Postcards from Florida

Disney's Epcot offers a tradition framed by candlelight

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Candlelight Processional at Disney World's Epcot

Hundreds of voices, a 52-member orchestra and the Voices of Liberty help create Disney's Candlelight Processional. (WALT DISNEY CO.)

Compared with my socially active colleagues in the Orlando Sentinel's intrepid Theme Park Rangers, I don't find too many reasons to venture inside our world-class attractions.

I made an exception on a recent vacation and scooted out to Epcot to witness the Candlelight Processional, one of Disney's most revered and lovely annual traditions. It was a time-warp experience, because I hadn't seen the show since the long-ago days when I worked at the park.

In those days, the performance — with its orchestra, celebrity narrators and hundreds of voices — was based on Main Street USA in the Magic Kingdom, around the circle next to the train station. I worked on the boats in transportation at the time and the vessels weren't permitted to operate during the show, lest the air horns disrupt the mood.

So the other pilots and I would stroll over to Main Street and watch, night after night. Nostalgia is a ruling influence in my existence and I was warmly attached to my recollections of the show in the quaint confines of Walt Disney's vision of archetypal, small-town America.

Epcot, quite frankly, has never held the same attraction. So, despite the obvious advantages of a proper stage at the America Gardens Theatre, I was not prepared to let go of my Magic Kingdom memories.

Until now.

At Epcot, the Processional is elevated by a stage that offers evocative lighting and colorfully decorated wings that allow the six herald trumpeters to blow fanfares almost literally above the heads of the audience members. And the presence of the Voices of Liberty, out of Epcot's American Experience, elegantly embellishes the power of the massive choir.

(Epcot didn't even exist when I was a Disney employee. Yikes!)

Only in the logistics of the processional itself did the Epcot version fail to match the predecessor. The march from behind the American Adventure is a little unceremonious and not that apparent to the audience. I used to love watching that choir stroll along Main Street.

Shows are at 5, 6:45 and 8:15 p.m. daily through Dec. 30. Prices vary and packages are available. Make reservations if you expect to eat at one of the World Showcase restaurants. Details: disneyworld.com.
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