Sunday, August 01, 2004

Only in Celebration

One thing that I love about Celebration is that it's the kind of town where you can walk into a bar with a monorail on your head and not be carted off to the loony bin.

I guess I should back up a little and explain why any adult would be walking around with a monorail (or Stitch ears, or bunny ears, or of course Mickey ears) on their head in the first place. It all starts with the Bunny Brigade, a group created by a fellow resident (you know who you are, Jan) who is a self-described "Defective Stepford Wife." Initially, it was just photos of people (and an occasional house pet) wearing bunny ears on our community intranet. If you are not a Celebration resident, and you can only view the public information, you have no idea of the mass insanity that goes on in the forums of the residents-only section. Access to the whole site is reason enough to move to our fair town.

Eventually, photos weren't enough anymore, and a meeting was planned at the Town Tavern. Adding an additional layer of interest, the first meeting of the Bunny Brigade would coincide with the arrival of the Tampa Bay Bucaneers. Each summer, the Bucs take over the Celebration Hotel as their "base camp" while they conduct their training at Disney's Wide World of Sports. We had just missed their visit last year, as we closed on our house in the tail end of August. Now, we were in for another new Celebration experience: coexisting with the Bucs for a month or so.

Our group meeting wasn't all fun and frivolity...we also had a higher purpose. One member of our group (Isabel, you know who I'm talking about) was determined to get a photo of at least one the Bucs in bunny ears.

In preparation for the meeting, I started a search for appropriate headgear. Unfortunately, for the two weeks prior, I was stuck back in the Midwest and at a severe time deficit due to working two jobs and fitting work on my doctoral project inbetween (I know it's scary to think of someone like me as a mental health professional, but I am almost done with my Doctorate in psychology). I had planned to scout some costume and trick shops, but I never found the time. If it was spring, I might have had more luck at K-Mart or Wal-Mart, but by August the Easter bunny and his wares are pretty much in hibernation.

I have a friend who is a fellow Disney fanatic, and she loaned me a set of Mickey ears that I doctored up with purple and pink cardboard. My head gear came out looking like something you might find in a third grade Easter play, but at least it was recognizable as bunny ears. Click here to see the resulting photo.

I hand-carried my ears for the flight home to make sure they wouldn't get mashed in the luggage. I got some strange looks, but thankfully we had a really crazy flight attendant on board. His antics (such as imitating various singers over the PA system) drew away any attention that my purple bunny ears might have drawn. One lady sitting behind us overheard my explanation to another passenger, and it turned out she was a frequent visitor to Celebration. Normally she stays at the Celebration Hotel, but for the past two years she's had to stay elsewhere because her visits have coincided with the Bucs.

Whenever I mention that I'm from Celebration within hearing range of others, or I'm wearing a Celebration t-shirt, it almost always starts a conversation. People are insatiably curious about the "Mickey Town." I always try to correct their misperceptions, but it's a losing battle. Sometimes I hear peope discussing our town, and I just hold my tongue and internally snicker at the things that they say. A couple of flights ago, the people across the aisle from us were talking about it. There was a couple from Chicago sitting next to a Floridian from the Orlando area, who was telling them all about Celebration. It was hard to keep myself from jumping in as he spouted the usual nonsense; you'd think that someone who lived nearby would know better.

We got to town around midnight on Friday night, and noticed a lot of Osceola County sheriffs and their cars scattered around Celebration Avenue. My husband theorized that it probably had something to do with the Bucs' arrival. On Saturday morning, we decided to head over to the Contemporary Hotel for lunch and then pop over to the Magic Kingdom to grab a Fast Pass for Buzz or Space Mountain.

After lunch, my husband suggested that we browse through the hotel stores on the off-chance that they might have some more professional-looking rabbit ears. I knew it was a long shot, since Walt lost the rights to Oswald the Lucky Rabbit an awfully long time ago, but you never know. After all, Rabbit is one of Winnie the Pooh's buddies, albeit not one of the most popular. We figured we had nothing to lose.

I didn't find actual rabbit ears, but I did find something even better, at least in my estimation: Stitch ears. "Lilo and Stitch" is my all-time favorite Disney movie (how can you not like a cartoon with such classic lines as "Thus far you have been adrift in the sheltered harbor of my patience" and "Oh, good, my dog found the chainsaw!). The ears stood up and had sort of a rabbit shape if you used your imagination, so I decided that they would be the perfect accessory for meeting up with the Bunny Brigade.

Meanwhile, I also found a headpiece that, when worn, made it appear that you have a monorail driving through your head. You'll find a link to a photo a little later in this bog entry. Since I already had Stitch, who better to wear it than my poor, long-suffering husband? He put up a token resistance, but after more than a decade of marriage, he's learned that when I get one of my hare-brained ideas (pun fully intended), it's usually easier just to give in.

Not only did I insist on buying the head gear, but I also decided that we should wear it to the park. So off we went to the Magic Kingdom, arriving just in time for the 3 p.m. parade. We plunked down on the curb, and hubby was subjected to the first of a stream of continual comments from cast members and guests alike. They ranged from "Did you know that you have a monorail running through your head?" to "Where did you get that? I want one!" We never saw them in any stores inside the park, so I suspect they are only sold at the monorail hotels.

My absolute favorite comment was from one enthusiastic little boy we met in Adventureland. We had gotten a Fast Pass for Buzz, and then headed over to Sunshine Terrace to get vanilla/orange swirled ice cream (my personal favorite, made with an actual orange juice swirl) and then take a quick spin on the Jungle Cruise. We were sitting on a bench, eating our ice cream, when the little boy came running up to my husband. He said, "If you're an airplane, I love you!" (When you see the photo, use your imagination and the monorail might be able to pass for misshapen wings). I started laughing so hard that I thought I was going to choke on my food!

