Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Trip 4: How pie changed my life

Parks visited: 4

Several years ago I began watching Food Network Challenge, and every year I was quite fond of watching the pie challenge from the Great American Pie Festival. It happens to take place every year in Celebration, Florida, which is just over an hour's drive from where I live.  I never gave the festival much thought...I never knew when it happened, didn't feel like making the drive, excuses, excuses, blah blah blah.

Last year was a little bit different.  That time I actually heard commercials for the festival on the radio.  I did a little research into the city of Celebration and decided it would be simple enough to find.  My work schedule had me off weekends, so I knew that wouldn't be an issue.  The only thing holding me back was...well, me. 

For years I have been lazy.  Can't help it.  Weekends come and find me on the couch watching TV, in front of the computer searching for random nothingness to hold my attention, anything.  Motherhood has added its own challenges.  Do you know how hard it is to watch YouTube videos when your 5-year-old is at your elbow, asking you to make lunch?  My laziness when I was alone, or when Olivia was a lumpy little thing that slept a lot, was one thing.  But when she got to the age where she could tell me how bored she was, I knew it was time to start changing my ways.

Enter the Great American Pie Festival.  Robert was working on the particular day I was interested in going, so it was a mommy-and-me day for Olivia and me.  We were up early, out the door, and on our way.  The drive was pleasant, the weather was beautiful, and I had no idea what to expect.  What I ended up discovering was pie, and lots of it. The GAPF is famous for, among other things, the Never-Ending Pie Buffet.  A ten dollar bracelet for me, and free entry for then-4-year-old Olivia, and we were in pie heaven.  All your favorite professional bakeries serving all your favorite pies, all free, and with free ice cream, toppings, and coffee.  Hello, when did I die and go to heaven?

Oddly enough, I don't even like pie that much.

But that's kind of the point, isn't it?  I had to do something out of the ordinary to break out of my ordinary habits.  I had to just get in the car and drive, and it was like turning on the light in the deepest dungeon.  Olivia and I had fun.  Lots of it.  We walked around eating pie and ice cream, played in the kids' area, geocached a bit (and even met some fellow geocachers in the process, which is what happens when you sign a log with 'mmm pie' and they see it, realize you're at the pie festival too, and call around to all their geocaching friends until they find your cell number and call you to say Hi), enjoyed the beautiful city that Disney built, and spent a much better day than any day on my couch.

After our day spent eating pie, there was no holding me back.  My time on the computer became dedicated to finding local festivals, observances, shows...anything off the wall that looked a little fun.  We haven't made it out every weekend since then, but the weekends we've made it out have been fun like no other I've had.  And, I've gotten to spend quality time with my baby girl, and I can't ask for any greater gift than that.

So now, a year has gone by.  The countdown for the 2010 Great American Pie Festival finally ended at zero, and last Sunday was the day.  I had to go.  It changed my life, and returning to the festival was my way of thanking...um, the gods of pie?...for inspiring a great year.  To make it even better, I had even won two tickets to the buffet, so my excitement level was off the charts.
Chris came over around 10, and the four of us piled into the car for the ride to Celebration.  It was just as I remembered it from the previous year...the scenery, the vendors, the crowds...the pie.  We collected our entry bracelets and quickly grabbed our first slices of pie (apple for me, cherry for Olivia, I think lemon for Rob, and I didn't even see what Chris grabbed).  The sun was beating down on us, but we managed.  Back and forth from the buffet to the kids' area, buffet, play, buffet, play.  There was a break for real food (Greek) for lunch, but the theme stuck with us:  Eat Pie.

And just like that, it was over.  One year of excitement since my eyes were first opened to the glorious possibilities around us, and how did this year's festival measure up?  It was outstanding.  I got to spend a gorgeous day in a beautiful place with the people I love.  We could have been at a car wash and I still would have been happy, but car wash vending machines don't have pie.

And pie makes my heart happy.

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