Written by Renee Kray – Arts and Opinion Editor
One thing you should know about me: I’m a disnerd.
A “disnerd”, in case you were wondering, is a Disney uber fan. We sing all the songs, Disneyland/World is our homeroom, and we know all the quotes. So when I was told that Ave Maria University would be heading out on its annual voyage to the Night of Joy at Disney World, I got my name on that list.
If you’re like me and have never heard of Night of Joy before coming here, let me explain what it is. Night of Joy is an annual gathering of prominent Christian bands who come to play at different venues around the Magic Kingdom. This year the lineup included TobyMac, MercyMe, Jeremy Camp, Colton Dixon, Big Daddy Weave, Francesca Battistelli, Rend Collective, I Am They, Josh Wilson, Skillet, Lecrae, For KING & COUNTRY, Mandisa, Matt Maher, Jamie Grace, 7eventh Time Down, and VERIDA. It’s a very cool mixing of praise and worship with the Disney that we all know and love. In fact, it’s so popular that my roommate and I almost didn’t get tickets to go. We were put on the waitlist at first because there was so much interest from the school, but Ave managed to snatch up another busload’s worth of tickets before the event sold out completely.
At noon on Saturday, September 12, three buses worth of Ave students headed off on the long drive to Orlando. You’d think that it would be all sunshine and rainbows because we were heading to the most magical place on earth, but of course Florida refused to cooperate and graced us with one of the rainiest days since the start of the semester. It was still drizzling when we got there, but, armed with ponchos and umbrellas, our group boarded the ferry to head over to the Magic Kingdom. Once there, we were given wristbands for the Night of Joy event and had free roam of all the rides. While we were waiting in line the sun even came out for a few hours, although that would turn out to be short lived.
At seven pm, the park officially closed for the Night of Joy event. This meant that if you had the special wristband you could continue to get on rides, but if you didn’t you would not receive admission. As a result of this there were significantly fewer people, and the wait times dropped to fifteen minutes or less on each ride we encountered. We thought we would be able to make up for the time we’d lost in lines before, but once again Florida had other plans. We got off of the Winnie the Pooh Hundred Acre Woods ride only to see that we’d been blessed with a full out tropical thunderstorm. For nearly an hour everyone who had been on that ride was forced to pack together into a tiny gift shop and wait it out. The minute the rain lightened, we were out of there!
Altogether, we managed to visit The Haunted Mansion, Winnie the Pooh, The Mad Tea Party, Dumbo the Flying Elephant, Goofy’s Barnstormer Roller Coaster, and Under the Sea before we headed over to Galaxy Stage behind the Carousel of Progress to watch Matt Maher in concert.
Matt, a Catholic musician, singer, and songwriter, sang several of his songs, including “Firelight”; which was inspired by Mother Teresa. The hour long concert was filled with Christians from different churches and walks of life who were singing along in unison. It was great to see all types of people standing together, enjoying the simple pleasures that come with being in Disney World while at the same time publically giving glory to God. It was a unique experience blending faith and fun, and even the rain couldn’t extinguish the joy that was present that evening. Matt Maher best summed up the great mixing of entertainment and worship with his closing statements, when he thanked Disney “for letting us come out here tonight, and for giving us great characters. It’s really important that, as humans, we have great characters and great stories to look to, because they all point back to the greatest story of all.”
So if you’re looking for a great blending of Christianity with fun, or if you just want an excuse to visit Walt Disney World, keep an eye out for the 2016 Night of Joy and be quick to get your name onto the list! It’s an evening you won’t forget and definitely won’t regret, even if you get rained out.