Today in Disney history, in 1994, the first-ever EPCOT Flower and Garden Festival ended. We’re sharing what the now-iconic festival was like during its first year.
When you think of modern EPCOT, it feels like a festival is always happening. At the beginning of the year, we have the EPCOT Festival of the Arts, followed shortly after by the EPCOT Flower and Garden Festival. In the middle of summer, the EPCOT Food and Wine Festival begins, running through November up to the EPCOT Festival of the Holidays. And then we start all over again. But, the year-round festival of EPCOT wasn’t always the case for the park. When they first began, the festivals lasted for a much shorter amount of time. We’re traveling back in time to this day in history in 1994, when the first EPCOT Flower and Garden Festival came to an end on June 5th, 1994.
The First EPCOT Flower and Garden Festival
The first EPCOT Flower and Garden Festival took place from April 29th to June 5th, 2024, running for just 38 days. By comparison, the 2023 version of the festival runs for a whopping 126 days. Nowadays, the festival will take place from early spring all the way through mid-summer instead of just in the spring.
A Focus on Gardens and Education
While today’s festival places a significant emphasis on the food and Outdoor Kitchens, for the first festival, guests came to admire the gardens, topiaries, and entertainment for this shorter festival.
An Orlando Sentinel article from 1994 gives a look back in time at exactly what the festival looked like. They shared that the festival included daily tours of the EPCOT gardens, with a behind-the-scenes view of a tree farm and nursery. The festival included guest speakers, including Roger Swain from Victory Garden and ethnobotanist Mark Plotkin.
The festival brought “an extra 165,000 annuals…planted in more than 250 beds” around World Showcase, with a focus on storytelling using plants. This included greenery added to the Mexico Pavilion brought in from Mexico and white impatiens, geraniums, and poinsettias around the Norway Pavilion to create the look of Scandinavia.
Over the France Pavilion, the Florida Federation of Garden Clubs provided cut-flower arrangements throughout the festival, with each one taking inspiration from a French painting. The process switched up on the weekend of May 20th to 22nd, 1994, and the group set up easels to paint in the gardens, with the newly created artwork later sold. Katy Moss Warner, general manager of horticulture for Disney World at the time, told the Orlando Sentinel that the process was intended “to show people how to extend the beauty of their gardens indoors.”
While there’s no doubt the EPCOT Flower and Garden Festival has kept its core values over time, the first-ever festival certainly had its differences from the one we know today.