Welcome to the Newsroom!

Thanksgiving Weekend

Nov. 28 & 29, 2020.

20,000 guests from more than 110 heritages will share and enjoy:

  • 3 Stages featuring music, dance, spoken word and fashion.
  • 1 Film Pavilion screening the MYgration Films in partnership with Global Peace Film Festival
  • Diversatistic! Parade of Flags
  • International Foods & Marketplace
  • Interactive Experiences
  • Visual Arts Gallery
  • Fun + Games Station
  • Fly-Anywhere-in-the-World-Raffle
  • Diversitastic! Choir
  • Fusion Contests
  • Prizes
  • Community Panels

Latest News

newsroom
Steve Schneider

2019 CONTESTS WINNERS

FusionFest encourages creativity and innovation through contests for participants who will fuse elements from different

Read More »

Press Releases

FOOD-CONTEST WINNER HELPS FUSIONFEST FIND ITS FLAVOR

Sticky Rice Lao Street Food cooked up a big win at this year’s FusionFest, receiving the $1,000 grand prize in the multicultural festival’s food contest. Kevin Phanhvilay, chef and owner of the Orlando quick casual restaurant, earned the top prize for an original recipe that combined ingredients from many regions – just as the festival itself brought together more than 100 local heritage communities in its second annual edition, which was held November 30 and December 1 in the heart of downtown.

The winning dish was a Lao rice congee topped with Caribbean spice panko hamachi and yuzu shiitake mango pico de gallo. That’s quite a mouthful in more ways than one, and the festival’s panel of expert judges was duly impressed.

“I wanted to hit the five flavor profiles with this dish while also incorporating different ingredients from different regions,” Chef Kevin says. “I started off with the Lao-style rice congee as the base and the starch for the dish (Laos/Bitter). I battered the hamachi (Japanese fish also known as yellowtail) with a Caribbean spice rub (Carribean/Savory and Salty). I panko fried it (a Japanese technique of frying with bread crumbs). I glazed the plate with a drizzle of sweet soy sauce. And I topped it off with yuzu pickled shiitake mushrooms and mango pico de gallo (South American and Japanese fusion/sweet and sour).”

For its creator, that original recipe was a tribute to both the spirit of the festival and his own diverse background.

“I was excited to enter the FusionFest competition because I represent what the festival and America are all about: a melting pot of cultures,” Chef Kevin says. “I am  an American who is ethnically Lao, and trained in Japanese cuisine.  I was born in California but raised in North Carolina, and spent three years living in Laos and Thailand before moving to Orlando in 2009.”

Approximately 15,000 people attended this year’s FusionFest, a two-day celebration of diversity that spotlighted innovative collaborations in the areas of food, music, dance, fashion and other forms of cultural expression. The festival’s philosophy of cooperation and camaraderie was deeply appreciated by Chef Kevin:

“I love it when the community comes together and supports each other,” he says. “I got to speak with other chefs and connect on a personal level.” He also valued the feedback of attendees who came by to sample his wares. And from a spectator’s vantage point, “The music from different countries and outfits everyone was wearing were all amazing.”

Sticky Rice Lao Street Food is located at 1915 East Colonial Drive, Orlando 32803. Follow the restaurant on Facebook at www.facebook.com/stickyricestreetfood, and on Instagram @stickyricestreetfood

Chef Kevin is on both platforms as chefkevin407:

www.facebook.com/chefkevin407

www.instagram.com/chefkevin407

FusionFest will return to the Seneff Arts Plaza at the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts and the Orlando City Hall Commons Plaza for its third annual edition, scheduled for November 28 and 29, 2020. For more information, visit: fusionfest.org

The festival 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, and took first place in the “Community Outreach Program” category of the Florida Festivals and Events Association’s SunSational Awards.

CULTURE WEARS WELL FOR FUSIONFEST FASHION WINNER

Fashion artist Londa Msanii literally embodied the spirit of FusionFest by being named the top designer at this year’s second annual multicultural festival, held November 30 and December 1 in downtown Orlando. Msanii was awarded $1,000 by the festival’s panel of fashion judges for two original garments that brought together the apparel traditions of Africa and Japan in a bold new hybrid.

Msanii’s first piece, modeled by Miss North Orlando Leyennshka Batista, was a mid-length sleeve kimono constructed from a cotton West African print. Colorful and expertly fitted, it was tied by an obi (or sash) of African garden hibiscus. The second outfit, as worn by Msanii herself, was based on a head-turning South African-style apron made from a Japanese brocade design and decorated in cowry shells, animal feathers and a Maasai beaded necklace representing Tanzania.

“I love the fact that, as contestants, we were allowed to select our own regions and express ourselves freely with our designs,” Msanii says.

Paying tribute to African culture is important to Msanii, who learned its beauty and richness as a child growing up in Buffalo, New York. For her FusionFest entries, she was moved to incorporate Japanese stylings as well, in a tandem salute to what she calls “the warriors of human history that fought to preserve culture and protect the land.”

