You know...any sane, well adjusted, responsible adult would come home from an exhausting week long trip to California, get some rest, and continue on with their life. But, I’m apparently none of those things and I’m definitely not a casual fan. So three days after landing back in Tampa, I once again woke up before the sun to drive somewhere...for Hanson.
Every year, Hanson plays at the EPCOT Food and Wine festival as part of their Eat to the Beat concert series. They play for three days (three short concerts each day) and they give a beer seminar the morning of the last day. I went last year and it’s hilarious looking back on that experience compared to the one I had this year. I wish I could tell that KT about the absolutely insane three days that she was going to live in a year. But I’m getting ahead of myself!
I scooped Sarah up on my way out of town and we made our way to Orlando. We wanted to get to the park at 9am to secure our spots at the American Gardens Theatre. EPCOT is a unique experience from any other Hanson concert because you get to sit in the venue when you get there instead of lining up for hours on end BUT you also have to leave your hard earned front row spot as soon as the first short concert ends. So anyway, Sarah and I quickly learned the the back part of the park doesn’t open until 11am (last year I didn’t get to the park til about 2pm so I had no idea about this little detail). So...we waited. At this point, I had lots of experience waiting. My entire life for a week was waiting! Bring it on!
When the back section of the park finally opened, a crowd had formed and a hoard of full grown women were running towards the venue so, as a person who is very competitive but only about very niche things (I don’t care who wins at board games but if someone in my gym class gets heavier dumbbells than me, you better believe I’m switching mine out) I started running too. I’m not proud, but I also play to win. We secured our front row, Taylor side spots and hunkered down for the relatively short wait (11am-5:30pm?? That’s nothing!). Also, we were at Disney World!! So there was food to eat, drinks to have, bathrooms galore, and if we needed to stretch our legs we could go visit Germany (okay that was just me, I LOVE GERMANY).
By the end of the three day extravaganza, we had our system down to an exact science. On that first day, we met up with two of our line friends from St. Pete (Robin and Meredith) and ended up spending the whole trip with them. The second day, I was NOT kidding around, and Meredith and I sprinted to the venue in order to get the best seats in the house (shout out to Jamarcus for getting me in shape!). We knew what we needed to do in order to get in line for each mini-concert, and find the best seats, and haul ass after each set was done. But when we weren’t running around like crazy people, we were hanging out with other fans who were doing the same exact thing as us, and laughing so hard it hurt.
The third day brought the morning of the Beer Seminar, and let me tell you, this might rank as the single most craziest thing I have ever done for this band. Sarah and I woke up around 5:30am (at this point my body was really not having it so I was trying my best to rally that morning! Surprisingly, I felt much better after my morning JOG lol) and went downstairs to get breakfast for our crew. We ended up having a breakfast picnic on the concrete outside the entrance to EPCOT, which was great because we needed to fuel. I felt like the stakes were so high, and...so did everyone. It’s hard not to get swept up in it all. Anyway, the seminar was held at the festival center and only the first 100 people to get in line were allowed in. Even though someone tried to do the Hanson tradition of numbering the line before we got into the park, once the gates were open, it was every man for himself. Trust me when I say that I wish this wasn’t what it was like in this fandom, seeing as we’re all in our mid-twenties to forties at this point, but hey, it keeps us young, right? All four of us made it into line for the seminar after our nice, relaxing morning SPRINT. The entire line was comprised of the people we had spent the whole three days with, but the insanity was worth it. The seminar was awesome and we all got to have some individual time with the guys and get pictures with them. Taylor remembered me from the California follow and was absolutely delighted to see me, which made me feel pretty cool, I’m not gonna lie. He made sure I was going to be at the shows that night.
Um...yeah, I was gonna be there.
The rest of the day was a delight, and I was once again reminded of why I love this band and the experiences they have brought me (or put me through, depending on how you want to look at it). I was surrounded by people I met through this music, laughing so hard I was crying, spending the day at Disney World, coasting on the feeling of talking to the musicians that I admire the most. So yeah, I had to run and get really hoarse and be exhausted and feel like it was a life or death situation when they opened the gates. But...isn’t that what we’re all kind of wishing for? A life that is exciting and risky and significant? A life that brings you joy so big that you feel like you’re going to explode?
All I know is when they started playing “Penny and Me” during the last concert of the night, I absolutely dissolved. I know it was partly due to exhaustion, partly due to the overwhelming gratitude I felt, and partly due to the fact that now my autumn of Hanson was officially drawing to a close. I cried so hard I almost choked, but that’s beside the point. They always dedicate that song to the travellers in the audience, and I did my fair share of travelling this fall. After Penny ended, they transitioned to “I Was Born” which made me weepy in a different way. Taylor did an abridged version of his speech from tour, and I just stood there watching, tears in my eyes, soaking it all in.
So, I guess I should probably wrap this up since I’m once again getting emotional. This fall I did something I’d never done before, and I followed a band on tour. It came with a lot of crazy and not so pretty experiences, but it also came with friends, memories, and definitely the best of times. Hanson, I’ll love you til the end, forever and a day. Thank you for everything.
Peace, Love, and MmmHops,