Guests to the American Adventure pavilion at Epcot will journey “between the pages” of history as the American Heritage Gallery opens its doors to an art exhibit representing over 400 years of African-American achievement and contribution from the Kinsey Collection.
“Re-Discovering America: Family Treasures from the Kinsey Collection,” which opens March 8, draws from an extensive collection of rare art, documents, books and artifacts amassed by philanthropists Bernard and Shirley Kinsey, who share a passion for African-American history.
Their private collection has been displayed throughout the U.S., including in the Smithsonian National Museum of American History. Approximately 40 pieces will be on display for Epcot guests at any given time on a rotating basis during the exhibit run.
“We always wanted to extend the reach of the Collection to a larger, more international and diverse audience,” explained Bernard Kinsey. “So we are delighted to be collaborating with Disney to share the stories of our remarkable ancestors.”
Overseeing the collection is the Kinseys’ son, Khalil, whose school-age curiosity inspired his parents to build their collection.
The exhibit – themed to hope, belief, courage, imagination and heritage – provides optimistic and empowering stories from American history from voices that are not commonly seen or heard. Art and artifacts pay homage to African-Americans who helped build and transform a nation. Their stories of determination and courage, from the nation’s early days to the present, are at the heart of the exhibit.
To enrich the immersive storytelling experience of the exhibit, Walt Disney Imagineers added interactive displays in which Epcot guests can deepen their knowledge of the American heritage that the Kinsey holdings represent. Epcot guests will be able to use touch screens placed throughout the exhibit to further explore the art, artifacts and history. Guest-activated lanterns will help bring the history to life, with narration provided by Academy Award-winner Whoopi Goldberg (“The View”), Diane Sawyer (“ABC World News with Diane Sawyer”), and actors Chandra Wilson & James Pickens, Jr. (“Grey’s Anatomy”), Kerry Washington (“Scandal”), Zendaya Coleman & Roshon Fegan (“Shake It Up”), China Anne McClain (“A.N.T. Farm”), Tyrel Jackson Williams (“Lab Rats”).
“We are thrilled to bring the Kinsey Collection to Epcot guests,” said Jim MacPhee, senior vice president, Walt Disney World Parks. “Epcot is such a rich cultural tapestry that it serves as the perfect showcase for this powerful collection, with its celebration of the human spirit.”
Among highlights of each themed gallery:
By age 19, Phillis Wheatley became internationally known as the first African-American ever to publish a book of poetry (1773). She wrote poetry about hope and freedom and is now known as The Mother of African American Literature. (Document on display: Phyllis Wheatley’s first book).
Other Hope Gallery highlights: Samuel Francis Smith, My Country ‘Tis of Thee lyrics (1895); “Untitled,” Hughie Lee Smith (1951); Almanack, Benjamin Banneker (1796)
Harriet Jacobs, an enslaved young black woman often called an “American Anne Frank” stayed seven years in a tiny attic until she could escape to freedom. She later chronicled her story in an autobiography. (Document on display: Harriet Jacobs’ book, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, 1862)
Other Courage Gallery highlights: Sea Island Woman, fiber art, Bisa Butler (2006); Loss, sculpture, Michael Chukes (1998);
In 1870, only seven years after Emancipation, Hiram Rhodes Revels became the first African-American to represent Mississippi in the U.S. Senate. Josiah Walls became the first African-American to represent Florida in the House of Representatives. (Document on display: “Senator Hiram Rhodes Revels Cabinet Card Photograph”)
Other Belief Gallery highlights: Buffalo Soldiers Parade Flag (1889); What Mrs. Fisher Knows About Old Southern Cooking, Abby Fisher (1881); A Negro Explorer at the North Pole, Matthew Henson book (1912) and article.
Alain Locke not only became the first African-American Rhodes scholar in 1907, but his book “The New Negro” helped inspire the Harlem Renaissance, a period in American culture that produced artists, musicians, writers and thinkers that showed the world how American greatness comes from all of its citizens. (Document on display: The Negro in Art, by Alain Locke).
