Sunday, September 23, 2007

Reflections of Magic part 3

Ok, one more mystery filled image of the Castle and one more part to my “Night of Joy” commentary.

Funny Story
As my cousin, Brittany and I arrived back at my car at the closing of Night of Joy 2007, we were extremely tired from standing and walking all day. As I climbed into my black 2000 Mustang, I overheard a woman’s voice say something like, “I don’t believe it”! Not long after I close the door, I hear a wrap on my window. I look out and to my surprise, I see my friend, Alexis, standing beside my car. So, I open the door to exchange “hellos”. Lex says that she has seen me multiple times that day and was beginning to feel like a stalker. She explains that she got behind me on the highway during the trip into the park that day and also spotted me at the Pirates of the Caribbean ride as well! I assured her that I never even saw her. I then proceeded to introduce her to my younger cousin, Brittany and vise versa. We then said our goodbyes and headed home.

Once I got back to Lakeland, my cell phone finally told me that I had a text message and voicemail (I sometimes cannot get good reception at theme parks). I had not had my phone on that night, so I wouldn’t had known that anyone had called me while in the park. Upon listening to the messages, I found that Lex had tried calling while in the park, but of course, I was not able to return her call anyway. This only added to Lex’s suspicion that I was trying to ignore her for some reason.

The next day, Alexis calls me. I then find out more detail of just how good of an accidental “spy” or “Ninja” that she was the day before. She proceeds to tell me that not only was she behind me on I-4, but that she had actually pulled up along side and honked her horn at me, but I did not even notice!

She then tells me that while in line for the Pirate ride, she actually came up behind me and touched my poncho, but I did not even feel a thing. After all, she was touching a bulky plastic covering. I told her that she should have grabbed my shoulder or something. I would have felt that. I think it had become a game to her at that point though.

She continues to let me know that she even rode the same ride boat during “Pirates” as Britt and I. We were in the front seat, Lex was in the back. Keep in mind that this boat is only about twelve feet long. I told her that she should have yelled out during the ride to get my attention. Once the ride was over, she said that her companions were taking their time getting off the ride and that she did not get a chance to catch up to me.

Then there was the phone call from her that I did not receive in the park, thus couldn’t return. All this led to her feeling a little paranoid that I was ignoring her for some odd reason. It just seemed too amazing that I had not noticed her in all those chance encounters that day. Encounters that I had no idea were even taking place. I assured her of this as we had a good laugh. What I did know, was that we now had a funny story to tell.

I hope you enjoyed my images and commentary from Night of Joy 2007.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Reflections of Magic part 2

The rain eventually subsided and after a few more rides, it was time to go see Mark Schultz perform in Fantasyland at 9:30pm. This would be my eighth time in the past six years that I’ve seen him play live. I guess you could say I’m a fan? When we got to the stage with 30 minutes to spare, there were already a multitude waiting to hear Mark. With five albums filled with Christian radio smash hit after hit, this was an example of how his music has touched many hearts and lives.

As we stood, waiting in our moderately good spot amongst the crowd, it just so happened that his song, “You are a Child of Mine”, was played by the radio station that was broadcasting through out the park that night. As the crowd began to sing along, I leaned over and said to Brittany, “I hope this isn’t the first song on his set list to play.” Brittany agreed that that probably wouldn’t be good since we’ve all just heard it.

Before too long, it was time for the concert to begin. After being introduced, Mark came out with an acoustic guitar (an instrument second only to his piano in this song writer’s repertoire) while being backed up by his band. I listened carefully to try and distinguish what song he was about to play since I know all of them. I said to Brittany, “I think he’s going to do it”, referring to “Child of Mine”, the song we had just heard on the radio. Sure enough, that’s the song he opened with. Actually, it was very cool that he did. The fact that we all just heard it had no bearing on its impact.

This being Brittany’s first Schultz concert, I could tell that she was quickly getting into it. Near the end, Mark performed one of my favorite songs of his, “I Am the Way”. His first ever single that talks about how Christ is “the Way”. My favorite lyric in the song is, “When you’re down / look around / and you’ll see / I Am with You“. After that song, Mark began to mess around on the keys momentarily, playing an unrecognizable tune as if he was deciding what song to do next. He appears to nod his head as if agreeing with himself and then leads into my most favorite tune of his, “He Will Carry Me”. At one point, Mark stops singing during the chorus and lets the audience sing a few lines. As with most all of his songs that night, the lyrics were already on the lips of the crowd including me.

