Thanksgiving 2019

From the Orange County Newsroom

Once again this year, Central Floridians and visitors to our area will get to celebrate our community’s rich diversity over Thanksgiving weekend, as the explosion of culture, color, and creativity that is FusionFest returns to Downtown Orlando Saturday and Sunday, November 30th and December 1st.

In its second annual edition, FusionFest will spotlight the sights, sounds, and tastes of more than 100 ethnic and heritage communities that call Orlando home. Beginning at noon each day with a large procession of flags, elected officials, performers, giant puppets and music, the festival will also feature dance performances, visual art, poetry, fashion shows, films, games and other experiences that make it possible to “take a walk around the world without ever leaving Downtown Orlando.”

Last year’s inaugural FusionFest drew about 8,000 attendees, and an even greater turnout is expected for this year’s event, which will again occupy the Seneff Arts Plaza at the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts and the Orlando City Hall Commons Plaza. 

Participating groups and performing artists will live up to the festival’s credo of “I can be me here” by presenting authentic dances, music, fashions, and other cultural products from their various homelands. Special contest performances will put the “fusion” in FusionFest by marrying the creative traditions of seemingly unrelated realms – like the synthesis of Irish step dance and American hip-hop that was showcased by last year’s $1,000 grand prize winner, Central Florida Irish Dance.

Short films will tell the stories of 23 notable Orlandoans who came here from points all across the globe, while fashion shows and design contests will show how we wear our ethnic traditions on our back. Poets of many backgrounds will put their life experiences into words, and food and merchandise will be available for purchase that will represent the best of the participating cultures. 

New features at this year’s festival will include a Fun & Games station where attendees of all ages can enjoy the playtime rituals of 22 cultures, and a Human Interaction area that will allow participants to swap stories and immortalize their heritage in origami.

And once again, one lucky raffle winner will receive airfare to any destination in the world. Last year’s winner, Ethan Pendergast, was able to visit Jamaica and take along five family members to visit the grandparents he had never met.

Terry Olson, the festival’s architect and “Chief Instigator,” sums up its appeal: By showing up to share a smile and your personal heritage, he says, “you may discover just how different other people really aren’t!”

FusionFest is a project of the Downtown Arts District, with support from Orange County Government, the Orlando Downtown Development Board, and the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts. In its inaugural edition, the event received the Award of Excellence in the Downtown Orlando Partnership’s Golden Brick Awards.  Mayor Jerry L Demings will lead the Diversitastic! Parade, presented by Tupperware, on Sunday, December 1 at noon coming around Orlando City Hall, down South Street from Boone to Orange, entering the festival on Orange and traversing to the Dr. Phillips Center and back to Orlando City Hall.

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