Other Imagination Gallery highlights: Harmon Foundation Catalogs (1931-1935); American Beach Negro Ocean Playground, Florida – Steel plaque (1930); “Untitled” (Kadir Nelson, 1992)
History can be shared through many types of artifacts. Sometimes it’s as simple as a timeworn letter written by Carrie Kinsey (Bernard’s cousin) to President Roosevelt. Or an old sewing machine passed down through generations by Shirley’s grandmother, Susie Plummer Pooler. (Document on display: “Letter to President Roosevelt,” by Carrie Kinsey)
Other Heritage Gallery highlights: Bill of Sale-William Johnson (1832); Schedule of Over 500 Slaves (1820); Sewing Machine (1900), Susie Plummer Pooler
The American Adventure pavilion is in the heart of the World Showcase area of Epcot. “Re-Discovering America: Family Treasures from the Kinsey Collection” is included in Epcot admission. For more: http://thekinseycollection.com
Busch Gardens has welcomed its newest resident: an adorable aardvark born Tuesday, Feb. 6. The healthy baby is expected to grow to more than 120 lbs. within its first year of life.
Aardvarks are solitary by nature, and aardvark births are not common. The animal care team is very proud to announce this birth as the third baby born to parents “Izzy” and “Friz.” The baby’s sister “Adazee” was born on March 26 last year and its older brother “Zawadi” will be two years old on April 10.
The baby, whose sex is unknown at this time, is receiving primary care from its mother and additional care from members of the Busch Gardens animal care team.
Stay tuned to Busch Gardens’ Facebook and Blog to learn more about the more than 12,000 animals that call Busch Gardens Tampa home.
After a rather hectic first few weeks of the year between some personal adjustments and a very busy time at work, I needed a break. I decided it was far past time to explore Disney’s Vero Beach Resort, and went ahead and booked a solo weekend stay as it was the last Disney resort in Florida that I had not had the chance to visit.
I really didn’t know much about the resort before I went and thought I’d share some of my thoughts and experiences in case you are, like I was, unaware of the fantastic offerings this resort has.
The resort is similar to many of the Disney Vacation Club properties at Walt Disney World in that it offers deluxe studios as well as one, two and three bedroom villas that can accommodate up to 12 guests. In addition to these, the resort also has standard rooms with either a garden or an ocean view. For my stay, I opted to splurge and go with the Inn Ocean View Room since it was only slightly higher than the studio, plus I wanted the convenience of staying in the main building.
Disney’s Vero Beach Resort is about an hour and a half to two hours from Walt Disney World theme parks by car, and is a pretty easy drive on highways (some routes may include toll roads). I arrived at the resort not really having looked at many pictures or knowing what to expect of a Disney resort that wasn’t right at Walt Disney World. I was immediately welcomed by the familiar logo on the resort’s sign as well as a security guard to check me in to the parking lot. I pulled up to the porte cochere as instructed and left my vehicle there until I received further directions on where to park from the front desk.
When I stepped in to the lobby, I felt like I was stepping back in time and to a place that was very familiar to me. For those who don’t know, my background is in hospitality management, and I got my start back in high school at a four diamond resort on the coast of Maine called Inn By The Sea. Although Vero Beach is a good 1500 miles plus from that resort, there was a very comforting familiarity to it. The vibe felt like a combination of the Boardwalk and Beach Club to me and was very welcoming. Hardwood floors in the lobby are softened by rugs in the great seating areas that feature comfortable chairs for relaxing in the open four story atrium. Two themes seem to be prevalent throughout the lobby and are carried throughout the entire resort: oranges and sea turtles.
