From World's Fair to Food Fest: The Evolution of Epcot
Walt Disney World today announced the dates for this year's Epcot International Food & Wine Festival. The 21st annual event will kick off on Sept. 14 and run through Nov. 14 this fall. That's 62 days — up more than a week from the 53 days that the festival ran last year.
While the Food & Wine Festival anchors Epcot's fall months, the park's Flower & Garden Festival takes care of the spring. Once just featuring topiaries and other horticultural displays, the Flower & Garden Festival now includes food and drink kiosks... just like the Food & Wine Festival. Flower & Garden doesn't offer as much food and wine as Food & Wine, but it's enough to keep visitors spending as they eat and drink around the park between March and May.
With the Flower & Garden Festival's 90 days of operation, Epcot is now offering its two food festivals for 152 days of the year — that's five out of 12 months. If Disney keeps adding a week or two to each festival, as it has this year, within a couple of years Epcot will be running its food festivals more often than not throughout the year.
When it opened in 1982, Epcot was designed as a sort-of permanent World's Fair, with a Future World celebrating the work of industry and the progress of technology, and a World Showcase celebrating the culture and heritage of participating nations. That model has weakened over the years, as corporate sponsors have dropped out of Future World and Disney has slowly added its own fictional characters and franchises to World Showcase.
But with its two food festivals, Disney seems to have found a new distinguishing model for the park. Epcot is the place where you come to nosh. It seems to be working for Disney, as the ever-expanding calendar for the events suggests.
Epcot is quite a strange phenomenon in a number of ways. The design of World Showcase certainly appears to uniquely lend itself to an easy evolution into a space that emphasizes food (and alcohol).
Magic Kingdom got the new Fantasyland. Animal Kingdom gets the new Avatarland. Disney Studios is getting Star Wars land and Pixar expansion. Heck, even Downtown Disney got to become Disney Springs with a new Town Centre land.
I always saw EPCOT as the place where you can try food from around the world.
The two festivals bring back the idea of a worlds fair or exposition . It has a (loose) theme, focused on a specific topic (food, horticulture), and is (pseudo) international. They are popular and that is the reason why. To get back to the roots of EPCOT, Epcot needs to add a science exhibition as well. While most companies won't (can't) support a ride, they are far more likely to support a short term mini pavilion. Innoventions seemed be a try to do this, but was way too permanent.
The time has come to rename EPCOT as Food Kingdom. As Flower and Garden (a thinly disguised reason for food booths) and Food and Wine grow to meet with a brief Christmas season now designed to sell dinner packages for Candlelight, only the summer remains. I'm amazed that they haven't created the BBQ Festival to fill in that empty period. World Showcase has become Restaurant Showcase. Given the poor performance of ESPN, maybe Disney should buy the Food Network.
This is why we call Epcot Disney's Food Court.
@Rob: My girlfriend also calls it Disney's Food Court, haha.
Flower and Garden show has been around for many years WITHOUT food.
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