Perhaps it began when Mayor Jacobs asked Terry Olson to investigate ways to show Orange County’s support for diversity. Perhaps it began years before when Olson, as the County’s “ambassador” for arts and culture, would help some of the ethnic cultural organizations come together. But it probably began when Sam Roberts of the Caribbean Cultural Association and Yves Bouele of the African Leaders Council approached Mr. Olson about creating some kind of international event.
In November 2016, about 40 people from various heritages gathered to brainstorm the best way to share our heritages. A festival and parade were the top choices. While there are dozens of festivals centered around one heritage or another in our community, we thought, What if we all came together at the same time?
So in the month following that brainstorming session, a Steering Committee began to take shape and has been meeting monthly ever since. Some of the early stepping stones to the festival were bimonthly “Gathering of Nations” events with a few people from every heritage we could find in Central Florida (currently we have more than 140). Each of the Gatherings was focused on a particular aspect of culture ̶ Food, Dance, Music, Clothing, Games, Literature. These explorations helped us envision what a “fusion” festival would look like – a place where we honored our heritages while celebrating how we influence each other as we shape our own unique identity as Central Floridians.
Under the fiscal sponsorship of the Downtown Arts District and support from Orange County Government and the City of Orlando, the festival began to take shape.