The REAL Reason Why Epcot Festivals are Taking Over 2017

Originally published in Theme Park Tourist..

Earlier this week it was revealed that Epcot would be hosting yet another special event in 2017, The Epcot International Festival of the Arts. And then yesterday dates were released for the 2017 edition of The Epcot International Food and Wine Festival, which showed that the event will be getting underway a full two weeks earlier than in 2016, now kicking off on August 31 and lasting until November 13, 2017 for a record 75 days in total, the longest (by far) this event has ever gone on for.

Now assuming the Holidays Around the World festival next year lasts about a month (as it generally does), we’re looking at an operational calendar that includes more than 220 festival days during the next year. With festivals now taking up more than 60% of Epcot’s calendar in 2017, fans may wonder why Disney is expanding special events in this park so aggressively. And interestingly, though Disney hasn’t confirmed anything, the answer may be related to some recent comments from Disney Parks and Resorts chairman Bob Chapek that were made earlier this month…

Epcot is about to go through some massive changes

Last week at the D23: Destination D event held at Walt Disney World, Disney Parks and Resorts chairman Bob Chapek confirmed to hundreds of attendees that Epcot is in the process of being reimagined, and this park will be getting an overhaul sometime in the coming years (similar to what is happening now at Disney’s Hollywood Studios). Though no timetables regarding this nascent project were given, Chapek said that Imagineers are being encouraged to “dream big” in regards to their plans to revive this park, suggesting that this new project will be fairly large in scale. And though we’ve heard some interesting rumors in the past few months about the Guardians of the Galaxy moving into this park, Chapek did say that the current plans (which are still coming together) will be both uniquely Disney and true to Epcot’s original vision.

Learning from the Past

Though we’re hopeful that the changes that Disney will be making to this park will help bring Epcot up to date in new and exciting ways, it looks like Disney has already learned from the mistakes it has made with the stuttering re-launch of Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Though ground has just barely been broken on both Star Wars Land and Toy Story Land at this park, many guests have been opting to skip a visit to Disney’s Hollywood Studios while all the construction is going on, which has lead to a recent resurgence in limited time character appearances and in-park entertainment at this park as Disney tries very hard to convince guests that Disney’s Hollywood Studios in its current state is still worth visiting.

However, while Disney scrambles with the current state of Disney’s Hollywood Studios, it looks like they are preparing early with Epcot, implementing a longer festival calendar for 2017 so that guests get used to seasonal entertainment at this park, and won’t have to worry about what to do when a large amount of attractions close all at once, as more and more guests flock to this park for special events, instead of the opportunity to ride Test Track or watch Impressions de France.

Room to grow even more

Image: Disney

It sounds crazy, but even though Epcot’s calendar for 2017 is already filling up, there’s even more room for expansion as we look to the far future. Though we still don’t know what is happening with this park’s expansion, you can bet that if talks are going on right now about a new direction for the park, something will be announced at 2017’s D23 Expo (where Star Wars Land was officially announced in 2015) with a 2018 start date likely.

And if this timeline proves to be accurate, we could be in for another mass closure at this park, which means Epcot will need to rely even more on special events throughout the year to keep drawing guests. Fortunately, even with special events scheduled over 200 days currently there is still room to grow. For instance, though the International Flower and Garden Festival is pretty well maxed out at 90 days, the International Food and Wine Festival is still only 75 days, and two more weeks could be added to match that event as well. And the Epcot International Festival of the Arts is opting for a weekends-only schedule for its first year in 2017, bring its total number of days just north of 20 for its inaugural iteration. If Epcot decides to bring this event back in 2018, it could opt to make the 2018 Epcot International Festival of the Arts an every day affair, which would also add an additional two dozen days to the event calendar as well, bringing the number of special event days up to nearly 75%, which seems crazy, but could be a very good thing for this park in the long run.

Epcot’s annual events (particularly the Epcot International Food and Wine Festival) are already extremely popular

Image: Disney

Discounting for a moment the confirmed upcoming reinvention of Epcot, even if nothing were to change at this park, Disney would still have had to expand its festival offerings next year. 2016 was (potentially) a record-setting year for the Epcot International Food and Wine Festival, with the park filling to near-capacity levels on multiple days this past fall, and Epcot closing its parking lots to guests on multiple occasions. With so much demand for this festival, Disney had little choice but to expand the Food and Wine Festival in 2017, and though it might seem a little weird to be eating and drinking around the world in the closing weeks of summer, the expansion of this special event was definitely needed, no matter what.

How do you feel about the expansion of special events at Epcot. Will this be a good thing for the park as it moves towards its confirmed reinvention, or will the ubiquity of special events make the events themselves more mundane? Let us know what you think!

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Don Korta
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