Upon finishing his set, Mark climbs down off the stage and into the crowd. As he proceeded to shake hands, give high fives and hugs, the massive crowd began to push towards him. He had made mention during the show that he wished he was down there amongst all of us and now he was doing just that. Pretty soon I noticed two Disney security guards make their way to him and begin to escort him through the sea of humanity. Mark had good intentions, but he had gotten himself in a little too deep. The guards led him out and away from the Mob.

Much like most of the crowd who were pushing in to talk with Mark or grab a picture, I would have liked to had shared with him a little of how his music has touched my life. I know that it would had been difficult to get his full attention there in that mob anyway.

My cousin, Brittany, and I then went over to the stage in front of Cinderella Castle to see “newsboys”. A concert that was sure to be exciting, fun and inspirational. This would be my fifth time seeing them live. Unfortunately, we ended up having a bad spot in the crowd where neither of us could really see that well through the other people standing in front of us. This was mainly because of the slight incline that we were standing on. Add that to being squashed in between people as if in a can of sardines after standing on your feet for most of the day. I did get to hear them play my most favorite song of theirs, “Something Beautiful”, but I was only distracted by not being able to see or move that well. So, as you can image, this was my least favorite newsboys show.

I have a little bit more story left to tell you of that night, but that will have to wait until my next post.

One of the things I like about the image I captured above, is the glowing window. It’s kind of mysterious, don’t you think?

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Reflections of Magic part 1

The second evening of “Night of Joy” (Saturday September 8, 2007) was a fun experience as well. However, I did not take my camera that night, but rather took my younger cousin, Brittany, who is 15. We headed to the park around 3:00pm which would put us in the park around 4:00pm. This was the time that Disney was allowing Night of Joy attendees to enter the park. The rest of the park guests inside who did not have Night of Joy tickets would have to leave by 6:00pm. The concerts would be beginning at 7:30pm that evening. There were only two artists that I really wanted to see that night, Mark Schultz at 9:30pm and newsboys at 11:30pm. The reason for going in so early was to allow Britt and I time to enjoy some of the rides before the concerts.

During the drive on I-4, we went through a patch of hard rain which subsided when we got closer to Disney. Once on the premises, we found a place to park, and began looking for a tram to come and take us to the monorail station. It wasn’t long though, until we began to feel rain drops falling on our heads. I told Brittany that I had a Poncho (from a Night of Joy a few years ago) in my trunk and an umbrella. The poncho is transparent with a Mickey Mouse printed on the back. At first, I suggested that Britt take the poncho and that I’d carry the umbrella. But, after Britt kindly refused to wear the Poncho because she said they bothered her when she wore them, I gave her the black umbrella just as the rain began to pour down hard upon us.

There still wasn’t a tram in site, but thankfully, we weren’t that far from the monorail station, so we just walked. As others walked past us, getting so soaked it looked as if they had taken a shower with their clothes on, we were staying relatively dry. Only my freshly shaved head was getting another washing, because the hood on the old poncho was no longer in working order. I tried putting it up over my head, but it didn’t seem to work quite right. Brittany observed and informed me that it was ripped. Damage probably done from years in the hot trunk. All Brittany had to make sure of was that she held the umbrella in such a way as to not get her “Sponge Bob” square back-pack wet that she was toting behind her.

After we arrived at the Magic Kingdom via monorail, we stepped out into a massive crowd of Night of Joy attendees that were trying to wait out the rain under the station’s pavilion. As for Britt and I, we were going to brave the storm with our protective rain gear. The only thing I wasn’t ready for, was the mini lake that was forming at the bottom of the ramp as we exited the station. Apparently, the drainage system isn’t that well engineered at that particular part of the grounds, which came as a surprise being on Disney property…everything there is supposed to be “Magical”! At first I hesitated, then I just went for it, taking high steps…as if that was going to help. But, it didn’t help at all. The water was at least ankle high and my feet were getting soaked. Brittany was wearing sandals, so it didn’t really bother her that much. She was just trying not to slip, because her sandals lacked good traction on the wet pavement.

After Britt and I went through the ticket area, we took refuge under the train station. While there, I took off my sneakers and rung out my socks. We then waited the monsoon out on the second floor of the train station. This vantage point over-looks “Main Street USA” which leads up to Cinderella Castle. A view I’ve experienced before when I was even younger than Brittany.

