EPCOT’s International Food and Wine Festival has been around for over a quarter century!
We love getting to try a bunch of different food from the unique booths like Spain and Kenya, but how did this all get started? Was the festival always popular or big?
Here’s the delicious history EPCOT’s International Food and Wine Festival!
The first EPCOT Food and Wine Festival was officially held in 1996 when the Walt Disney World Village Wine Festival moved to EPCOT and transformed into the festival we know and love today… although on a smaller scale.
It originated as a way to boost park attendance during the slower season, bridging the gap between summertime and the holidays. The first festival was 30 days and was held from September 28th through October 27th. The next year, in 1997, a benefit gala was held at the festival, and world famous chef Julia Child was an honored guest, along with other culinary superstars. The benefit raised money for hunger relief organizations.
In 1998, the Art of Winemaking made its debut, with master sommeliers leading a series of wine-tasting lectures and seminars! It can’t be the Food and Wine Festival without wine, of course.
1999 saw the opening of five educational wine exhibits around the World Showcase Lagoon. This was also the year that the Disney Classic 10K was introduced!
Millennium Village was a part of the festival in 2000, celebrating the turn of the Millennium with stories from exhibitors from around the world.
In 2001, the Robert Mondavi family of wines showed the winemaking process from harvest to bottling to entertain and educate guests!
Party for the Senses and the Eat to the Beat Concert Series both made their debut in 2002, both events that have lasted throughout the years (at least, every year pre-pandemic).
Kitchen Karnival was introduced in 2003, which let guests discover the fun of eating your colors!
We saw a true revolution in 2004 when sparkling wine in a can with a straw and miniature fluted champagne bottles let guests sip while they walked. What a time to be alive!
In 2005, The Odyssey cooking school offered an interactive cooking experience for guests to participate in. This was also the inaugural year of the Food and Wine Race for the Taste 10K — John Moen became the first winner!
2006 was the 10 year anniversary of the EPCOT Food and Wine Festival, and celebrations were seen all around the park!
The Pearville Fair, Twinings Tea Bar, and Celebrate Oklahoma! were all introduced to the festival in 2007.
In 2008, 3000 gallons of soup and 1500 pounds of strawberries were served throughout the festival. There were also over 1200 fireworks used during Illuminations: Reflections of Earth (R.I.P.) over World Showcase Lagoon.
Moving on to 2009, when the History of Beer in America taught the art and science behind brewing and how beer has played a part in the New World.
In 2010, Cirque du Soleil La Nouba hosted the Party for the Senses! This was also the year that the runDisney Food and Wine Half Marathon replaced the Race for the Taste 10K.
It was a wild time at the festival in 2011 — A cranberry bog flooded the World Showcase, and guests got to meet a real cranberry farmer at the experience!
In 2012, EPCOT celebrated its 30th anniversary! Food and Wine also introduced forward thinking marketplaces Florida Local and Terra.
The Parisian Breakfast began offering brunch in 2013. There were also exclusive dinners that featured Scotland: Land of Food and Drink, Japan’s Hibachi Experience, and Spirits Confidential by master distillers and mixologists.
The Food and Wine Festival expanded in 2014 from 46 days to 53 days! Eat to the Beat dinner packages also began being offered for the first time in 10 years.
Future World welcomed Next Eats in 2015 — an area that featured 2 future-forward kiosks sponsored by ABC’s The Chew. The Artistry of Cheese and Wine also taught guests how to pair wine and cheese!
With festivals happening almost year-round at EPCOT by this time, Disney built a 12,000-square-foot kitchen facility in 2017. Now, instead of trying to share space with the park’s existing restaurant kitchens, the dedicated festival facility is able to focus on and accommodate the marketplaces.
Moving ahead to 2020, unfortunately, many parts of the festival had to be canceled due to the global pandemic, like Eat to the Beat and chef demonstrations. But the festival started earlier than ever before, beginning on July 15th and running until November!
In 2021, the festival began in July once again, starting on July 15th and lasting until November 20th — a whopping 129 days! Experiences like Party for the Senses did NOT return, while the runDisney Wine & Dine Half Marathon Weekend did.
This year, the festival will take place July 14th through November 19th! And, more and more iconic Food & Wine Festival entertainment is returning with the Eat to the Beat concert series and dining package coming back. Though, many things like cooking classes and more are still missing.
It’s been a long journey to get the festival to where it is today, and we can’t wait to see how it evolves as the years go on! Stay tuned to All Ears for more Disney info, news, and updates.
Click here to learn about this year’s EPCOT Food and Wine Festival
Do you have a favorite year of EPCOT’s Food and Wine Festival? Tell us about it in the comments!
One Reply to “The History Behind EPCOT’s International Food & Wine Festival”
Have a poster from 1999 Food and Wine signed by the artist. First thing you notice are the dates since it ran for less than a full month back then