Welcome to the Newsroom!

OUR MISSION: To celebrate the people and the many cultures that make Central Florida awesome.

WHAT WE DO: We organize monthly events that keep the community engaged and connected to the cultural diversity in Central Florida. We participate in parades and create dining experiences and workshops from January to November. Our signature event on Saturday and Sunday after Thanksgiving Day in Downtown Orlando is a free, two-day, festival that draws people from more than 110 different cultures to experience music, dance, food, visual arts, spoken word, games and interactive activities.

HOW TO PARTICIPATE: Keep an eye on our social media and website to join in one (or several) of the Diversitastic! Dining Experiences, the Flag Crew in parades and workshops. The “Intent To Participate” applications for the November festival are now open at FusionFest.org/JoinUs

WHEN IS THE FREE FESTIVAL: Saturday and Sunday after Thanksgiving Day – November 28 & 29, 2020.

WHAT WILL YOU FIND AT THE FESTIVAL:

  • International Food Court & Marketplace
  • 3 Stages featuring music, dance, spoken word and fashion
  • 1 Film Pavilion screening the MYgration Films in partnership with Global Peace Film Festival
  • Opening Spectacle
  • Global Street Dance Party
  • Diversitastic! Choir
  • Interactive Experiences
  • Visual Arts Gallery
  • Fun & Games Station
  • Exciting Prizes
  • Community Panels
  • Fusion Contests with cash awards

WHERE: At the Seneff Arts Plaza at Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts and Orlando City Hall Commons, in Downtown Orlando.

WHO IS BEHIND IT: FusionFest is a project of the non-profit Downtown Arts District, with support from Orange County Government, the Orlando Downtown Development Board and the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts. Since 2016 a Steering Committe of 40 members with heritages from around the globe meets monthly to shape the festival.

SPELLING: FusionFest is one-word with two capital Fs.

HASHTAGS: #FusionFest #FusionFestOrlando #ICanBeMeHere #ProudToShowMyColors

SOCIAL MEDIA: Facebook.com/FusionFestOrlando & Instagram.com/FusionFestOrlando

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Steve Schneider

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

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Onward, Upward and Outward: FusionFest Widens its Reach

In only its third year, Orlando’s FusionFest has become far more than just a seasonal affair. Even as current events throw much of the world’s cultural calendar into doubt, this diversity-minded festival has ballooned into a year-round program of in-person and online gatherings that are strengthening the connections between Central Florida’s many heritage communities.

For a prime example, look no further than the Diversitastic Dining Experiences, which invite curious foodies to sample the cuisine of a different ethnic restaurant each month. Participants get a full meal and an educational presentation on the culture that spawned it, complete with live entertainment. Recent installments have spotlighted the tastes of Turkey and Russia; the program continues on Thursday, August 27, with an evening of Polynesian-themed recipes and performances at Pilar’s Co-Op Ballroom in Winter Garden. As always, proper covid-19 protocols will be followed, to ensure a get-together that’s both safe and fun. Reservations can be made at FusionFest.org/dining

At the same time, the festival is sponsoring a series of virtual sessions and workshops that show how the arts can carry the banner of diversity. Recent editions included a filmmakers’ roundtable and the first in an ongoing series of music seminars. The last one held on Zoom on July 28, featuring Orlando-based composer/educator Jeremy Adams speaking on the topic of “Cultural Fusion in Music – Arranging 101.” is now available at FusionFest.org/webinar

 The project continues to offer its website as a platform for artists and vendors who have adapted their operations to the demands of covid-19. A running list can be found at FusionFest.org/virtual

That FusionFest website is also the official collection point for sponsorships and individual donations that will be critically important in bringing the festival back to downtown Orlando this Thanksgiving.

Within its first two years, FusionFest has become a holiday tradition that spotlights the music, dance, fashion, food and related creative expressions of more than 100 heritage communities found throughout Greater Orlando. The festival is scheduled to return November 28 and 29, 2020, with performances and presentations again taking place at the Seneff Arts Plaza at the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts and the Orlando City Hall Commons Plaza. Event planners are using all of their creative skills to tailor this year’s presentation to the times: A socially distanced Street Dance Party and a fashion show with masks as integral pieces are just two of the innovations planned for 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.

For media inquiries, contact:

Terry Olson, Director of Orange County Arts & Cultural Affairs

[email protected]; (407) 836-5540;

Kevin Findlay, Media Coordinator [email protected] ; (407) 402-1547; or

Thali Sugisawa, Business Maven, FusionFest

[email protected]; (407) 574-1312

To Russia with love: FusionFest’s Diversitastic! Dining experiences are back in July

 

This past January, Orlando’s FusionFest multicultural festival became a year-round affair with the launch of Diversitastic Dining, a monthly series of excursions to some of our area’s most exciting ethnic restaurants. Due to the coronavirus, the program had to be put on hold after three monthly outings, but plans are on track for it to resume in July with a visit to one of the best Russian eateries in Central Florida.

