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.