First look: Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival for 2018

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First look: Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival for 2018

Mickey, Minnie, Pluto and Goofy topiaries greet visitors to the Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival at Walt Disney World. (Dewayne Bevil / Orlando Sentinel) Walt Disney World is flinging into spring again. Its Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival began today, and theme park visitors saw a lot of the event’s traditional elements, including character topiaries, floating gardens, lagoon-side murals in bloom, butterflies and play areas. That was evident right up front as the large flower bed at the park’s entrance features Mickey Mouse presenting a bouquet to Minnie Mouse as Pluto, wearing a floral collar, looks on. Plus, that’s one big ol’ Goofy topiary bringing up the rear, surrounding by big, flowering, colorful props. (Kid in stroller, overheard in passing: “The flowers are made out of flowers!”) Other topiaries occupying prime Epcot real estate include Donald Duck and nephews in gardening mode right behind Spaceship Earth . (Look for the bee on Donald, who is carrying a butterfly net.) The photo spot farther down – with the iconic big ball in background – features Figment sitting on a ball. And the entrance area to World Showcase is populated by several butterfly topiaries. A smaller butterfly lands on Daisy Duck’s greenery. She’s flanked by appropriately smaller Chip and Dale figures over by the butterfly garden. A notable departure from previous fests is the lack of a Festival Center. No longer are seminars held in the former Wonders of Life building. Programming has been moved out into the pavilions, and the merchandise formerly found in the festival center is in other locations, including a Port of Entry location. This will allow handier access to these features in terms of location – no longer back in the corner of Future World – and timing, Epcot fest general manager Dave Kesting told me Wednesday. The Festival Center formerly was open only three days per week. As usual, some topiaries have new spots. Peter Pan is back on ground level in the United Kingdom pavilion, facing off with Captain Hook. No croc. The same is true of the “outdoor kitchens.” For instance, Florida Fresh is now sandwiched in that space between Morocco and France (Frorocco? Morance?). The new kiosk also has the punniest name: The Honey Bee-stro. It serves roasted cauliflower, honey tandoori chicken flatbread and “local wildflower honey-mascarpone cheesecake.” Overall, Epcot seems alive with color again, even in Future World East, where a Buzz Lightyear topiary again fronts Mission: Space and is a magnet for kids who probably aren’t into gardening. The Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival runs daily through May 28 (aka Memorial Day). The Garden Rocks concert series begins Friday with Night Ranger, the “Sister Christian” guys. Fest activities – but not the food, of course – are included in regular Epcot admission. For more information, go to epcotinspring.com. dbevil@orlandosentinel.com or 407-420-5477; Twitter: @ThemeParks