On Tuesday, July 14th, Diversitastic! Dining will take over the Lacomka Russian Bakery & Deli at 2050 North Semoran Boulevard in Winter Park. The evening will include salad, beef stroganoff, borscht, Napoleon cake and a shot of vodka. (For the teetotalers, mineral water and fruit flavored soft drinks will be available.) Traditional Russian music will make the event a feast for the ears as well as the stomach.

“FusionFest is about ‘taking a walk around the world without ever leaving Downtown Orlando,’ but the Diversitastic! Dining experiences allow our guests to dive more deeply into one culture each month,” says FusionFest’s leader, Terry Olson. “Bringing people together around a table laden with good food has been such a fun and richly meaningful time.”

Reservations for the July trip to Lacomka are $55 per person, and are available at FusionFest.org/dining

FusionFest is on track to return to downtown Orlando November 28 and 29, 2020. Last year’s second annual edition drew approximately 15,000 people to the Seneff Arts Plaza at the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts and the Orlando City Hall Commons Plaza, where they experienced two days of music, dance, food, fashion and other cultural displays keyed to more than 100 local heritage communities. For more information, visit: fusionfest.org

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.

For media inquiries, contact:

Terry Olson, Director of Orange County Arts & Cultural Affairs

[email protected]; (407) 836-5540; or:

Thali Sugisawa, Business Maven, FusionFest

[email protected]; (407) 574-1312

LET’S TALK TURKEY: FUSIONFEST’S DIVERSITASTIC! DINING EXPERIENCES ARE BACK

Dive more deeply into a different culture each month and support local small businesses

Orlando, FL, June 17, 2020 – This past January, Orlandos FusionFest multicultural festival became a year-round affair with the launch of Diversitastic Dining, a monthly series of excursions to some of our areas most exciting ethnic restaurants. Due to the coronavirus, the program had to be put on hold after three monthly outings, but plans are on track for it to resume at the end of this month with a visit to one of the best Turkish eateries in Central Florida.

At 7 p.m. on Friday, June 26th, Diversitastic! Dining will take over Turquaz Turkish Cuisine & Hookah Bar at 5648 International Drive. The evening will include a baba ganoush appetizer, a lamb Adana entree, rice pudding for dessert  and a glass of Ayran yogurt drink.  The staff will present an informative and entertaining presentation on Turkish culture, including an exciting belly dance demonstration. And itll all be taking place in an environment decorated with art and photographs from Turkey itself.

FusionFest is about taking a walk around the world without ever leaving Downtown Orlando,but the Diversitastic! Dining experiences allow our guests to dive more deeply into one culture each month,” says FusionFests leader, Terry Olson. “Bringing people together around a table laden with good food has been such a fun and richly meaningful time.”

The outing to Turquaz will carefully follow COVID-19 safety protocols. The staff will be wearing facial coverings, and patrons are asked to do so when arriving and interacting with waitstaff. Temperature will be taken before entry, and hand sanitizer will be provided. Guests will be seated only with their own party, at a safe but friendly distance from other tables. Electronic payment in advance means money will only change hands if extra drinks are purchased.

Reservations are $49.95 per person, and are available at FusionFest.org/Dining

Watch a recap of the event!

DON’T LET THE PARADE(S) PASS YOU BY! LINE UP WITH FUSIONFEST TO SHOW YOUR TRUE COLORS

Just two years in, FusionFest has become Orlando’s premier celebration of the diverse cultures that call our area home. But did you know you can literally fly the flag for the festival’s mission of fun and friendship all year long? March with our team in the regularly scheduled heritage parades that dot the city’s events calendar, and you’ll be showing your support for the rich tapestry of peoples that is Central Florida.

Taking part is easy: Just visit fusionfest.org to RSVP for any upcoming parade. You’ll get all the details about the route, day and time of the event. And you’ll be able to reserve a flag to carry from just about any part of the world. You can sign up to represent your own nationality, or to wave the banner of another culture that just appeals to you for some reason. Either way, you’ll be adding an important hue to the rainbow of diversity the city will see when the FusionFest team takes to the streets.

Showing up in colorful or heritage clothing is another great way to send the message that Orlando is for everybody. Bringing an acoustic instrument to play will help us all be heard as well as seen. Just remember to wear shoes that are comfortable enough for all that walking. And stay hydrated, because the noonday sun can get mighty hot!

The next opportunity to join in the fun is Sunday, March 1st, as the 42nd annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade comes to Downtown Winter Park. The 4th Florida Puerto Rican Parade follows suit in downtown Orlando on Saturday, April 25th, with the Caribbean-themed Orlando Carnival Parade hot on its heels Sunday, May 24th. 

All that parade activity will make for an exciting run-up to the third annual FusionFest, coming to downtown Orlando November 28 and 29, 2020. As always, the festival will present a full schedule of food, music, dance, fashion and other creative expressions from more than 100 heritage communities. Now a Thanksgiving tradition, FusionFest will again occupy the Seneff Arts Plaza at the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts and the Orlando City Hall Commons Plaza.

