By: Rick Wilks
ORLANDO, FL. – Today was the opening day for the 2022 EPCOT International Festival of the Arts! The crowds were waiting for the rope to drop promptly at 10:00 am this morning.
It was like a runDisney Marathon race. Where was everyone hurrying off to so fast? Did they want to meet and greet with the artists? No. What about tasting some of the great International food booths that were added for the festival? Nope. How about the festival souvenirs? Not those either. Actually, those areas were a bit light on the crowds in the beginning hours.
Even Creations, the newly remodeled and largest store in the park didn’t have more than 50 people in it. Turn the corner outside the store and it was like a stadium concert sea of people. Literally, 1000’s were in a 5-hour queue to get the Figment Popcorn Bucket. This cute collectible is so popular that a few are going for upwards of $300 on eBay. Retail is just over $20.
Art is one of the top attractions at the festival and the artist stands were nicely spread out throughout the entire park area. Artists from across the county show off their talents. Everything they display is for sale and if the artist is there on that particular day, they will even autograph their work for you.
Paola Gracey, a Miami resident, is one of the most interesting artists’ participants. She is very proud of her paintings and she also incorporates her full-time job into her art. Paola is a full-time Chemist. She incorporates science, chemical equations, and symbolic representations into her paintings. The galaxy, stars, and sci-fi are some of her loves and uses in mixing colors to achieve organic patterns and using gravity for the flow of the paint across the canvas. The paintings even glow in the dark! Her booth is close to the Mexico Pavillion.
Over 30 artists are featured this year. Even sidewalk chalk artist is doing their creativity before you enter the World Showcase.
Dave Avanzino is another fine artist at the event. He originally is from California and now resides in Tennessee. He had a love for Disneyland and even knew a picture framer there that would use his artwork. Close enough, that he even drove himself to the show. Dave is full of energy and enjoys the fact that he likes to create uniqueness in his art. 3-D Disney characters and scenes are his specialties. He uses a variety of art materials including paper, wood, metal, wire, and more. His booth is close to the German Pavillion.
Thomas Kinkade Studios is also at the show. The late Kinkade was famous for his cottage painting with vibrant flowers, bridges, and glowing lights. A group of artists carries on his enchanting transformation of Disney characters in his paintings. Dirk Wunderlich is one of those artists. Dirk is a regular at the show. He does many of the characters. An interesting technique that takes Kinkade paintings and famous Disney characters are added. Everyone from Mickey and Minnie to Dumbo. Dirk loves to sketch your favorite Disney character on the back of the canvas. Look for this booth in the German Pavillion area.
Most of the available souvenirs were sparse, but I overheard a cast member saying not everything has come in yet. Don’t know if that is true, but very well could be, but again this is only a one-month event. Figment again is always the main character used on the Art Festival items, followed by Mickey and Minnie. There are 4 pins available, along with a couple of t-shirts, sweatshirts, palette plates, magic bands, and the ever-popular Figment Popcorn Bucket.
Music is also showcased during the festival and it is Broadway-related with well know theater talent. Currently, for the next few days (January 14, 16, 17, 20, and 21) the actor and actress from the Broadway play Aladdin are performing. Arielle Jacobs (Princess Jasmine) and Adam Jacobs (Aladdin). Seating is first-come, first-served unless you purchase a dinner ticket combo at participating restaurants.
Food and drink booths are plentiful with flavors of international deliciousness. Fried Risotto Balls, Chocolate-hazelnut Italian Doughnuts, Chicken Kushiage with Yum Yum sauce, Suchi Donuts, Sake, Beer from around the world, and alcohol specialty drinks are to name a few.
Overall, this year’s Festival lives up to its name and has plenty of vendors to please just about everyone visually and taste. It also is a favorite event for many as you may interact in person with not only Disney artists, but other subject matters too. The EPCOT International Festival of the Arts runs through February 13, 2022, and is included at no additional charge with regular EPCOT admission.
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