2015 in Review Part 2 (Includes GKTW, IAAPA 2015, Whitesnake, KISS, and Disney)

Zengrrl.com 2015 in Review Part 1 - July to December

In my last post, I recapped all I did and covered as a blogger, both for Zengrrl and CitySurfing Orlando, as well as for other writing outlets, during the first six months of 2015.

Here is the second installment of my year in review, covering July through December, 2015. And I think the second half was even busier than the first.

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Not that you’d know it by how slow July 2015 went. It started with opening of Tom + Chee just down the road from where I live. Yummy sandwiches and soups. The month ended with meeting Kevin Bacon at a charity event at Give Kids the World in Kissimmee. GKTW provides resort stays for children with life-threatening illnesses, and their families.




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I started out August 2015 with the annual GKTW Blogger Bash, where we got to tour the facilities, including the new and improved Town Hall, and learn more about how we can help spread awareness of GKTW and what it does.




Two days later I was in the photo pit at the Hard Rock Live for a concert by Whitesnake and Dead Daisies. That was an incredible show by both bands, but I ended up missing the last few songs of Whitesnake’s set. There were so many people and it was so hot in there, my MS flared up and I almost lost consciousness, so we went outside for some air and missed the the ending. But it was a really great song up to that point. A few days after, I did a phone interview with Dead Daisies singer John Corabi. Last time I interviewed him was early 90s when he was picked to replace Vince Neil in Motley Crue. Still a really nice guy.






I finished that week attending the annual Taste of the Nation food event to raise funds for No Kid Hungry, as well as the Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida and the Coalition for the Homeless. So much delicious food to sample and a great charity to support. I was one of the social media ambassadors, so I actually dressed up in a dress. Not often you see me in one – I just find them uncomfortable. See here’s proof I wore a dress:




The rest of the month was also full of food, as I covered the opening of the new Shake Shake at I-Drive 360, the limited time Green Chile Festival menu at Chuy’s, and checked out Duffy’s with my fellow lady bloggers.




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September 2015 was super busy. In addition to it being my birthday month, I had at least one media event a week to cover. First up was Disney on Ice at Amway Center. I love watching ice skaters, so I had fun at this show.



The following week was a media dinner at Stefano’s Grille in Dr Phillips, organized by Kayla Becker, the host of Orlando My Way. The following night, I took in a performance of Monty Python’s Spamalot by Orlando Shakespeare Theater. i can’t say enough good things about the show. I laughed and sang the entire night.




Then on the weekend, I attended the O-Town MacDown, a charity event pitting chefs in a battle for the best mac and cheese in town. Proceeds from tickets to attend went to Give Kids the World, and also included all the mac and cheese you could eat. It was a total win-win. My favorite was the BBQ pulled pork mac and cheese from Smokey Bones, though last year’s winner, Hard Rock Live, also had a great version.




A few days later I was invited to speak at the Travel Industry Exchange conference, though I’m not sure I made as many connections as I did at my last speaking engagement. But I chalked it up as another experience.




That weekend, I covered the Disney media event for Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party for The Disney Blog. MNSSHP is a special ticket event that happens select nights from mid-September until Halloween, and it offers a kid-friendly Halloween experience with shows, parades, and trick-or-treating at Magic Kingdom. It was a lot of fun, but a late night, so I crashed hard the next day.




A week later I was back at Disney to cover the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival media event for The Disney Blog. I got to taste lots of yummy food and drink samples, and noted liquid nitrogen is the new “it” ingredient, since three samples used it. I also got to see musician David Cook live during the fest’s Eat to the Beat concert series.





I finished September covering the media event for the opening of Morimoto Asia for The Disney Blog. Chef Morimoto was there, along with Chef Mickey, and I got a lot of great footage of him carving a tuna down for sushi. The food at the restaurant was really good, and the ceremonial sake they served knocked me for a bit of a loop. Rhonda was so excited to meet Morimoto – she’s a Food Network junkie.



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October 2015 kicked off with the inaugural OrlandoiX digital and tech festival. It featured gaming, social media, and digital innovations. A promising start to what I hope will be a regular event here in Orlando. We’ve got a great tech scene here, it’s about time we showed it off.




Mid-month, I attended a CFL Lady Blogger dinner at Wolfgang Puck’s at Disney Springs, and then went next door to cover the sold-out Walk on the Moon concert at House of Blues. It was a fun evening, as I always enjoy hanging with my fellow bloggers. The concert was good, too, but I left before the end so I wouldn’t get caught in the crowd trying to leave at once.





Three days later, I had another double-duty evening. FIrst up, I headed downtown to cover the debut party for Captain Morgan’s Cannon Blast, which included a man making a record-breaking two shots out of a cannon in the tiny Wall St. Plaza. Tip – don’t sit next to the cannon when it goes off. I couldn’t hear anything for about 10 minutes.




I ate something to temper out the alcohol, then I stepped out on to neighboring Orange Ave for the annual Creative City Project, where the street is shut down to traffic and becomes a huge artistic event, complete with multiple stages. There were painters, puppeteers, orchestras, ballet dancers, and even Cirque du Soleil, performing with the downtown skyscrapers as a backdrop. It’s one of the coolest things to happen in Orlando.




A week later, I was front row at IZEAfest!, a blogger/creator conference sponsored by IZEA. I don’t know that I really learned much, but I definitely got inspired by the stories of success, and motivated by the speakers. I also got to hang out a bit with blogger friend Andrew Bennett, who runs benspark.com.






