by Beth Keating
June 19, 2020
We’re here for the party – or maybe not.
I got whiplash this morning. Disney dropped a big party announcement last night, cancelling the 2020 season for Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party, and making some significant changes to Epcot’s annual Food and Wine Festival. While the Eat to the Beat concerts will be cancelled, the Food and Wine Festival will still take place, beginning even earlier than usual. Additionally, H2O Glow Nights at the water parks have been cancelled.
And if you’re planning to take your vacation in the early days of the reopening, Disney also announced today that park hopping has been temporarily suspended. Plans for accessing the new reservation system are also being released today.
The cancellation of Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party is not surprising, and even somewhat anticipated by those who have made the party an annual family tradition. (Last year, Disney offered a specially priced season long pass for party nights.) Even before Disney’s official announcement, however, most people scratched their heads trying to figure out how in the world Disney could even think about pulling such an event off this year, given the current COVID restrictions and social distancing.
Apparently, Disney was wondering the same thing. According to the Disney Parks Blog, “We determined that many of its hallmarks — stage shows, parades and fireworks — are unable to take place in this new, unprecedented environment.”
Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party is an after-hours, extra ticketed event. It’s a blast, for sure, but it has become increasingly crowded in recent years, particularly as the calendar creeps closer to the actual Halloween date. (Halloween, in Disney’s time frame, typically begins in August, with the earliest parties sometimes occurring as early as mid-August.) Given the fact that parades, fireworks, stage shows, and standing too close in line are current no-nos, it stands to reason that the Halloween Party would be a no-go, since all four of those things are prominent features of the party.
The “Boo to You Parade” with its unique music and Halloween specific costuming is a favorite among many park guests, and typically runs twice a night during the parties. The fireworks show is also a stand out, featuring a brand new story projection on the castle last year, accompanied by extravagant fireworks with partygoers crammed into the castle hub and along Main Street. The appearance of the life-sized Jack Skellington puppet on the castle stage as part of the fireworks show adds to the congestion closer to the castle. Don’t forget the Hocus Pocus show, either, with everyone converging on the hub to see the Sanderson sisters up to their old tricks. Then there are the candy lines – oh, the candy lines! Tubs and tubs of trick or treat locations where cast members hand out fistfuls of your favorite sugary delights. The treat trails wind their way past rides, and through attractions that are closed for the occasion – very little chance to keep those lines adequately socially distant.
Epcot is scheduled to reopen on July 15, and will jump right in to offering its annual Food and Wine Festival on its very first day of operation. Food and Wine typically begins in the last days of August or first few days of September. Indeed, many park visitors will schedule their vacations to include both the Halloween Party and the Food and Wine Festival in the same trip.
The arrival of the Food and Wine Festival is a happy surprise for most guests. Speculation was that there was a strong possibility that Food and Wine would not take place for 2020. The Swan and Dolphin had already announced last week that their 11thAnnual Food & Wine Classic, scheduled for November 6 and 7, had been cancelled due to COVID and would not be rescheduled until 2021. (See story here.) Lines can be long for fan favorite booths at Epcot - Frushi, anyone? – and social distancing is difficult on a normal day at the festival. Perhaps starting the festival earlier when park attendance is more limited will allow the event to hit its stride and work out any glitches along the way.
This year’s Food and Wine Festival is billed as “A Taste of the Epcot International Food and Wine Festival” and will offer more than 20 “signature global marketplaces like Hawaii, Hops & Barley, and the Islands of the Caribbean, spaced out around the park,” according to the Disney Parks Blog.
While the Food and Wine festival will begin much earlier than usual (with no closing date specified), the Eat to the Beat concerts accompanying the festival have been cancelled. One of the signature events of the festival, Eat to the Beat features dozens of performers offering up free mini-concerts three times each evening at the America Garden Theatre in World Showcase. Previous performers have ranged from Boys II Men to Taylor Dayne, MercyMe, Lauren Daigle, Smash Mouth, Tiffany, Kenny G, Billy Ocean, Big Bad Voodoo Daddy, Sawyer Brown, and Sugar Ray. Disney’s resident musical acts such as the JAMMitors and Mariachi Cobre will continue to perform throughout World Showcase during the day.
Over at Typhoon Lagoon water park, H2O Glow Nights have gone dark for 2020. An up-and-coming favorite, H2O Glow Nights is also an after-hours, special ticketed event with plenty of upbeat music and lots of glow in the dark decorations, fun bracelets and high energy entertainment.
Your next question is: What about Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party, or the Epcot Festival of the Holidays with its celebrity-read Candlelight Processional? No word from Disney on those events yet. Stay tuned as we wind our way through rapidly changing COVID numbers and restrictions.
Beth Keating is a regular contributor to DisneyBizJournal.