Welcome home is a greeting customary at the Disney Vacation Club resorts, but in this instance, it really felt like I was coming home, but not to one I had ever visited before. The Cast Members seemed to genuinely be inviting the guests to enjoy their stay at this, their home away from home. Arriving shortly after noon with check in not being until 4 pm, I was not expecting my room to be ready, but was very pleasantly surprised (a theme for this trip). After parking my car in the brilliantly located parking garage under the main inn, I took the elevator up to the third floor to find my room.
Full disclosure, I had a friend who had stayed at the resort a few months ago and had booked the same ocean view room. His view of the ocean was noticeable it seemed only from the balcony and then, only a sliver of blue. Having seen pictures of his view, this was honestly what I was prepared for when entering my room, but again, had luck on my side. I ended up with one of the most spectacular ocean views! This is coming from someone who spent her formative years spoiled with an ocean view from her bedroom.
I haven’t really spent much time on the Atlantic Coast of Florida, since I live on the Gulf Coast and prefer the typically warmer waters we have here on the west coast. Expecting gray or dark blue waters, perhaps tainted by my memories of the Maine coast, I was happily greeted with gorgeous turquoise water seemingly feet from my room. Again, the view was spectacular! I had, I came later to find out, one of only three rooms that have double sets of windows facing the ocean. Most of the rooms in the inn that are ocean view have one set of windows facing the water and then longer side of the room faces the grounds. Mine was the opposite. I could see the ocean from my balcony on the one side, the double set of windows in the middle on the long wall, and then also from the window on the other side above my reading nook. Fantastic!
My trip was off to an amazing start! In case I haven’t mentioned it yet, my primary objectives on this trip were rest and relaxation. The priorities, in no particular order, were to sleep, eat, read, and unwind. I took a few pictures and dumped my luggage before heading down to the pool area to grab a quick lunch at Bleachers, the counter service location open for lunch and early dinner. Since I was not eating meat, drinking soda, or partaking in an adult beverages at the time, I did a little research prior to arrival to make sure there were vegetarian offerings and I wouldn’t be stuck eating a salad every day. The menus for the restaurants looked great, so I was excited to see what they had when I actually arrived.
As is often the case, things change and menus online on third party websites are not always as reliable as you would like them to be. I read about a veggie burger that had gotten decent reviews from guests, but when I looked at the menu board didn’t see it as an option. When in doubt, ask. I did and was happy to hear they did still have them, but were phasing them out, so no guarantees whether or not they will be there on your next visit. While I was ordering I noticed the thing that to this point pretty much made my day (okay, aside from the jaw-dropping view from my bed) DOLE WHIPS!!! Again, for those who don’t know me, you may not be aware of my love of this delicious pineapple treat (Vero Beach also offered Vanilla and Orange) found at Disneyland, the Magic Kingdom and Captain Cook’s at Disney’s Polynesian Resort. Others are very well aware and have been with me on after midnight trips to acquire this great dessert/snack/breakfast/what have you. Anyhoo, I had a great lunch sitting out by the pool on a sunny afternoon with my veggie burger, fries and dole whip.
After the taxing drive (not really) and lunch, I needed to start working on my to do list. Next up was nap time! I went back to my room, on the way stopping by the front desk to make a dinner reservation for that night at Shutters, the casual table service restaurant. Before I crashed, I took a look at the recreation calendar to make sure there wasn’t anything I wouldn’t mind sleeping through. I am one to try to find the more unique offerings, and was intrigued by a wine tasting (which I wouldn’t be doing, but to investigate for journalistic research, and for future visits) and a musician who sang and played banjo on the back deck. Deciding I needed to check this out, I set an alarm to make sure I got in a good two hour nap, but allowed myself enough time to get to the activities before dinner.