FOR FUSIONFEST CONTEST WINNERS, CULTURALLY MINDED POETRY IS A SLAM DUNK

Four spoken-word artists gave award-winning voice to the spirit of diversity at this year’s FusionFest multicultural festival, winning a total of $1,200 in jury prizes for their ability to turn heritage into poetry. Two winners were picked for each day of the weekend event, which returned to downtown Orlando November 30 and December 1.

Saturday’s poetry slam was won by Dennis Amadeus, a German-born word artist whose ethnic roots are also in Mali, Africa. Amadeus netted a $500 award for the piece he performed, which criticized the culture of America for putting “more people in prison than any other country.” His impressions of FusionFest, in contrast, were nothing but positive:

“The poets and slam organizers were top-notch!” Amadeus says. “They were on time, clear and great hosts! The poetry was beautiful, and it’s so refreshing to hear some of the voices from other cultures and countries.”

Also on Saturday, Edward P. Mabrey Jr. was named the winner of the day’s haiku contest, earning $100 for a piece that acknowledged past injustices while looking forward with optimism:

 

An old noose hangs

from a tree, now a tire swing

Hope gets recycled

 

An Ohio-born black American, Mabrey was a slam winner at 2018’s inaugural FusionFest, and returned this year to claim a prize in the haiku category. He has high marks for both installments of the festival he’s witnessed so far:

“The diversity represented at the event both in front and behind the scenes is remarkable,” Mabrey says. “It is a vital force in the community of Orlando, and will no doubt play a role in bringing communities together within the Orlando region.”

On Sunday, the slam champion was Eddie Figures, a Puerto Rican poet who was born in Huntington, New York, but spent some time living on the island before settling in Orlando in 2001. His $500 award-winning piece was entitled “Scratching The Sound of History.”

“It’s a performance history poem designed to show people what history looks like from a different perspective,” Figures says. “It’s very easy to tell history from the point of view of the victors and completely ignore the  victims. And this piece is designed to shed light on that.

“The slam was fun,” he says of his experience. “I participated last year and I enjoyed it so much I competed again this year.”

Sunday’s haiku contest was topped by Amy Pho, a Vietnamese American who looked toward her own family for the inspiration for her winning piece:

 

She tells me, “Ba noi

sợ quá.” It means “I’m afraid.”

I am too, grandma.

 

“I definitely did not expect to win the haiku slam,” Pho says. “My favorite parts were performing in front of my mom and her telling me she related to my poems after, as well as revisiting my heritage with her. Getting to wear the traditional outfit of Vietnam, the Áo dài, was also a really cool experience. I always hated doing it as a kid, but wearing it to celebrate my culture was a new experience I loved.”

This year’s FusionFest attracted approximately 15,000 people to downtown Orlando to celebrate the poetry, dance, food, fashion and other cultural expressions of more than 100 local heritage communities. 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 edition, scheduled for November 28 and 29, 2020. For more information, visit: fusionfest.org

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.

 

For media inquiries, contact:

Terry Olson, Director of Orange County Arts & Cultural Affairs

[email protected]; (407) 836-5540; or:

Thali Sugisawa, Business Maven, FusionFest

[email protected]; (407) 574-1312

MUSIC-CONTEST WINNERS SHOW THEIR TRUE “COLORS” AT FUSIONFEST

The pop duo Will N’ Ray was named the best music act at this year’s second annual FusionFest, for a performance with special guest Matt Duarte that netted the trio a $1,000 prize from the multicultural festival’s panel of keen-eared music judges. And appropriately enough, the contest entry that won the duo-turned-trio the top spot was a rendition of “My Colors,” an original composition by the three men that had already been adopted as the official theme song of FusionFest’s return to downtown Orlando November 30 and December 1.

A breezy number with roots in Bossa Nova, soul and R&B, “My Colors” features an uplifting lyric that fleshes out the festival’s credo of “I can be me here.” The song pays tribute to the melting pot of cultures that is Orlando, and to the spirit of friendship and diversity upon which FusionFest is based.

The winning performance of the number featured Ramsey Clark (“Ray”) on lead vocals, Will Nacar on bass and vocals, and Duarte on acoustic guitar. At the festival’s closing-night awards ceremony, Clark and Duarte presented

another, extended version of the tune, this time with the event’s Diversitastic Choir adding choral backup and holding up placards displaying the lyrics so the audience could join in.

It was a fitting capper to the second annual festival, which attracted approximately 15,000 people to downtown to celebrate the music, dance, food, fashion and other creative customs of more than 100 local heritage communities. The purpose of FusionFest is to spotlight the common bonds between those communities and the new collaborations they can forge.  Aptly, this year’s music winners are something of an international organization themselves: Duarte and Nacar are both Brazilian-born transplants to Orlando, while Clark is Panamanian on his mother’s side and Texan on his father’s.

“I feel like FusionFest is becoming a tradition for many communities in Orlando,” Duarte says. “I can tell some people were looking forward to it the whole year and that I’ll see them again in 2020.”

Follow Will N’ Ray at:

https://www.facebook.com/willnray

Follow Matt Duarte at:

http://www.mattduarte.com

https://facebook.com/mattduartemusic