had lost everything during Hurricane Katrina, to an incredibly talented pair of graphic artists who spread the magic each and every day in their internet community… for that moment in time, each person present had no weight on their shoulders and their feet were lighter than air. Daily cares had vanished.

As the IllumiNations show began, I stepped back and looked at everyone present… watched their body language as they gazed into the night, some nestled close to loved ones, others with their arm around the shoulder of a friend. It was then that I thought how incredibly blessed we all were to be there on that special evening. Could it get any better than this? The memories I have will stay with me for a very long time.

When the holiday finale that’s added on to IllumiNations, the song “Let There be Peace on Earth,” filled the air and the fireworks explosions pounded inside our bodies, the tears filled my eyes and I suspect many of those at the party as well.

The special holiday finale is a moving tribute to peace and hope and was the perfect culmination to my eight wonderfully magical days of MouseFest 2006.

Let there be peace on Earth,
And let it begin with me.
Let there be peace on Earth,
The peace that was meant to be.

To take each moment and live each moment
In peace, eternally.
Let there be peace on Earth
And let it begin with me.



This week’s Wandering the World features Deb’s Snapshots of MouseFest:




Editor’s Note: This story/information was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all current rates, information and other details before planning your trip.