Our story starts with the intrepid travelers DiaperDad and DiaperMom loading the boys into our Honda Fit and trekking into the wild searching for the lost city of “M”.
At least, after fitting two strollers, a suitcase, a cooler, two laptop bags, a diaper bag, an air pump for the stroller wheels, two kids, and the grown-ups into our tiny car, it felt like we were riding a pack mule into the unknown. And we sort of were! I’m no newb when it comes to Disney. I’ve been there once. Okay, so maybe I am a newb. Especially when it comes to the resorts. The kind folks over at Disney were generous enough to give us a room at Disney’s BoardWalk Inn.
I was impressed the moment we drove up. They loaded our baggage onto a cart and whisked it away in a matter of seconds. The only thing we had to do, was walk the kiddos to the check-in desk. (Which we were escorted to by a very helpful valet.) The check-in was painless, and they gave the boys balloons. We looked over the map, and made our way to the room.
The beds were big. The TV played non-stop Disney cartoons. You know, the classic ones we grew up watching. A couple of minutes later, the bell hop showed up with our bags and unloaded them into the room. I went to check-in at the conference center and I got the itinerary of events for the following days.
I’ll admit, I was more than a bit starstruck by this point. Finding out we were being invited to an after-hours dinner and party at Animal Kingdom for some kids’ soccer tournament was icing on the cake. I walked down to the center, and got checked in. They gave me a bag at check-in that had some nifty presents in there. I assumed there were nifty presents, I didn’t open the bag until I got back up to the room.
Inspecting the contents, it became apparent this was going to be a sports-heavy event. (I know, I know, it’s called the Disney Sports Festival.) But, you have to consider that I’m 40…and fat. Sports and I haven’t had much more of a passing acquaintance for more than a decade. I opened the bag and my son found a hat that he hasn’t taken off more than a few times since then.
Not wanting to waste our time there, we went for a walk! The boardwalk was very cool. There were several restaurants and shops all along the waterfront. We tooled around for about a half hour before the kids started clamoring for the swimming pool. We looked around and located it. And had we not already promised them we’d go swimming, we would have had to promise after they saw the pool. There’s a large water slide that drops into the main pool and several concrete elephants that spray water, a play ground, and a kiddie pool. (Also, there’s a bar…but I didn’t get a chance to give it a test drive.)
We DID manage to make to one of the restaurants for a quick beer and some snacks (since they were going to be feeding us later than our kids were accustomed) to tide us over until dinner. And I was surprised to find out they brew their own beer there. And it was fantastic. I’m a fan of IPA’s and they served one of the best IPA’s I’ve ever had. (Set phasers to drool.)
After swimming, we got everyone dressed and ready to go to this party. I’ll admit, I had no clue what we were in for. Was it going to be a private reception for the bloggers they invited? How many bloggers were going to be there? I got my answer when we saw they had a large and a small bus chartered for us. Nice. We loaded up and headed over. I met up with Carter Gaddis aka DadScribe at the front gates. We snapped a couple of pictures in the waning light and watched as hundreds of kids in soccer uniforms came pouring in.
Seriously…you couldn’t swing a dead cat without hitting a soccer team. And these weren’t little po-dunk teams. They were from all over the world. Each team making it’s own little pocket of noise. My youngest son passed out before we even got into the gates. Once in, we made our way back down the path lit by attendants holding flashlights at intervals. My oldest asked if they were holding lightsabers.
One note: We, as Americans, are pretty well known for giving the British grief for being so stuck-up and reserved; all the while, forgetting we are cut from very similar cloth. While walking, a team from somewhere in Latin America came jogging by. Every single person chanted a song. Every one of them gave that chant everything they had. And my first thought was, “Why do you have to be so loud?”
Then my second thought was, “If you can’t scream at a party at a Disney park AFTER it’s closed…when the hell CAN you scream?” That second thought did the trick. I smiled and looked forward to even more exuberant teams.
In the course of the evening, we ate a free buffet dinner, we rode rides, and won some prizes from the midway. Then we topped it off with some free ice cream and dancing. (They really know how to treat a guy!)
It wasn’t until we were done (around midnight) and heading home (that’s what they call it at the resort…awesome touch) that I really thought about what the party was all about. It wasn’t about showing some bloggers a good time. Well, that’s not the main reason. No, the real reason was to show a bunch of kids from all over the world, the time of THEIR lives. I found out later, over 2500 people were at that party. There were over 200 soccer teams in attendance that night. I was a fly on the wall. And what I saw was amazing. I admit, I was a little jealous things like this didn’t exist when I was a kid playing sports.
We got back to the room and I made haste to get to bed, as we had an early day the next morning. I was beat…and the event hadn’t really even started yet. I’ll be posting Day ONE soon. Stay tuned.
Let me leave you with a little bit of Littlest Man getting his groove on.