Africa and Japan were among the more than 100 heritage cultures represented at the second annual FusionFest, which drew approximately 15,000 people to celebrate diversity through art, music, dance, food and other forms of creative expression.

“It was such a pleasure participating in FusionFest this year,” Msanii says. “I was nervous but did not feel pressured at all. It was a friendly environment and a pleasure meeting the other designers.”

In addition to her work in fashion, Msanii is active in the area of thyroid cancer awareness and advocacy. “I was diagnosed with a rare form of the disease (MTC), and after three occurrences, I’ve decided it was time to bring my passion and purpose together,” she says. She hosts an annual fashion show back home in Buffalo every September (which is Thyroid Cancer Awareness Month), and would like to bring the undertaking to Orlando in the future.

To see more of her work, visit londamsanii.com.

FusionFest will return to the Seneff Arts Plaza at the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts and the Orlando City Hall Commons Plaza for its third annual edition, scheduled for November 28 and 29, 2020.

FUSIONFEST ART WINNER SCULPTS SUCCESS FROM DIVERSITY

Interdisciplinary artist Mär Martinez followed her muse to a big win at this year’s FusionFest multicultural festival, receiving the $1,000 grand prize in the event’s Visual Art competition. A panel of expert judges named Martinez’s sculptural paintings the best artworks on display at the two-day festival, which returned to downtown Orlando November 30 and December 1.

An artist of both Syrian and Cuban background, Martinez chose to explore the pressures faced by Arab women in her award-winning entries, the oil-on-wood Aboudaken and the acrylic-on-canvas Teta

“My work explores systematic power dynamics that breed dominance and aggression based on gender, ethnicity and sexual identity within our society,” Martinez says. “Historically, it has been very difficult for women, especially minority women, to access autonomy and freedom of expression within both Western and Middle Eastern cultures.

“The hand-cutting of the pieces is a crucial part of my process,” she explains. “The violent act of stripping figures from their context mimics how power can be given and taken away.”

Approximately 15,000 people attended the second annual FusionFest, which celebrated the blending of more than 100 local heritage communities through art, music, dance, food and other forms of creative expression. For Martinez, the event showcased the cultural variety and artistic opportunity that have brought her to Orlando after previous stints living in Lakeland, St. Petersburg and originally New Mexico.

“Orlando values diversity,” she says. “FusionFest is a prime example of the desire to open a dialogue where all voices can exist within the conversation. The festival was an explosion of color, sound and smells! I enjoyed seeing the creativity of the city expressed through food, clothing, performance and visual art. There were a lot of very talented artists representing their heritage, and I am proud to have participated.”

To see more of Martinez’s work, visit marmartinezart.com, or follow her on Instagram: @meatvoid

The festival will return to the Seneff Arts Plaza at the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts and the Orlando City Hall Commons Plaza for its third annual edition, scheduled for November 28 and 29, 2020.

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, and took first place in the “Community Outreach Program” category of the Florida Festivals and Events Association’s SunSational Awards.

2019 CONTESTS WINNERS

FusionFest encourages creativity and innovation through contests for participants who will fuse elements from different heritages into a new and exciting original.  Music, dance, fashion and food all offer $1,000 prizes and the theme of celebrating our diversity is encouraged with $1,000 prizes in film, spoken word and visual arts.  Each area is judged by a different diverse panel of judges.

The awards given at the 2019 FusionFest are:

Film

Judges:  Randy Baker, Jason Gregory, Henry Maldonado, Jim Martin, Disco San Andreas, Craig Richards, Barry Sandler and Ula Stoeckl.

Ø $1,000 MYgration film Winner & Audience Award: Omar Young 

Ø $250 Enzian Membership Student Winner: Carlos Rocha, Full Sail University student

Music

Judges: Miguel Bustamante, Yvonne Coleman, Wagner Fulco, Elizabeth Fullington, Keith Lay and Erin Sullivan

Ø $1,000 Fusion Musical performance: Will n’ Ray feat. Matt Duarte

Dance

Judges: Julie Coleman, John Davis, Linda Hayes Gallegos, Cecilia Mao, Ivan Mao, DJ Salisbury and Raquel Tacon

Ø $1,000 Fusion Dance Performance: Peru Art

Ø Finalists (in order of their scores): Peru Art, Mexico Lindo Flolkloric Dance Ensemble, Casa de la Venezuela, Aretuza’s Ballerina Project, Manu Afi, World Dance Orlando, Serafima, Ada, Central Florida Irish Dance School, African Heritage Ensemble, A Magi Belly Dance & World Dance, Rhythym Theory Tap) showcasing later in the day at FusionFest.

