I love Epcot.
With my intense Disney love, it may be hard to believe, but the first time I stepped foot in the Epcot theme park, I was an adult. It was Thanksgiving Break of my Senior year at WSU and I was on vacation with my good friend (AKA little bro) Tom in 2005. Tom grew up in a very Disney family (he visited multiple times as a kid as part of his mom’s involvement coaching a dance troupe) so he knew the Walt Disney World Resort like the back of his hand.
This trip we were on was, for lack of any singular term, a truly magical one. Only one semester was standing between me and my proposed idea of heading down from snowy Pullman, WA to sunny Orlando, FL to participate in the Walt Disney World College Program – so I was STOKED to say the least. Before that trip, I had only been to WDW once before – when I was about 13-14 – and we had visited only the Magic Kingdom and (the then) MGM Studios. It was like a final scope out trip to confirm what I had lined up in my mind as my post-collegiate plans: and believe me, as I enjoyed an ice cream sundae, sitting outdoors on one of the last nights we were in Florida, the deal was sealed.
Of course on that trip, Tom and I visited all four theme parks – park hopped like crazy – and I loved the Magic Kingdom – but I was surprised how taken I was with the two parks that I was a super newbie to: Disney’s Animal Kingdom and Epcot. Tom had somewhat brushed off Epcot as an outdated park with “one good attraction ” but I kinda liked that crazy feeling there – especially doing unique things like drinking sodas from around the world at Club Cool or checking out some of the countries around the World Showcase.
Still, I wouldn’t get the FULL effect of Epcot’s intrigue until a few years later. Sure, I spent a few hours here and there during my college programs (and even got to see the last open season of the Wonders of Life Pavilion) but May 2007 is what changed EVERYTHING.
After a little over 9 months of working at Magic Kingdom, my FT request had been approved and I was moving to Epcot – Future World Attractions as my new home.
I had no idea what to expect at Epcot – and I don’t think anything could have ever prepared me for the profound changes in my life that happened after I “moved” there. Professionally, I made the biggest leaps and bounds: from becoming a trainer in my attraction, quickly cross-trained (at the Imagination Pavilion) and then dipping my feet into new waters, like becoming a Discovery Day facilitator (the internal park-specific orientation for new Epcot cast members). Personally…well, let’s just say personally, I made some lifelong friends, made lots of choices – both good and bad – and learned a lot about myself.
2007 was a big year, indeed – my true year of Epcot discovery – and coincidentally enough, it was Epcot’s 25th birthday. I was off that morning and was lucky enough to see the re-dedication ceremony before heading over to work at the Imagination Pavilion (which happened to be the ONLY day that we ever had to set up the extended queue for Journey Into Imagination). What an incredible day! And there were more surprises in store, because that November, I was honored to enter into my ‘dream’ Disney career path – one that was lined in plaid.
Joining the Guest Relations team was an incredibly proud moment for me – not only was I able to provide a higher level of Disney service, I met my BFF Matthew (pictured right behind me in the pic above). I really do believe that everything happens for a reason – because Matthew and I parted ways after this first GR experience, but we found our way back before long and remain close to this day.
Epcot was the reason. In the years that followed (through 2010) I had so many wonderful opportunities – working in Guest Relations, tours and more! I did have opportunities to work in the other parks, but I always looked forward to coming home. I love Epcot so much – the idea, the feeling, the experience and of course, the iconic Spaceship Earth (as evidenced here, here, here and here).
This year, Epcot (which opened as Epcot Center in 1982) celebrates 30 years – and as a 28 year old, I feel a certain kinship with it. Although I definitely wish I could be there today to pay my respects, November will be here before I know it 🙂
So, happy birthday, old friend – and many, many more!
What’s your favorite theme park?