Thursday, September 16, 2004

There's a bake sale at the schoolhouse and they're selling innocence

Celebration shares a unique distinction with major cities like Chicago, New York, and Gary Indiana (okay, maybe Gary's not major, but you get the idea). Like those "big boys," our humble little town also has a song named after it (thanks to Tom for originally posting this on the Front Porch a while back, thus inpsiring my Muse):

Celebration, Florida

by the British band Chumbawamba

The good folks pull together
It's July 4th forever
Down in Celebration, Florida
The neighbors bring you coffee
And everyone's always happy
Down in Celebration, Florida
There's a bake sale at the schoolhouse
And they're selling innocence
They're keeping out the deviants
To protect the residents
Of Celebration, Celebration, Florida
They're buying up nostalgia
For a time they can't remember
Down in Celebration, Florida
They're sharing homemade corn chips
Even the dogs get facelifts
Down in Celebration, Florida
There's a bake sell at the schoolhouse
And they're selling innocence
They're keeping out the deviants
To protect the residents
Of Celebration, Celebration, Florida
There's nation fighting nation
There's kids with malnutrition
But not in Celebration, Florida
Social engineering
It gives you that fuzzy feeling
Down in Celebration, Florida
There's a bake sale at the schoolhouse
And they're selling innocence
They're keeping out the deviants
To protect the residents
Of Celebration, Celebration, Florida
Celebration, Celebration, Celebration, Florida
Well, it's
It's very conventional, I don't know, and it's, it's, kind of just
relies on some kind of simplistic folk ideology.
That's true, actually I'd agree with that

Ah, if only it were true that innocence could be purchased alongside the cupcakes and Rice Kripsies squares! I don't know about the canine facelifts either, although there's a "bull terrier" down the street that I strongly suspect used to be a Shar Pei before he was introduced to Michael Jackson's surgeon. I do know one thing for certain: it's definitely not 4th of July forever, because if it was, none of us would ever be able to get in or out of town due to the perpetual sea of non-moving cars.

I suppose that there is some truth to some of the words. I've never experienced homemade corn chips, but our next door neighbors love to whip up and share the most delicious homemade waffles I've ever tasted (no, Shrek and Donkey don't live in East Village). I've definitely coffee klatched with neighbors (and wine klatched and even champagne klatched).

But what amuses me most is that Chumbawamba has probably never stepped foot in Celebration. I think that's the case for many writers, whether they lambast us in "factual" articles or spoof us in Playboy fiction. They judge us and label us with no concept of what we're really all about.

To test this theory, I poked around the internet to gather some more examples of what people are saying about us. I discovered that a few have actually managed to locate us, but only long enough to take a quick gander at Market Street, dub it "Stepford" for no reason other than that's what others have done, and then hightail it back to Disney World.

Here is a quote I found in another blog:

“I think it must be like living on the set of “Leave It To Beaver.”

I'm not sure what he's basing this on, since he has never visited us. He goes on to quote another website:

“Simply, ask yourself this: Would you be willing to pay extra if you could be assured your neighbor always had his lawn mowed, that his house paint never chipped, that he never had a car up on cement blocks in his drive way? Now ask yourself this: Would you be willing to pay extra if you were constantly told what was wrong with your house and what you had to do to fix it, that you have to mow your lawn and remove your broken down car from the front driveway? It is a paradox that residents of Celebration must live in. Live by the rules, and you are living in paradise. Break the rules, and you are living in a totalitarian state.”

Hmmmm, and here I thought he was talking about Celebration, Florida, the Celebration that I live in. "Always had (his) lawn mowed" certainly doesn't apply to the duplexes and triplexes (although I must admit that after Frances, I was impressed that our grass was mowed in a timely fashion). Granted, our old mascot Skippy, the broken down Dodge Dart, wasn't in the front driveway, but that's because he was busy greeting visitors right at the entrance to town (I still miss him). Not sure about the whole "being told what's wrong with your house" thing either; I'm still waiting for men in mouse suits to rough up the people with faded siding or rickety fences.

Oh well, I suppose that the reason we are supposedly so obsessive/compulsive about keeping everything looking perfect is because "The town of Celebration, Fla., created by Walt Disney Co. (DIS: Research, Estimates), is as much a tourist attraction as the theme park." This little nugget is coutesy of CNN Money, so I know it must be true. I'm thinking we can earn some extra funds by charging a separate admission to each village.

We've even been the subject of at least one thesis that I've been able to locate...Happily Ever After: Moving to Disney's Celebration. Here's an excerpt:

"Since it was founded Celebration has been referred to as a ghost town, a movie set, Truman's home, a Stepford village, Mayberry, a company town, an experiment, a solution, charming, eerie, inspired, masterful, dangerous, absurd, and the list goes on and on. I would argue that it is all of the above, the reason being that we are anxious as a society to project our interpretations upon it, rather than to understand it. Celebration is threatening. It pushes buttons. People have immediate responses upon first hearing about it. Many are horrified that others have chosen to live this way; most are contemptuous of those who do. It is this visceral response that makes Celebration so intriguing. What is it exactly that angers us so? The anger is dismissive but it masks a fear. What are we afraid of?"

