Epcot’s International Flower & Garden Festival: What to expect

BAY LAKE, Fla. — Spring is in the air at the Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival.

The annual event features a variety of spring-themed dishes and drinks, colorful gardens, topiaries and live entertainment.

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There are more than 20 festival exclusive outdoor kitchens set up around the World Showcase, including the brand new Epcot Farmers Feast.

“It’s all about the vegetables, all about the freshness and you know, the flowers and what we can grow in our backyard,” sous chef Daniel Contreras said.

Many of the ingredients are sourced from Central Florida farms and businesses.

“One of the things we love to do with this festival -- and all of our festivals in general -- is source local products, so a lot of our produce that the chefs are using to create these dishes are locally grown,” said Rick DeCicco, Walt Disney World’s proprietor of festivals. “For our beverages, we source and actually work with a lot of our breweries in Central Florida to create custom brews.

What truly makes the festival special are the iconic topiaries. There are nearly 100 of them scattered throughout the park.

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Each one involves several textures of plants, which are carefully placed onto a metal frame. Many of them are modeled after popular Disney characters, including those from “The Lion King” and “Toy Story.”

Once the topiaries are ready to go and the festival begins, a special horticulture team works at Epcot for the length of the event to maintain the figures daily.

“It takes several hundred hours to complete one topiary,” said Debbie Mola Mickler, of Disney’s horticulture department. “It takes hours each morning before the park opens to maintain the topiaries.”

This year’s event also features a food stroll, a scavenger hunt and exclusive merchandise that focuses on sustainable and renewable resources.

The festival runs through July 5. Entrance is included with the purchase of admission to Epcot and a park reservation.