Nearly every day of the calendar year, Walt Disney World’s EPCOT is in festival mode. Whether it’s the International Festival of the Arts to start the year; the International Flower & Garden Festival spring into summer; the International Food & Wine Festival summer into fall; or the International Festival of the Holidays to close out the year, there just always seems to be something to see and do!
It wasn’t always this way, though! Let’s take a look at the history of EPCOT’s festivals and how the park grew into becoming the festival super-center it is today.
1994 was a big year for EPCOT. The first of its festivals, the EPCOT International Flower and Garden Festival, debuted!
Later that year, something in Disney World changed that would forever shape the holiday season at EPCOT. Disney’s Candlelight Processional, which at the time was playing annually in Magic Kingdom since the park opened in 1971, moved to the American Adventure Pavilion in World Showcase.
Just one year after the launch of EPCOT’s Flower and Garden Festival, a second festival joined the ranks. This is the year that marked the beginning of the now-famous and fan-favorite EPCOT International Food and Wine Festival.
EPCOT truly knows how to keep the festival party going! In 1996, Holidays Around the World debuted in the park. Centered around the Candlelight Processional, World Showcase was transformed each holiday season with unique entertainment and food offerings for guests. It wouldn’t change its name to what we know it to be today, however, for two decades.
To remedy lower attendance in the parks following the attacks on September 11, 2001, EPCOT’s festivals started to grow in a big way. In 2002, the EPCOT International Food and Wine Festival hosted its first ever Eat to the Beat Concert Series, which brought big-name musical acts to the American Adventure Pavilion throughout the festival.
Two decades after EPCOT’s Holidays Around the World debuted, it was officially renamed the EPCOT International Festival of the Holidays, keeping closer to the “festival” branding of the Food & Wine Festival and the Flower & Garden Festival.
In 2017, the newest EPCOT festival, the EPCOT International Festival of the Arts, debuted! This is arguably the most unique EPCOT festival, celebrating culinary, visual, and performing arts. It is also one of the shorter festivals, running for only six to seven weeks, as compared to the Flower & Garden and Food & Wine Festivals, which now run for months.
Following the historic closures at Disney World, EPCOT is certainly making up for lost time! The 2020 Taste of EPCOT International Food and Wine Festival was a whopping four months long! Since then, each festival has been a “Taste” of that festival, offering many of the food booths and festival offerings in a modified format to accommodate physical distancing.
Now, it’s nearly impossible to spend a week in Disney World and NOT be around during an EPCOT Festival. Lately, the turnaround time between festivals is getting shorter and shorter, with some festivals starting just one week after their predecessors — essentially, just long enough to switch over the kitchens and change out the banners!
Those outdoor food booths, which used to come and go frequently as festivals closed, are now semi-permanent structures around World Showcase, solidifying their place as a “constant” that guests can expect when visiting EPCOT.
Which EPCOT festival is your favorite? Let us know in the comments!
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