Horror? Contempt? Anger? Fear? Do we really inspire those emotions in people? After all, we're a pretty run-of-the-mill place. But wait a minute...these people don't know that because they're never bothered to really check us out.

Oh well, I guess we should all be thankful that we escaped becoming homeless when Disney bailed. Don't believe me? Check out this transcript of a conversation between Jack Cafferty, a CNN anchor, and Andy Serwer of "Fortune" magazine:

CAFFERTY: Or you can buy a town.

SERWER: Yes, you can, or sell one.

CAFFERTY: Or sell one.

SERWER: Which is what the Walt Disney Company did. You remember this Celebration, Florida, down near Orlando? This is this planned community that Disney opened up in 1994. There we go. Well, apparently Disney is backing out a bit. They are selling a large part of this town to a private real estate group and basically just closing up shop here. Of course the town is going to continue. About 8,000 people live in Celebration, Florida.

And I thought this was interesting, Jack, the people who bought said they will continue to make the fake snow around Christmastime and put fake leaves up in the fall just like the people at Disney.

CAFFERTY: Doesn't get any better than that.

SERWER: That's right. They call it a modern day Mayberry was what one person said who lived there.


SERWER: Kind of like "The Truman Show." Remember that movie?

CAFFERTY: Yes, I do.

SERWER: A little bit like that, I thought.

CAFFERTY: Thanks, Andy.

Whew! I was sweating in my boots until I read, "Of course the town is going to continue." With Disney gone, it's nearly impossible to survive, but Serwer obviously recognizes that we're hardy souls, much like the pilgrims. They didn't need England, and we don't need the Mouse. Heck, we didn't even have to fight a war for our independence.

In my internet research, I also discovered that Celebration has the dubious honor of having an entry in online encyclodepias:

"Celebration has a similar appearance as the town of Seaside, Florida (which was used in the filming of the movie The Truman Show The Truman Show (1998) is a movie directed by Peter Weir, written by Andrew Niccol, and starring Jim Carrey.

As a result of its careful design and strict rules, Celebration tends to evoke strong reactions in people: either they fall in love with the town and say that it looks like a movie set, or they are disgusted by the price which people pay to live in an artificial-looking fairy tale with seemingly-oppressive rules.

Through the first years of the town, many townspeople persevered and banded together even more tightly as a community to make sure that the town lived up to its commitments and its promise. As a result the town of Celebration, Florida, can be said to have fulfilled most of its original intentions."

And here I thought that encyclopedias had to be fact-checked. Silly me! But it's good to know that Celebration has "fulfilled most of its original intentions." It's great to live in the most wired town in America, with that innovation K-12 school and the free lifetime passes to Disney World.

Even people in other countries buy into, and perpetuate, the stereotype. Here is an excerpt from "American Studies Today Online," a U.K. website:

"There are certainly plenty of bylaws in Celebration, aimed primarily at maintaining property values: no more than two people are allowed to sleep in one bedroom, the curtains are all a regulation colour (white) and lawns have to be mown regularly. As ever, the freedom to live in a manufactured Eden comes at the cost of other freedoms."

Won't that "white curtain" myth ever die? Or did I maybe misread the covenants? Maybe I missed something, and the Dream Police really will raid my beloved home if out of town visitors boost our bedroom count to three bodies.

Oh well, I guess that it doesn't really matter how other people see us. It bugs me a little, which is why I started this blog and But I supposed that my own personal viewpoint is as colored as any of the other perceptions, albeit in a different way. Who's to say that my ramblings, written with my skewed sense of humor, are really any more accurate than the whole Truman Show/Mayberry thing?

If you have any comments about these ramblings, or questions about, Celebration, feel free to email me at


Anonymous said...


Getting a bit sensitive or defensive? [smile]

Despite my tease above, I found your column to be well written and interesting as usual.

If I have a bias, it's in favor of Celebration. As a prospective resident, though, I've been taking a closer, hopefully objective look lately.

To my surprise, I'm starting to wonder a little what's still special and unique about it.

I have a growing impression that its specialness and uniqueness are diminishing.

What do you think?


Barb said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Barb said...

In all honestly, I think that we still have a specialness/uniqueness, but it's much different than what people perceive. It's not the whole "Disney-developed planned community" thing, but rather a sense of community spirit that comes from the people. I think it's a self-fulfulling prophecy...neighborly people move here because we have a reputation for neighborliness, and so we become even more neighborly!

Don't let the fact that we're a town with the same problems as many other towns rather than a Mayberry utopia scare you off! Our property value has risen so much that we could get a larger home in a nice area and make a tidy profit, but I won't do it. In Celebration, we have something that's worth more. If you move here, I hope that you find it too : )