Just outside of Walt Disney World sits another place which I like to daydream about. Its name is Celebration. And no, it is not a theme park, it is not a working version of Epcot, it’s not solely made up of Disney cast members, and Disney does not have control over every decision made by its residents.
I don’t want this category of posts to be about Celebration’s history as there are lots of websites and articles covering many true, and unfortunately false, details about this town. I wanted to share my discovery of this town, how I finally came to visit last December, and how I still daydream about owning my own little part of Celebration.
I have a vague memory of visiting WDW in the early 90′s and driving past the Celebration development. Our driver pointed over to the development and told us that this was a town that Disney was building (correct) and people could only live there if they were a certain religion (incorrect)! As the years went by I would hear other references to Celebration, mainly covering things like the residents having to have certain coloured curtains in their windows or that the blades of grass on their front lawns had to be a certain length. At that point I, like many others, did not know truth from fable.
In 2008 I started my current job at a university and this meant that I had access to the university’s library. Suddenly I had access to a lot of reference books, and after some searching discovered I had access to many books covering my favourite subject of Disney history and the Disney company. And this is where I discovered ‘Celebration, USA – Living in Disney’s Brave New Town’ by Douglas Frantz and Catherine Collins.
This book covers the story of two writers moving their family into Celebration in 1997 to experience the town and it’s community first hand. The book details the designing and building of the town, the advertising campaign by the Walt Disney Company, the original lottery held in 1995 for interested buyers to reserve plots, the faith that those buyers had in the Disney company, the highs and lows of setting up a brand new community and a new way of schooling their children.
I love the detail in this book, I’ve read it cover to cover twice and referred to it on countless occasions. I’m sure that many of the details and personal stories have been ‘edited’ for the enjoyment of the reader but it still gives an excellent insight into Celebration’s history.
And I guess that’s where my interest in Celebration developed into a love for this beautiful place. I love the architecture of the public buildings and the houses. I love the original uniformity and rules imposed on the buildings and early residents. Despite my need to look a little different and stand out from the crowd I actually love the idea of people’s behaviour and public appearance being strictly controlled!! And yes….I know that sounds a little like The Truman Show but isn’t that possibly why we all love Disney so much…after all it is a very uniform and structured organisation.
So, as I read and researched more about Celebration I decided that I had to organise a visit during my trip to WDW in December 2010. It’s important to clarify here that I understand that Celebration is a REAL town, with REAL people, living REAL lives. Despite only being founded in 1994 it already has a rich history and it is this which deserves to attract the genuine tourists.
During that trip I had the opportunity to spend a lovely sunny morning in the town center, a walk around some of the nearby residential streets, and a fascinating look in the Celebration History Center, which has many examples of memorabilia and press clippings covering this town’s origins and first few years.
In future posts I’d like to share some more details and pictures of my visit, and let you know why even after experiencing the reality, I still daydream about Celebration.