Napping is seriously like one of the best things ever invented. If I could go back to my childhood and bank all that nap time I fought and didn’t want to take as a kid and cash it in now as an adult, that would be amazing … maybe a trip in the DeLorean can fix this. Back to the story at hand … I woke up sufficiently refreshed from my nap and brought out my DSLR camera to take some pictures around the resort. I discovered that there was a spa just off the lobby. Who knew? I put that in the back of my brain for not so future use. I also stopped by the desk again to pick the brains of the Cast Members to see if there was anything I should know or was missing about the resort. They told me I should go check out the recreation facilities across the street. Since A1A, the road on which the resort is located, is a relatively busy street, the resort built a tunnel under the road to safely get guests over to the other side. A tunnel!!! The only thing that would make this cooler and more like one of my favorite movies, Clue, would be if there was also a secret passage since there was already a library-like area off the lobby.
The trip across the street was well worth it! I found a beautiful lake with a dock for catch and release fishing. There is a pavilion with picnic tables and an area setup for a campfire by the shore of the lake. There are also soccer fields, walking paths, basketball and tennis courts. Equipment for most of these activities can be found by the pool, acquired from the recreation staff with your room key, and most free of charge. There are also bikes to rent and a great little 9 hole miniature golf course by the pool in addition to the waterslide, kids water play area (very jealous I couldn’t play in the pirate ship), hot tub, sauna, ping pong, and pool table. Miniature golf is only $2 a round for guests, $1 for DVC members. Then, of course, there is the beach itself. There are cabana rentals, jetskis, small boats and kayaks, as well as bodyboards and surfboards for rent.
Recreation opportunities at Disney’s Vero Beach Resort are seemingly endless! I’ve only scratched the surface with the list above. As with most DVC resorts, you have a Community Hall location with games, arts and crafts and activities for the kids primarily. They also have the standard pool games, dance party, etc. on the pool deck weather permitting.
After talking to the front desk CMs again, I learned the resort even helps take part in protecting the local wildlife with turtle watchers during certain times of the year. There are signs along paths and the beach reminding guests of the sea turtles and to be cognizant of the dangers brought by shining bright lights that can attract the turtles and potentially cause danger to the animals by misleading them away from the ocean. During the warmer months, guests can sign up to participate in watching the mother sea turtles coming in to the beach late a night to give birth to the babies.
After exploring for a bit, I settled on the back deck to listen to “Unca Banjo” play and sing. It was a cool late afternoon and it was only a nice couple from New Jersey and me enjoying the music so Unca (aka recreation CM Mike), told us great stories in between songs. I consider myself pretty well versed in the music field, but he played some songs I had never heard before, and I loved them nonetheless. It was one of those practically perfect moments that you just get lost in conversation and storytelling and great music. I will never forget that hour we spent just enjoying and living in the moment. On that note, I opted for almost the entire weekend (except when I was expecting an important text message) to leave my phone in the room. For those who know me well, I am never without my phone, but this weekend I was unplugged, much like Unca Banjo. 😉
Following the concert, dinner at Shutters was fabulous! There was a separate vegetarian menu and I opted for the Caprese El Forno Melt with portabella mushrooms, tomatoes, buffalo mozzarella, spinach, caramelized onions with a panko bread crumb crust and basil in a red pepper sauce with balsamic vinegar and great fresh rolls served with Mickey-shaped butter. After dinner I returned to my room to read, something I hadn’t done in book form in quite some time.
The other activity I wanted to make sure I caught was the nighttime campfire and singalong with s’mores. Heading out to the campfire after adding an extra layer of clothing, I found I was the first guest to arrive. I was greeted by two great recreation CMs, Josh and Maria. We talked for a bit before the other guests showed up, and was amazed to find out the s’mores were free! And unlimited! Maria said the record was held by one guest who ate 28 in one sitting. I opted to be a bit more modest and had one, followed by a perfectly burnt marshmallow. But first, to earn your food, you must first sing, and dance, and let it all out. Josh and Maria led some traditional camp songs, even a Disney song or two, and a couple I wasn’t sure I’d heard before. He played guitar, and when it was over, Josh encouraged me to come back the next night to see how another CM, Trey, put his own spin on the singalong without an accompanying instrument. I agreed I would return Saturday night, and retreated to my room to read before an early bedtime.