Construction forces Disney California Adventure to cancel annual food festival

Los Angeles Times staff writer

Disney California Adventure has canceled the California Food & Wine Festival for 2011 and 2012 because of ongoing construction associated with the $1.1 billion expansion -- and officials won’t say if the popular event will ever return to the Anaheim theme park.

The annual spring event, included with theme park admission in April and May, featured tastings, seminars and demonstrations by celebrity chefs such as Guy Fieri, Cat Cora and Robert Irvine.

The 5-year-old festival had continually grown in popularity, expanding from 30 events over four weekends in 2006 to 700 events over 46 days in 2010. The California event was based on the 15-year-old Epcot Food & Wine Festival held in the fall at the Florida theme park. Both events were designed to boost attendance during the slow shoulder seasons.

Disney officials refused to say whether the California Food & Wine Festival would return in 2013. Moving the festival to Disneyland, Downtown Disney or the Disneyland Hotel didn’t make logistical sense, officials said.

The ongoing expansion, derisively dubbed by some as “Disney’s Construction Adventure,” has proven a continuing nightmare for DCA planners, who have been forced to ship the Main Street Electrical Parade to the Magic Kingdom when construction shrank the parade route and holding queues had to be created to accommodate the thousands of visitors waiting to view the popular “World of Color” water show. And the ramped-up construction will force the Pixar Play Parade into hiatus beginning Jan. 3, with the parade characters continuing to appear in pop-up “dance parties” throughout the park.

Major portions of the park are currently behind construction walls, including the Voyage of the Little Mermaid dark ride and the Goofy’s Sky School coaster due to open in 2011, as well as the 12-acre Cars Land addition expected to debut in 2012. Work on the park’s main entrance has already begun and is expected to expand exponentially in early 2011.

The decision to cancel the event was apparently abrupt. Irvine, a celebrity chef on the Food Network, was promoting his appearance at the 2011 California Food & Wine Fest as recently as two weeks ago.