I love crowd watching, and Adventureland lives up to its name; it seems to be the place where we have our most memorable encounters. We met "Runaway Granny" there a few visits back. She was the poor elderly woman whose family said, "Wouldn't it be fun to let the wheelchair go?" as they walked over the incline at the entrance to the land. And they did! The poor woman picked up speed; I saw her coming out of the corner of my eye just in time to step out of the way. One family member bolted after her and managed to grab one handle of the wheelchair, but it went into a spin and was in danger of tipping. Thankfully my husband managed to grab it and avert disaster. The rest of the family caught up, and one guy said, "Sorry about that. We had a runaway granny there!" Throughout all this, that poor old lady never said a word. I imagine she was probably used to such antics. the rest of the day, my husband and I would look at each other and suddenly say, "Runaway granny!" and we'd both burst into laughter.

But anyway, back to the monorail hat and the Bunny Brigade. By the end of our visit to Disney World, I halfway wished we had bought some extra monorails as we could have made a fortunate selling them to our fellow guests. A few people commented on my Stitch ears, but I didn't get nearly as much attention as my husband. I tend to be the more exhibitionist type, while he is more quiet and laid back, but throughout our marriage I have been a very bad influence on him, and I think he enjoyed being the center of attention.

That evening, we headed over to the Town Tavern in downtown Celebration. With the Bucs in town, I was a bit worried that parking might be a challenge and that the streets might be crowded, but everything was relatively quiet, especially for a Saturday night. At my insistence, we wore our head gear into the tavern. We were meeting everyone in person for the very first time, so I wanted to make sure that we were easy to identify. And that goes back to my original assertion at the beginning of this blog entry: Celebration is the kind of town where you can walk around like that and maybe get some weird looks, but no one is going to call the men in the white coats to take you away. In the worst case scenario, we probably looked like lost tourists who had wandered away from Disney World.

We didn't have to wait long for the festivities to begin, and as the evening wore on and the drinks flowed, more members of the brigade donned head gear. Click here to see our fashion statements.

The tavern was relatively quiet, and there were no Bucs to be seen. But later that night, one of them did show up, and of course we were all nudging, pointing, and whispering, anxious to see is Isabel would carry through with her threat to get him to don bunny ears for a photo. Sure enough, she went over to his table. We couldn't hear the conversation, but although he didn't put on the ears, he and his friend joined her for a photo, and they made makeshift bunny ears with their fingers. (When not looking for unique sports photo opportunities, Isabel is also a conventional photographer. You can see examples of her lovely work at

Inspired by her boldness, even though I felt like a total fool, I went over to their table and dragged my poor, mortified husband as my photographer. They were very nice about it, holding up their fingers and chanting, "Celebration Bunny Brigade!" as he snapped away. To see for yourself, click here. Previously, being from another state, I wasn't a Bucs fan, but the poor guy was such a good sport that I'll be rooting for the Tampa team this year. That's another cool thing about Celebration...where else can you go to the local bar, sit around in crazy headgear, and have the Bucs come in?

The party quite pretty late, and my husband and I had a blast meeting up with people I had previously only known online. Even though our Technology cornerstone might not have become reality the way it was originally planned, I think that the Front Porch intranet fulfills it in much more practical way. I have been a Disney Cruise Line fan for years, long before I ever visited Celebration (visit the cruise line office was the reason I came in the first can see my obsession on my website at I was very active in online Disney communities, and one of my co-workers said, "That's not good. You should be interacting with people face to face. All the internet does is make people get farther apart."

I thought about that, and then I thought about all the people I had met online who I later met in person on Disney cruises or at the parks. Out of all of them, only one turned out to be the scary type that you read about in internet horror stories. The rest were all great, and there are several I've kept up with and become long term friends with. I've even met a couple of people who actually lived pretty close by, but I never would have met them if we hadn't linked up online. I suppose there are people for whom the internet is a way to get further isolated from the rest of humanity. But for many people, it's a way to keep up with old friends and make new ones.

Irony had a little twist lined up for me that night. Back when our house was being built, a very kind neighbor to be took photos of the construction process for me to keep me up to date. Even though we've been in our house for almost a year now, we still hadn't met him in person due to our insanely busy and chaotic schedule. Last Thanksgiving, we went on a cruise on the Disney Wonder and discovered afterwards that he had been on the very same cruise! It would have been great to meet up on the ship, but we didn't find out until it was too late.

Now, as we were in midst of our revelry at the tavern, it turns out he was sitting at the bar right behind us! He overheard our conversation (we weren't being exactly quiet) and figured out who I was. We had missed each other on the ship, but Fate decreed that our paths would finally cross.

We didn't cause too many eyes to bat, although we did have one man come up to us with dollar bills stuck in his ears. He said, "What am I?" and we all looked on in puzzlement (my husband guess, "A Democrat?" "Nope," he proudly announced, "A Buck-in-ear!"

Finally members of the Brigade began drifting away, and I realized that it was after midnight. The old saying "Time flies when you're having fun" had once again been proven true. Why can't the hours at work ever go by that fast? My husband and I had been toying with the idea of going to Typhoon Lagoon in the morning, but we decided that sleeping in would be a better option.

So if you think of Celebration as a staid, dull Stepford community, I hope that perhaps I've changed your mind. I would never want to live in a plain vanilla town; make mine a quadruple scoop with a rainbow of flavors. If you ever happen to be in town, bring your strange head gear and join in the fun.

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