Celebration Florida

A little video to get us in the mood before starting on disney’s nostalgic town : D

I have been meaning to talk about my experiences while in Florida checking out different mini-cities. Yes, I touched on The Villages towards Central Florida, a community developed solely for the 55+ crowd looking to be either winter birds or fully retire to the Florida area. That post had pictures of the Cinco de Mayo event going on, which attracted a pretty sizable crowd. However, I had a much bigger fish I wanted to go after, following in the footsteps of Andrew Ross.

On my last full day in Florida, Thursday May 7, I cut out an afternoon to break away from the family and scope out a town just outside of Orlando just off of Route 4. In order to enter the town, one must drive through a series of roads starting at Celebration Plaza with a few odd looking buildings. You sit on celebration avenue for a while until you start seeing Victorian looking houses. Now you have entered the past. At least what is being sold as the past. The structures of the building takes you way back to the 1950s. This of course is all in response to Andrew Ross’ work The Celebration Chronicles: Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Property Values. I wanted to see where Ross had walked and taken pictures, held interviews and conducted his research. A brief background to his work, Ross under the auspices of University of New York took on an assignment to write a book about the, then developing, town put on by Disney. I think any study would have to come to the table with a certain stance concerning how Urban Planning should function. I am still learning and feeling my way around how one deals with urban planning, realizing that development is a business like anything else. Who is going to pay the most bucks? Celebration has a certain target audience that desire to not just purchase property but also a memory, nostalgia.  Give Ross a full read when you get the chance.  It definitely has a more academic feel but is still a very interesting read.

I have a few pictures to check out on Flickr if your interested: celebration photos. My favorite, and a trademark building, is the post office. I doubt that a structure like that was common during the 50’s, yet it represents a whimsical look at the past. Also, it’s really easy to find flags around Celebration, recalling that the past America was highly, highly patriotic. My main question as I walked around the enclosed city focused on how you can sell the city to both residents and tourists. I looked closely at the structure of the houses and how the changed as they get further removed from the center of Celebration. The center marketplace, located along a man-made lake, attracts tourists with unique shops and restaurants, although ironically Starbucks managed to get a hold of a building. The market also has the Celebration Hotel for tourists to experience the 50’s close at hand. I moved around from the market place up some of the different roads to check out the houses. As you move further away, I noticed that the houses get much more tame. You start to lose the crazy colors that are found in the marketplace as well as the stranger shapes. It seems to me that the town gets purposely divided between tourist and resident areas. At the end of the day the place produces interesting questions about living spaces.

But rather than make this all academic, I just want to state that I had my own sense of nostalgia. Here I walked the streets where Andrew Ross, someone I read in a class, did his work in ’99 about this growing experiment, now 15 years old, which has made us think about what the reversion to the nostalgic lifestyle means. Students need to deal with work material in more direct ways than just reading a book and writing a paper. Nothing can replace the feeling that comes from looking at the buildings with your own eyes, feeling the brick paths beneath your feet, or noticing how the kids of Celebration are just as rowdy as any other and Celebration throws up no skateboarding signs up. Overall great experience!

Check out the photos!

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One Response to “Celebration Florida”

  1. zach whalen says:

    When I lived in Florida, I never made it to Celebration, unfortunately. But I heard a lot about it. Like a lot of things, it’s an example of Disney’s commodification of nostalgia, and nostalgia is nothing if not revisionist — we always imagine the past to be something purer and simpler than what it actually was. So when we encapsulate and sell the past, we bring something new into existence, and nostalgia is simply another flavor among many.

    For example, take that Steamboat Willie clip you’ve embedded, that’s not the original one. It is, however, the one that has circulated for a number of years and that you’re likely to see on the Disney Channel. The original was a few seconds longer. If you search on youtube, you’ll notice that some, like yours, are around 6:55, whereas others are around 7:46. You’ll find the extra part starts around 5:45 in these longer versions. Sometimes this longer version is called the “uncensored” Steamboat Willie, but I don’t know that it was ever censored. Certainly, many will find it offensive.

    Whatever the case, the longer version shows off the coarseness that made Mickey a more exciting character than his competitors. The “cleaned up” version, though, seems more consistent (barely) with the bland emcee role that Mickey now seems to occupy.

    My point is probably an obvious one: that any gesture toward the past makes selections based on the specific agenda or context for invoking the past. In some cases, like Celebration, that context is clearly commercial.

    Dollywood is another fascinating example of this revisionary nostalgia worked out in architecture and imagery. Have you ever been to Dollywood?