For weeks now, I have admired the beautiful displays surrounding Walt Disney World’s EPCOT park as part of the International Flower and Garden Festival. I can’t help but find myself captivated by these stunning displays of natural beauty, wondering where did this beloved tradition begin? This question led me to think the topic might be perfect for exploring in this month’s A Brief History of Disney.
The classic springtime tradition that we now know as the Flower and Garden Festival was once no more than a seasonal display garden that featured a few Disney characters back in 1994. In its humble beginnings, before fancy food stalls and entertainment, the event was a small series of floral arrangements, with people coming from all over to admire the beautiful gardens and meticulously crafted topiaries.
In 1995 the festival returned, this time with a new feature that drew in crowds. A new display outside the Germany pavilion hosted a miniature train and town in World Showcase. The railway was officially named the Epcot Garden Railway, and the new collection included a beautiful array of flowers amid the train tracks and town buildings.
For years, the impressive natural arrangements returned to EPCOT, repeatedly drawing crowds from around the world. However, it wasn’t until much later that the festival started to take a more similar shape to the one we see now. In 2015, a myriad of new characters were introduced to the display, including Frozen sisters Anna and Elsa, Pixar pals Woody and Buzz Lightyear, and many more of the whimsical characters from the Walt Disney Animation vault. The 2015 event also introduced guests to the Garden Rocks Concert Series, replacing the Flower Power Concert Series and a new Butterfly Garden.
The planning behind this fan-favorite festival grew to epic levels bringing more characters to life in topiary wonder with each passing year. The 2017 festival introduced delighted audiences to a Figment topiary, and 2019 saw new additions in honor of the Toy Story 4 film opening. Each year the festival brought new wonder to the walkways of EPCOT and delighted crowds without fail.
In 2020, for the first time since the festival’s inception in 1994, the event was disrupted, unable to go ahead as planned due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the park’s closure on March 15th. The spring celebration wouldn’t return to the Walt Disney World stage until 2021 when guests were ecstatic to see the signature Disney brilliant blooms arrive.
Disney began to engage even more guests through their online platforms sharing videos of the topiary installations and area transformations ahead of each seasonal event. Outdoor food stands also started a new proved to be a new popular tradition, with special menus and ingredients showcased throughout each spring season.
Each new event seems to outdo the one before, often showcasing new, spectacular exhibits. For example, the 2023 event features a new area called Blossoms of Fragrance, sponsored by Scentsy, and offers a sensory experience. Take a closer look at the experience here:
The famous festival mascot, Orange Bird, welcomes us to the 2023 International Flower and Garden Festival, and it looks like one that won’t disappoint. Find more information about this year’s event here. The 2024 festival will make the 30th Anniversary of the event and will no doubt be celebrated accordingly.
Zoë Wood is a travel writer from Sydney, Australia. Since her first visit to Disneyland at the age of 6, she has spent her years frequently visiting Disney Parks and traveling around the world.
Join Zoë as she lets you in on all the tips, tricks, anecdotes, and embarrassments that arise from her family adventures.