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Never mind about Disney's Beauty and the Beast. Meet blogger in a bog

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Never mind about Disney's Beauty and the Beast. Meet blogger in a bog

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As a child growing up in Massachusetts, I vividly remember these family road trips that we'd take in the Fall.  Where -- as we'd zoom along the highway, headed for the Bay State's South Shore for some family function -- I'd occasionally catch a glimpse of a cranberry bog.

Now you have to understand that -- when Autumn comes to New England and you have a pond filled with bright red berries that's then surrounded by a forest where the leaves have turned ...

... you don't need to be Walt Disney to recognize a Wonderful World of Color.

It was moments like that launched my fascination with cranberry bogs and how picturesque they could be. Which is why -- back when I was in the Army in the mid-1980s and was then assigned to write travel pieces about attractions that were located in cranberry country (EX: Edaville Railroad or King Richard's Faire down in South Carver, MA) -- I'd always build in a little extra time so that I could then wander the backroads. See if I could find a particularly pretty bog that was framed by the Fall colors and then get some shots.

Copyright Ocean Spray Cranberries, Inc. All rights reserved

Which is why  -- in the Fall of 2010, when Ocean Spray and the Walt Disney Company announced that they'd be teaming to create a  cranberry bog exhibit for the 2011 edition of Epcot's International Food & Wine Festival -- I'm almost embarrassed to admit how excited I was about all this.

I mean, on September 30, 2011 (i.e. the day this exhibit officially opened to the public), a full hour before Epcot officially opened to the public, I was already bogside. Quizzing the folks who'd actually set up this temporary exhibit about how they expected to keep all 1500 pounds of cranberries that were now on display in the hot Florida sun  from spoiling / rotting in the heat.

Copyright Ocean Spray Cranberries, Inc.
All rights reserved

Well, as it turns out, the people in WDW's Horticultural Department had conducted a rather unscientific test. Earlier in the year, they had set up a kiddie pool backstage at Epcot and then filled it with cranberries and water. And after monitoring this kiddie pool over a couple of weeks, they then determined that the cranberry was a surprisingly hardy fruit and could easily stand up to what the Florida sun could dish out.

Anyway ... The folks at Ocean Spray noticed that I seemed inordinately interested in their cranberry bog exhibit at Epcot's International Food & Wine Festival. Which is why I guess -- as they were prepping the 2012 version of this exhibit -- they then reached out and said "You know, we're thinking about doing something a little different this year to help kick off this year's Food & Wine.  We're thinking about inviting a few folks to come by the Park that night to take part in a cocktail party that we'll be holding INSIDE of the bog. I don't supposed you'd be interested in ... "

Photo by Angela Ragno

I didn't even let the Ocean Spray marketing rep finish her question. I just said "I'm there. Just tell me where and when I need to be."

Which is why Angela Ragno and I were at Epcot this past Friday night. Though the invitation said 7 p.m., we were there at 6:30 p.m. just so Angela & I could then watch them set up.

Photo by Jim Hill

At some point, the event attendees were ushered into a temporary holding area where we served all sorts of cranberry-related drinks and nibblies.

Photo by Jim Hill

Then Larry Martin, the Vice President of Global Marketing for Ocean Spray, stepped forward and made a few opening remarks ...

Photo by Jim Hill

... And after that, it was time for the first group of 10 to head on over to the bog exhibit. Where -- after we all stepped out of our shoes & socks and then grabbed a pair of cranberry-red knee socks ...

Photo by Jim Hill

... and some waders ...

Photo by Jim Hill

... it was time to suit up.

Photo by Angela Ragno

I'm not going to lie to you, folks. It was something of a struggle to squeeze all of my bulk into those Size 11 waders. But I did it. And the next thing I knew, I was standing knee-deep in water, sipping on  a cranberry fizz as I waded through 1500 pounds of floating fruit.  Needless to say, it was kind of a surreal experience.

That said, I did get to talk with a cranberry grower from my old home state of Massachusetts who then walked me through the history of this fruit (Here's kind of a fun fact. The cranberry was originally called the craneberry. Mostly because when the craneberry bushes flowered in the Spring, the little white flowers which form on each bud sort of look like a crane) as well as teaching me the proper way to wield the tools that are used to harvest cranberries in the Fall.

Photo by Angela Ragno

I know, I know. People go to the Disney theme parks because they want to experience all of the multi-million dollar rides, shows and attractions that they can find there. But as for me? I gotta tell you that wading around in that faux cranberry bog, sipping on a cocktail while dozens of tourists snapped pictures of all the silly bloggers in that bog last Friday night had to be one of the funniest / most bizarre things that I've ever done. Which perhaps explains the broad grin on my face in the photo below.

Photo by Angela Ragno

Anywho ... Thanks to the nice folks at Ocean Spray and Walt Disney Parks & Resorts for this one-of-a-kind invite. After decades of driving by cranberry bogs and stopping to take pictures, to finally get the chance to pull on a pair of waders and then actually go for a stroll inside of one -- especially while knocking back a cocktail -- was definitely a kick.

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  • Thought this would be a silly little story but, dang, that looks like fun.

  • Journey of the bog, new attraction coming to EPCOT in 2013

  • So this is what Jim means when he tells us that he's getting bogged down by his work for the website? (Rimshot) Thank you, I'll be here all week! Be sure to tip your waitresses.

  • Glad to hear you had fun!

  • What a great one-of-a-kind experience!  But if that's your broad grin, you're going to have to work on that before you can play Santa for any grandkids someday.

  • I guess that's one way to chern a bog!

  • As a person born and raised in Massachusetts....let me just say....Edaville Railroad!!!!

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