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The Land of Oz garden & play area is a colorful addition to the 2013 edition of Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival

The Land of Oz garden & play area is a colorful addition to the 2013 edition of Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival

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You've probably already seen the pictures from Sunday's Princess Half Marathon event at the Walt Disney World Resort. Where 26,000 runners raced through Epcot and the Magic Kingdom during the early morning hours ...


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... only to have Rachel Booth of Mandeville, LA wind up as the winner for the second year in a row. Completing this 13.1 mile course in 1:17:38, 33 seconds faster than her 2012 pace.


Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

But what you may not have seen was how WDW cast members actually got the Resort ready for Disney's Princess Half Marathon. They had to block off access to half of Epcot's parking lot late last week.


Photo by Jim Hill

Which made parking at this theme park on Thursday, Friday & Saturday something of a challenge. With cars temporarily being parked wherever there happened to be a bit of open space around Epcot, up to and including all of the green space outside of this futuristic theme park.

And speaking of green ... Members of Walt Disney World's horticultural staff were out in force late last week, clipping and trimming ...


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... watering and planting ...


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... as they got this theme park ready for the 20th annual International Flower & Garden Festival. Though we're still a week or more out from the official opening of this Presented-by-HGTV event, a few of the brand-new additions for the 2013 edition have been at least partially unveiled.


Photo by Jim Hill

Take -- for example -- the Land of Oz ...


Photo by Jim Hill

Given that this all-new garden and children's play area draws its inspiration from that upcoming Walt Disney Pictures release, "Oz The Great and Powerful," if you'd like this particular International-Flower-and-Garden-Festival experience to unfold just as the Sam Raimi film does, might I suggest that you enter from the Future World side of things ...


Photo by Jim Hill

... where you'll find yourself on the midway at the Baum Bros. Circus. Here, you can laugh yourself silly during a visit to the Fun House ...


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... or try your hand at a game of skill with the Pie Toss ...


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... where -- if you win -- you may be awarded a "Oz The Great and Powerful" pin featuring a picture of the Wicked Witch of the West ...


Photo by Jim Hill

... or a seed pack for Yellow Marigolds. Which will then allow you to plant a Yellow Brick Road of your very own once you get back home.


Photo by Jim Hill

Mind you, if you actually find yourself following in Oz The Great and Powerful's footsteps ...


Photo by Jim Hill

... you'll eventually find yourself in the Merry Old Land of Oz. With the transition point between these two very different portions of this International-Flower-&-Garden-Festival themed garden coming by way of a colorful field of glass poppies that self-taught artisan Craig Mitchell Smith created expressly for this year's event.


Photo by Jim Hill

There are 63 blooms in this poppy field. Each of them made out of hand-cut pieces of glass, with each flower then taking upwards of four days to assemble.

The look of this garden-full-of-colorful-glass-flowers echoes the look of the world that Oscar Zoroaster Phadrig Isaac Norman Henkel Emmannuel Ambroise Diggs first encounters when his balloon crash-lands in Oz ...


Photo by Jim Hill

And speaking of balloons ... The designers of the children's-play-area component of the Land of Oz garden did something very clever with the envelope of this balloon. You see, they draped it over a set of wooden patio furniture ...


Photo by Jim Hill

... thus creating a shady place for parents to hang while their children clamber all over the Cozy Domes® ...


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... and Evos® play systems that have been set up along this walkway which leads to World Showcase Lagoon.


Photo by Jim Hill

And speaking of World Showcase, were you continue around that 40-acre lagoon last week and made your way to American Gardens Theatre, you would have discovered the latest piece of Disney Limited Time Magic programming ...


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... where -- in honor of Presidents Day Weekend -- the Voices of Liberty had slipped away from their usual performing space indoors at the American Adventure pavilion ...


Photo by Jim Hill

... and were now outside onstage at the American Gardens Theatre, singing an assortment of patriot songs. Among them Woody Gutherie's "This Land is Your Land" and Lee Greenwood's "God Bless the USA."


Photo by Jim Hill

This Limited Time Magic event ended with the audience on its feet as the Voices of Liberty sang our National Anthem.


Photo by Jim Hill

Given that these Limited Time Magic concerts full of American song were being presented just as the Land of Oz (which is based on a motion picture that draws its inspiration from L Frank Baum's collection of American  fairytales) was soft-opening ...


Photo by Jim Hill

... last week was a very interesting / patriotic time to get a sneak peek at this year's edition of the Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival. Which will run at that WDW theme park from March 6th through May 19th.

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