Once the rain had subsided a little, we went and found a bite to eat at a place called, “Casey’s Corner”. There was no room to sit inside, so we stood outside under an over hang while we partook of our fries and such. Upon finishing our snack, we decided to face the rain some more and headed over to the “Pirates of the Caribbean” ride. Thankfully, there wasn’t even a line at this particular time of the day! As we walked through the corrodores on our way to the loading station, memories came flooding back to me from my childhood. The ambiance is that of Pirate adventure. You feel as though you've been transported back to another time and place before you ever get on the actual ride. This has always been one of my favorite attractions at the Magic Kindom. They recently added some new elements to this ride, such as the character of “Captain Jack Sparrow” (whom my cousin, Brittany, is a big fan of). I must say, they did a great job on his “Animatronic“. He seemed a little more “Life-Like” compared to the older Pirate characters in this classic Disney attraction. After all, the movie was loosely based on this very ride.

To keep this commentary from being too long, I’m making this a multiple part story. So, please stay tuned.

I captured this image of Cinderella Castle during the first night of “Night of Joy” 2007.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Jaci Velasquez at Night of Joy 2007

After Brian Littrell’s concert was over at 11:15pm in Tomorrowland, I took the five minute walk over to Fantasyland where a very pregnant Jaci Velasquez would be performing her second set of the night at 11:35pm. When I arrived at the stage I was greeted by a very pleasant surprise, there wasn’t that many people there yet! I quickly placed myself right up front and anticipated the great images that I would be able to capture. I think the fact that this was Jaci’s “second set” allowed me such a great spot. Most of the die hard fans had already seen her within the hour before. The crowd would soon build for this set though.

Jaci’s band that night was “Salvador”, the band that her husband, Nic Gonzales, is lead singer of. Of course, Nic was on hand to play guitar and later sing a duet with his beautiful, pregnant wife (she’s almost 8 months!). That’s him jamming out with Jaci in the image above.

Jaci did a few songs from her latest album as well as a few “Jaci Standards” including her hit “On My Knees”, which she recorded 13 years ago when she was only 15. The song talks about getting on your knees before God in prayer and the freedom that God has given us to do that. In good times and in bad. She shared that when she first recorded that at 15, it was just a good song, but over the years, she has really lived the lyrics to that song and has experienced God’s power through it.

This was my fourth time seeing Jaci play live. In past times, I’ve heard her share different things about what God has brought her through in her life and the seasons that she was experiencing. To me, she really seemed to be the most happy in this season of her life.

You can read a little bit more that I’ve written about my celebrity crush, Jaci V, in my archives, by clicking here.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Brian Littrell at Night of Joy 2007 part 2

As I neared the entrance to Tomorrowland’s “Galaxy Palace Theater” for Brian Littrell’s 10:30pm concert, I began scanning the venue for the best spot possible. This particular concert location was one of the few of the night that featured actual seating. At first I began to get worried when I realized that most of the front seats were already taken. But, I then noticed a small crowd gathering at the front of the stage, people who were planning to stand through the concert. Standing seemed like a very small price to pay to obtain the kind of images that I was hoping for. So, I joined the crowd up front and found myself right were I needed to be.

Brian began his set with “My Answer is You” and then donned a guitar to play one of my favorites, “Angels and Heroes”. I had just been listening to that in the car on the way in that evening, now I was hearing it Live! Brian continued with his praise anthem “We Lift You Up”. I heard an “Awe” from some girl when Brian sang the lyric about God blessing him with his wife, “Let me share with you just how I know He’s blessed my life / He opened up His precious hands and gave me a wife / And then He touched her deep down in her soul and gave me a son / For it is He that knows no greater love for He is the One / And at night when I pray to the Lord that I know / I thank Him for His precious blood He gave to save my soul / And that is why // We lift you up!…”

The stage seemed to be a second home for Brian as he glided around it as if to be in his own living room. At one point, someone threw a Donald Duck doll on stage which led Brian into a story about his son, Baylee, talking to a Donald doll the other day and telling him that he was his favorite. The next thing we know, his son comes out on stage! (see video here) Brian knelt down to let his boy talk into the microphone. I think the intention was to get Baylee to sing, but all he wanted to do was talk about the funny voices that his Daddy could do. Brian had just nailed a perfect “Donald” voice before Baylee had come on stage. Once Baylee said a few cute things, he ran back off with the stuffed Donald. I’m still trying to figure out if the Donald was planted ahead of time or what, but either way it was a cute moment between father and son. As Baylee was exiting, Brian said to the crowd, “Good thing this is ‘Night of Joy’, cause ‘Lord help us!’” referring to his growing son.