The last night of IZEAfest! I opted not to attend the closing night party in favor of covering the annual Cows & Cabs charity event in Winter Park. Featuring over 40 area restaurants, this event raised money for Community Food & Outreach Center and Elevate Orlando while offering food and wine samples. The only thing I didn’t like was there was a lack of seating since it was held outdoors. It’s really hard to balance a camera, a plate of food, and a beverage at the same time while standing.




I ended the month with two events. First up was Soul Asylum at Velvet Sessions at Hard Rock Hotel. I haven’t seen lead singer Dave Pirner since I helped film the band’s video for “Easy Street” in the late 80s. It was a great show, and I got a chance to talk to him afterwards.




Halloween I decided to forgo the costume and instead covered the annual Swan and Dolphin Food and Wine Classic with Rhonda. We started the event by taking a mixology class, where we learned to infuse alcohol, use gellies to add bursts of flavor, and how to use liquid nitrogen (there’s that ingredient again). We then went out on the causeway between the two hotels to try all the food and beverage samples. Our favorite areas were the beer garden and the carnival corner (which served up gourmet funnelcakes and corn dogs). We also got to meet Chef Todd English, who has a restaurant at the Dolphin.



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I started November 2015 with a visit to a sneak peek of the last year of the Osborne Lights at DIsney’s Hollywood Studios. I really enjoyed this holiday event, and I will be so sad to see it go. Won’t miss the elbow to elbow crowds, though.



The next day I was out at Kennedy Space Center to check out the Space Shuttle Atlantis exhibit. I’ve always been a fan of the shuttle program, and seeing Atlantis so close I could almost touch it almost brought me to tears. Those tears did flow a bit when I toured the tribute room to the crews of the Columbia and Challenger. I remember clearly where I was when I heard the Challenger exploded, and I remember the news reports from the Columbia. Each crew member has a glass case with items that represented them, but it was the side room with actual shuttle piece remnants that got to me.


The day after I covered the annual Neanderthal Ball which raises money for the Orlando Science Center. Dress was “caveman couture” and luckily I still had a leopard print shirt in the closet I bought years ago. The following morning I went to a meet-up with author Brittany Gibbons and after went to review the brunch menu at Lafayette’s.




After that full week, I took the following week to recuperate. My MS doesn’t like me being on the go constantly, and by the end of the week, I was so sore. And it was good that I took the time to heal, since I had another crazy busy week right before Thanksgiving.

First up was the annual IAAPA convention, which showcases the latest in carnival and theme park rides. This runs Tuesday through Friday, with the bulk of the media showcases the first two days. The remainder of the time was spent just walking all the aisles, checking out rides and trying the latest food ideas. I really enjoyed the food. Lots of frozen treats, popcorn, pizza, and Beaver Tails. It’s probably a good thing I walked so much, so I could walk it all off.





I also think I tried every photo booth on the show floor:




Then Saturday and Sunday, I covered MegaCon Fan Days, a preview of what to expect from the new owners of the convention. I mostly attended the panels, but I did hit the expo floor the last day and met one of my favorite artists, Karen Hallion.


I even got a shout out from Sean Maher (Firefly) for my photo, and I ended up at the very end of the video James Marsters (Buffy the Vampire Slayer) put together about his weekend at the event:

Here are the villains and heroes of Orlando, FL!MegaCon Convention, Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Smallville, The Dresden Files

Posted by James Marsters – The Official Page on Sunday, November 22, 2015


This was followed by the media preview of Christmas at Gaylord Palms, which included a new show, Cirque Dreams, as well as the new theme to ICE!, which is a frozen walk through a Christmas story told via ice sculptures. I enjoy it every year, and this year, I even remembered to dig out my gloves, so I didn’t freeze my hand taking photos.


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December 2015 I thought would be a slow month, as pr firms and businesses are usually busy with the holidays, but mid-month got unexpectedly hectic for me. Disney opened up a new attraction, Star Wars Launch Bay at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, so I went to check that out. As a longtime SW geek, I could’ve spent all day in there, but it was so crowded. I’ll come back when the parks are slower.



Then I got a mystery invite to a press conference for a new event called the Moonstone Music Festival. To my surprise, it turned out to be a rock festival, and the headliners were announced to be KISS and Def Leppard, two of my all-time favorite bands! Whoo-hoo! Even better, Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons of KISS were there to make the announcement. I got to meet them briefly again, and as I went to take my photo with them, Paul says, “We missed you!” and gave me a little hug.



I know, I look like I’m about to explode from happiness. BTW, Gene isn’t actually touching my boob. He’s just pointing at me and I’m short.

Two days later I was invited to cover the media preview for the new Sugar Factory at I-Drive 360. The drinks were served in goblets that were smoking, which was cool. They specialize in drinks and sweets, but the regular menu was good, too.



The next day was the release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, so Rhonda and I went to the 9am showing to avoid the crowds. We took silly photos after with the Star Wars display in the lobby.




A few hours later, I was on the road with fellow blogger Jen Vargas to check out the Holidays in Space event at Kennedy Space Center. It was a fascinating show about the history of space exploration projected on the side of an actual rocket, the Saturn 1B.


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And that was it for my exciting 2015. I already have plans in works that may make 2016 even busier and fun. I still have to balance the blogging with my physical capabilities, but so far the body is holding up fairly well.

I’d also like to note that 2015 was the first year I haven’t been hospitalized or needed a major surgery since 2009, so I’m pretty happy with that.

Thanks to everyone who contributed to this wild and wonderful year. It’s been filled with a lot of great experiences!

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About zengrrl

I'm Michelle Snow, the writer and creator of Zengrrl. I write about travel, entertainment, women's issues, health, body positivity, and more, both for this blog and freelance. I have also authored/co-authored four guidebooks on Orlando and Florida. If you aren't already following me, the links are below, as well as on the top right of this page. Thanks!

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