Each year, FusionFest, a two-day multicultural festival held in downtown Orlando, awards one lucky winner the opportunity to fly to any destination on the globe. This year, Jenna Simpson, an undergraduate student studying accounting at the University of South Florida, was surprised when, on the closing night of the festival, her name was drawn at random as the winner of the “Fly Anywhere in the World” raffle.
Jenna came across FusionFest’s call for volunteers as she looked for a service learning project with which to volunteer. On Nov. 30, she reported to the downtown festival to take on her shift and was given a raffle ticket to fill out, placing it in a miniature replica of Orlando International Airport’s control tower. Jenna wasn’t focused on the raffle, though. In fact, she wasn’t anticipating much. She had participated in a scholarship raffle for students at the University of South Florida but had not won anything. Jenna mainly focused on her volunteer shift, helping attendees get their photos taken in front of a wall of handcrafted paper flowers.
Jenna’s sister was also in attendance at the festival and had purchased one of the V.I.P. Passport packages that included one of the raffle tickets, food tokens, a festival guide, and a button that made her eligible to win other prizes.
When Jenna 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 felt suspicious and a little dazed. Out of all the entries, Jenna had won. She had always dreamed of visiting England, where her Jamaican father was born, and New York, her mother’s birthplace. But Jenna had never even been on an airplane. Now, thanks to the FusionFest raffle, Jenna will be granted the opportunity to potentially see these places.
When asked what she would want to do with her prize, Jenna said, “I’d like to take my two sisters … to Europe and to New York to see where my parents were born.” She hopes that she will be able to bring other family members along as well.
“FusionFest was perfect for me,” Jenna said. “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.”
FusionFest is a weekend filled with music, dance, art, literature, fashion and culture. The event featured performers, vendors and volunteers from over 100 different heritages sharing their talents. In its second year, FusionFest 2019 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 event. The 2018 inaugural event received the Award of Excellence in the Downtown Orlando Partnership’s Golden Brick Awards as well as first place in the “Community Outreach Program” category of Florida Festivals and Events Association’s SunSational Awards. The third FusionFest is scheduled for Nov. 28 and 29, 2020.
FusionFest showcases the things that make various local heritages unique and how cultural diversity strengthens the community. 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. Thanks to these supporters, the festival continues to advance and celebrate diversity, inclusion and collaboration in Central Florida.