Word

Judges: Richard Gretsky, Frankie Messina and Nicole Smith

Ø $500 Sat Slam: Dennis Amadeus

Ø $100 Sat Haiku: Edward P Mabrey Jr

Ø $500 Sun Slam: Eddie Figures

Ø $100 Sun Haiku: Amy Pho

Fashion

Judges: Starr Dalton, Devinder, AJ Gonzalez, Hozumi Greiner, Ha’Ani Hogan, Brigitte Jensen, Nicole Smith and Nadege Wilson

Ø $1,000 Fashion Fusion: Londa Msani 

Visual Art

Judges: Shepherd Clark, Alberto Gomez, Naoko Izuhara, Una Paris, Jean-Claude Rasch and Shalini Tandon

Ø $1,000 “I Can Be Me Here” art: Mar Martinez (pronounced “Mair”)

Food

Judges: Pierrette Favreau, Guillermo Herrera, Scott Joseph, Jean-Luc Maurice and Dana Roquemore

Ø $1,000 Fusion Food: Sticky Rice Lao Street Food

LIFELONG TRAVEL DREAM COMES TRUES AT FUSIONFEST

Jenna Simpson had always dreamed of visiting England, where her Jamaican father was born, and New York, the birthplace of her mother. But she had never even been on an airplane. The “Fly Anywhere in the World” raffle at this year’s FusionFest changed all that.

On the closing night of the two-day multicultural festival, Jenna’s name was drawn at random. Now she’ll be visiting both of those locations that are so meaningful to her, as the beneficiary of FusionFest’s annual commitment to send a lucky winner to any destination on the globe.

It wasn’t at all the outcome she expected. A student who’s currently finishing up a Bachelor of Science in Accounting at the University of South Florida, Jenna had been looking for a Service Learning Project with which to volunteer. She found FusionFest looking for volunteers and signed up.

When she reported for duty at the downtown festival last Saturday, Nov. 30, she was given a raffle ticket. So she filled it out and placed it in a miniature replica of the control tower at Orlando International Airport. But she was mostly focused on her volunteer shift, where she would be helping attendees get their pictures taken in front of a giant wall of handcrafted paper flowers.

Jenna’s sister had likewise come along to enjoy the festival, and purchased one of the V.I.P. Passport packages that included one of the raffle tickets, along with food tokens, a festival guide and a button that made her eligible for other prizes.

Jenna wasn’t anticipating much. She had been in a raffle for scholarship students at the University of South Florida, and had been really hoping to win something there, to no avail. So when she received a call the day after her FusionFest shift saying she’d won up to $2,500 worth of tickets to fly anywhere from Orlando International Airport (MCO), she was at first suspicious, and then a little dazed. Much to her surprise, her name had been drawn from all the entries.

When she was asked how she might like to spend her prize, she said, “I’d like to take my two sisters . . . to Europe and to New York to see where my parents were born. ”She’s hoping even more family members will be able to go along, courtesy of raffle sponsors the Greater Orlando Aviation Authority and the Orlando International Airport (which has direct flights to over 150 destinations).

“FusionFest was perfect for me,” Jenna says. “With my mother being Jewish and white and my father being black and raised in Jamaica, I thought the multicultural festival was great.  It is good to have an event where everyone can come together.”

This year’s FusionFest drew approximately 15,000 attendees to the Seneff Arts Plaza at the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts and the Orlando City Hall Commons Plaza – nearly doubling the turnout for 2018’s inaugural edition. The third FusionFest is scheduled for November 28 and 29, 2020.

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, and took first place in the “Community Outreach Program” category of the Florida Festivals and Events Association’s SunSational Awards.

YOU CAN BE YOU HERE

Central Florida is home to an increasingly diverse community of people who enrich each others’ lives with different cultures and languages. With over 75 million people visiting every year, people of the world love Orlando not only for its parks, entertainment and sunny skies, but also for its strong community.

After Pulse, our city showed the world how we as a community react to acts of hate. We responded and continue to respond, year after year, with love and a display of togetherness. Terry Olson, Orange County Arts & Cultural Affairs Director, mentioned in a recent interview: “we think this is the time and the place to show the world that people with different lifestyles and different ethnicities, heritages, can live together in a non-divisive way.”

A research published by the Orlando Economic Partnership stated that by 2030 Orlando will become the most diverse city in the world. People of the world do love Orlando and are settling here adding more colors, tastes, aromas, sights and sounds to the City Beautiful. The identity of Orlando is being shaped by diversity and how the community embraces it.

Under the leadership of Olson, a grassroots movement was formed in 2016 to start exploring what it would look like if all of the different heritage and cultural festivals came together in one event. It was clear that when people from different cultures collaborate in a project, by fusing elements and ideas, they become more creative and innovative.

The festival was named FusionFest and received support from the Orange County Government, City of Orlando, and several sponsors that believed in the idea of fostering inclusion, collaboration and innovation. In its inaugural year, FusionFest had around 8,000 people from over 110 different heritages enjoying a weekend filled with music, dance, art, literature, spoken-word, fashion, culture, and fun.

FusionFest, a free two-day festival in downtown Orlando, exists to honor each person’s heritage, while also exploring and celebrating how we influence each other, creating our own unique identity.

Olson adds: “My goal would be that all Central Floridians feel they have a place and have value. And as we bring these things to the table, we’re inspired to be more creative and innovative in our businesses, social lives, the arts and in our expressions.”