Epcot – Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow – is home of the International Food and Wine Festival which this year ran from September 25 to November 8. In addition to foods and wines from around the world, there are seminar and demonstrations, festival shopping and the famous “Eat to the Beat” concert series. Musical guests included such greats as Richard Marx, Billy Ocean, Sister Hazel, Kool & the Gang, and of course, the Traveling Circus’ favorite artist, Taylor Hicks!
Two nights of the festival, Sunday, November 1 and Monday, November 2, were dedicated to the music of Taylor Hicks. Six shows over two nights with each show about 30 minutes in length. Six songs per show, including Taylor’s famous tagging and dancing! Some old favorites and some new songs to entertain the masses were part of each show’s set list.
And speaking of masses! As I pass the line for the first show on Sunday night, the line stretched for as far as I could see – I heard it went all the way down to Germany! I waited outside the barrier ropes at the back and just hoped I could find a place to park at the back of the America Gardens Theatre that backs up to the World Showcase lagoon opposite the American Adventure Pavilion. In just a few minutes the rope where I was came down and I found a place at the back to park my scooter.
As I scanned the seating area in front me, the benches quickly filled up as fans new and old gathered to see and hear Taylor Hicks perform. One of the things I found great about Epcot and the America Gardens Theatre was the efficiency in clearing the staging area and setting up for the next show. People lined up quickly and once the line started to move, the crowd quickly found seats and others waiting to sit down were able to get in. Each show was probably filled between 75-90% capacities depending on the particular show. And probably the times at which I looked around, which was generally before Taylor took the stage.
Each show was different – as only Taylor Hicks can make them. There were standards at each performance like Taylor’s last single, “Seven Mile Breakdown” and “Nineteen” which is to be released to the Armed Forces Radio on Veteran’s Day. New for me to hear was a Marshall Tucker cover, “Can’t You See”. I enjoyed Taylor’s version of the song. But then, I tend to enjoy whatever song Taylor chooses to sing.
Other songs included “I Live on a Battlefield”, “Use Me” (Bill Withers), Taylor’s own “The Deal”, “What’s Right is Right”, “Rockin’ Pneumonia & the Boogie Woogie Flu” as well as others. The audience seemed appreciative of the music, and the Soul Patrol was all over the place, jockeying for the good seats from which to watch their musical leader. I was just happy to find a place that would let me remain on my scooter and shoot some good pictures which you will find linked below.
Monday afternoon before the Eat to the Beat Concerts, I decided to check out the American Idol Experience at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Rumor had it that Taylor Hicks might make a showing at the one of the performances. I went to be there for 1:00 but that show was cancelled. A little bird told me to wait because Taylor would be there at 2:00, so I decided to hang around a bit longer. The wait paid off! Taylor came out for about 90 seconds to plug “Grease”, his latest CD, “The Distance” and to encourage those competing at the exhibit.
For the next 30 minutes, we were entertained by two gentlemen from England and a 17-year old from the States. The young man won the 2:00 competition and was to come back to compete at 7:00 pm. The winner of the final show of the day would receive an ‘ultimate golden ticket’ that would entitle the person to jump the line at any future American Idol tryout in the city of their choice.
Each day as I made my way to the America Gardens Theatre and then out of the park, I stopped by the various food vendors to sample such delicacies as Crawfish Etouffee from New Orleans, Rock Shrimp Ceviche from Santiago, Chile, and a Greek Salad from Athens, Greece. It made for expensive dining but a great way to sample foods from around the world. After all, if it weren’t for the festival, Taylor Hicks would not have been at Epcot and neither would the Traveling Circus either.
At the end of each day I thought about the other meaning of Epcot – Every Person Comes Out Tired – as explained by one of the bus drivers. He was right – I was pooped at the end of each day!
To all the Soul Patrol that I met for the first time and to others I had met previously, it was great seeing so many fans there to support Taylor Hicks. I had a lot of fun sitting with a number of you and meeting you by the various food vendors to share a bite. Hopefully, we’ll meet again and enjoy some more blue-eyed soul from our favorite soul man, Mr. Taylor Hicks!