Brian then said that he knew he had some "fabulous memories" with everyone there (referring to his Backstreet Boys success) and proceeded into a two song Backstreet medley” of “I Want it That Way” and “As Long as You Love Me”. He performed it in a fun loving way that had the crowd singing along as he held the microphone out towards the audience.

The 45 minute set flew by. This was his first of two that he would perform that night, the other beginning at 11:45pm. Since I had captured the images that I wanted, I decided to venture over to Fantasyland to catch Jaci Velasquez’s second set…and I sure am glad I did. You’ll see why in my next post.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Brian Littrell at Night of Joy 2007

A few years ago, the Backstreet Boys were being interviewed and Brian Littrell was asked what he’d be doing if he wasn’t in the group. He said that he’d probably be a youth pastor. I took notice to that statement.

So, it wasn’t a surprise when it was announced that Brian was coming out with a solo “Christian” album of his own a little over a year ago. I knew that I would probably enjoy his music, so I purchased his album, “Welcome Home”, as soon as it came out last year.

I wasn’t disappointed. I was pleased to find lyrics that reflected the truths of Christ and a personal relationship that Brian has with Him. What a platform he has to share his faith! He’s a part of one of the most popular Pop groups in the world!

He's talked about how he’s taken a lot of flak from others who don’t understand why he’s doing what he’s doing. His song, “My Answer is You”, answers that question. He has said that he’s always wanted to be a Christian artist. That was always the plan.

His platform will continue to be built as the Backstreet Boys are scheduled to release a brand new album October 30th and go on tour.

Here are a few images of Brian Littrell’s Night of Joy Debut this past Friday night. He performed two sets at "Galaxy Palace Theater" in Tomorrowland. I’ll be sharing a few more photos from this concert in my next post.

You can find out more about Brian’s testimony by clicking Here and Here.

Click Here to sample some of his music. His song "Over My Head" is one of my favorites.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Night of Joy 2007

This past Friday and Saturday evening I attended the 25th annual “Night of Joy”. Night of Joy is a two night Christian music festival held each September at Magic Kingdom in Walt Disney World. The park is only open to concert attendees during this event and is usually sold out as it was this year. Most of the popular Magic Kingdom rides are open for you to enjoy in between concerts, much to the delight of all the church youth groups there as well as all the young at heart.

There are usually three to four different concert locations throughout the park with Cinderella Castle being the stage for the “Headliners”. The smaller venues this year were "Galaxy Palace Theater" and “Cosmic Ray's Starlight Café”, both located in Tomorrowland. Fantasyland was also used for a stage location which was a change from using Frontierland in recent years.

The park hours for the event this year were 6:00pm to 1:00am on Friday night and 4:00pm to 1:00am on Saturday with concerts getting started at 7:30pm each night. There are usually two to three different artists playing at one time, so you have your choice of who you want to see. As you walk around the park, you’ll also hear modern Christian music being played through the parks sound system. It’s usually songs from all the artists who are featured at that year’s event. For me, it’s the greatest night to be at the Magic Kingdom.

This was my third Night of Joy and fifth of this type of event in the past five years. Universal Studios also holds the same type event the very same weekend called “Rock the Universe”. I usually make my choice by who’s playing at which park.

I had a great (and tiring) weekend to say the least. I took my camera on Friday night and captured some good images of some of my favorite music artists which I will be sharing with you this week. Saturday night I did not take my camera but will still give you some commentary on that great evening as well.

I captured the above image at the end of Friday night as “Third Day” was performing at Cinderella Castle. If you look closely, you’ll see a little glimpse of the sea of humanity that was in attendance.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Pop Gallery

I took this photo almost exactly a year ago. “Pop Gallery” is a store in Downtown Disney that features unique paintings, sculptures and the like as well as some artsy trinkets. The store is jammed packed with color and peculiar things to grab your attention as you navigate your way through the narrow isles as to not break anything. Most items inside feature a hefty price tag.

As you can probably tell, I did a little selective color here to add some intrigue to an image that didn‘t really have much to it. The two bulbs illuminated were the only ones on at the time I captured this image.

I was out with some really cool people on Saturday night and we spent a good amount of time in this store. As we all took our time exploring the establishment, I was surprised at the things I never even noticed before. There really is a lot to take in.