Happy New Year 2008!

Trip Start Sep 20, 2007
Trip End May 16, 2008

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Flag of United States  , Florida
Wednesday, January 2, 2008

I celebrated New Year's Eve at Epcot. What a better way to ring in the New Year then with a hundred thousand strangers.
It was miserable all day. Cloudy with the occasional shower. It looked like it might clear up by mid afternoon so I changed and headed to Disney. As I arrived at the park the dark clouds re-appeared and I started having doubts about spending the evening outside. Maybe I should head to downtown Disney and grab a nice warm spot in one of the bars. But no, I was ready for anything the weather could throw at me. I had my backpack stocked with my umbrella and jacket.
There were a lot of people there. The week between Christmas and New Years' is Disney's busiest. With over 10 million people visiting Epcot last year, it felt like they all decided to come back this evening. Even with the U.S. economy in a downturn the Americans will spend money on a family holiday instead of fixing the broken refrigerator. Walking around the grounds I noticed it wasn't just the Americans here. You could hear languages from around the world. With the drop in the U.S. dollar, a holiday here for any foreigner became more affordable.
I started walking around the World Showcase taking pictures when it started raining. People started scrambling for cover. It was great walking around now, covered by my umbrella. The pathways cleared of the throngs of people. But the rain wasn't letting up. Streams flowing down the pathways, my pant legs now soggy to the knees. My runners no longer dry. People started milling about again, covering themselves up as best they could. Then the rain finally stopped. But it was now dark, no chance of the sun drying things up.
I continued wandering around the World Showcase, literally walking around in circles. The World Showcase has various countries showcased around a lake. I stopped at the Canadian Pavilion to watch "Off Kilter" on the outdoor stage. These kilt clad, bagpipe playing performers put on a fantastic show. Billed as "Celtic rock", traditional favourites are given a lively twist. Observing the crowd, I could tell who was from Canada. Singing and dancing along, less reserved than their American counterparts and taking in the performance better than other foreigners. I strolled to the World Showcase events pavilion to watch the Tom Butler Orchestra perform classic big band swing music. Drying out while sitting on the floor of this building.
Back outside, it was time for the early presentation of "IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth" laser-light spectacular. I grab a spot by the railing, an older oriental woman by my side. As the show is about to start it starts raining again. I have my camera perched on my monopod in one hand and my umbrella in the other trying to keep my camera dry. The oriental woman points to the umbrella and indicates that she wants to stand under it. She squeezes over. The rain subsides and I put the umbrella down. Then it starts raining again. The oriental woman points to the umbrella and that she'll hold it over our head. Her outstretched arm holding the umbrella that barely cleared the top of my head. I crouch down as I think she might have been standing on the tips of her toes. The show ended, there's still 4 hours to kill before midnight.
Next stop is visiting the American Gardens Theatre to watch the Latin crossover band Papo's Groove and the energetic DJ Indio Davila. They invite the crowd onto the stage to dance. A gigantic dance party. I walk by the China pavilion to the pulsating techno rock and listen to the classic rock 'n' roll at the Italy pavilion. I look for a place to eat but there are long line-ups for all the sit down restaurants where reservations are required and finding a dry place to sit after grabbing something at an outdoor kiosk is like finding a needle in a haystack. The crowds are increasing, either from those coming back after going back to their Disney Resort hotel rooms to change after the downpour, or from those arriving from the other parks. I grab something to eat and find a spot to sit on the edge of the Canadian stage. Disney is passing out noise makers and plastic top hats. I grab a hat. The noise level increasing as everyone starts blowing in their horns.
By 10 o'clock I'm ready to call it a night. It looks like numerous other people feel the same. All along the lakeside railing people are sprawled out on blankets, either sleeping and/or holding a prime spot for the midnight fireworks display. I decide to hold out till the end. By my third go round of the World Showcase, the mass of people fill every available spot in the park. Park staff are directing people milling about in 2 directions, clockwise and counter-clockwise, giant, opposing mambo lines. Zombies, marching about without a destination. The park staff still energetic and lively, trying to get the crowds to yell Happy New Year to no avail, the crowds sapped of most of their energy, having been at the park most of the day. But won't leave as they want to be part of the 2008 welcome party.
At 11 o'clock I stop and watch the Beatles. The British invasion still going strong. More people sitting down and grabbing prime spots to view the 11h40 IllumiNations show. By 11h30 the park is at a standstill. Having taken pictures of the earlier show, I'm only a spectator this time around. I grab a spot on one of the bridges. The show starts and I find out that it was a bad choice of location, trees blocking the view. I move off to in front of the French Pavilion, a better vantage point. IllumiNations over, it's almost New Years. The announcer comes over the speakers and announces the name of the various countries with a Pavilion. In the order they celebrated the coming of the New Year you see fireworks explode around the park over top of the Country. The staff from the French Pavilion are all outside. As their country is announced and the fireworks explode overhead they shout in joy and embrace with each other. Away from their homeland, their co-workers are their family.
The largest fireworks display is kept for last, the Eastern North American time has come to celebrate as it is now midnight. The park lights up in an amazing display of rockets, lights, explosions and yells from the crowds. That over, the crowds start heading towards the exit. I head off in the opposite direction, towards the furthest point in the park, the American Gardens Theatre and the Latin groove dance party. Might as well wait for some of the crowds to leave instead of fighting them to the front gate.

I leave just before the park closes at 1 am. Arrive at the trailer just before 2, in time to text message the kids back home with my Happy New Year's wishes, midnight locally.
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