Honoring the life of historic author Zora Neale Hurston and the positive impact of arts and education, ZORA! Festival returns to the Orlando area Jan. 25 – Feb. 2, 2020.


Did you know that famed author, anthropologist and filmmaker Zora Neale Hurston grew up in the town of Eatonville, just 15 minutes north of downtown Orlando? Today, the historic community is home to both the Zora Neale Hurston National Museum of Fine Arts, aka The Hurston Museum, and the annual Zora Neale Hurston Festival of the Arts and Humanities, aka ZORA!™ Festival.

Learn more: Orlando History

With Hurston’s namesake event set to return from Jan. 25 – Feb. 2, 2020, here’s your guide to the 31st annual edition of this acclaimed celebration. If you’re interested in the arts, history and culture, this is one festival you won’t want to miss!

Zora Neale Hurston & ZORA! Festival

Shop Unique Merchandise at ZORA! Festival's African Trade ExpoShop Unique Merchandise at ZORA! Festival’s African Trade Expo

Few writers of the Harlem Renaissance had a greater impact on their world than Hurston, best known for her seminal 1937 novel, Their Eyes Were Watching God. As a young child, Hurston moved with her family to Eatonville, which was incorporated in 1887 and is one of the oldest African-American municipalities in the United States. The town also inspired many of Hurston’s stories.

Taking place on Feb. 1-2, the festival’s main event is the Outdoor Festival of the Arts in Historic Eatonville, held in the town’s community park next to the public library and along East Kennedy Boulevard. It runs from 9 a.m. – 6 p.m. on Feb. 1 and 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. on Feb. 2.

Here, you can shop for high-fashion and high-quality items at the African Trade Expo, learn at the Afrofuturism Pavilion, browse booths offering fine arts and master crafts, dine at the International Food Court, and enjoy live performances on the Center Stage, among other activities. ZORA! Festival will also have much for kids, including the Make-and-Take Tent for grades Pre-K – 4 and the ZORA! STEM Activity Hub for grades 5-12.

General admission for the Outdoor Festival of the arts is priced at $20 on Saturday and $10 on Sunday for adults and free for children and students through grade 12. (Valid ID required for middle- and high-school students.) VIP packages ($75 Saturday/$30 Sunday) provide up-front seating at the Center Stage plus complimentary food and two adult beverages.

Additional ZORA! Festival Programming

Starting Jan. 25, ZORA! Festival will present arts and humanities programming at locations throughout Orlando, including the following events — many of which are free to attend.

Date

Event

Location

Time

Admission

Jan. 25

Exhibition & Opening Reception

Zora Neale Hurston National Museum of Fine Arts (Eatonville)

6-8 p.m.

Free

Jan. 26

Back Story: The Role of Robinson M. Sondashi with ZORA! Festival 2020

Zora Neale Hurston National Museum of Fine Arts (Eatonville)

3-4 p.m.

Free

Jan. 27

Nerd Night

Wells’Built Museum (Downtown Orlando)

TBD

Free

Jan. 28

Brother From Another Planet (With Talk After the Film)

Denton Johnson Community Center (Eatonville)

6:30-9 p.m.

Free

Jan. 29

Book Fare: Session on Special Commemorative Edition of ZORA! Magazine, ZORA! Festivals 1990-2018

University of Central Florida (UCF) Main Campus Library

7-8:30 p.m.

Free

Jan. 30

Inaugural Africa: America Women’s Economic Forum

Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts (Downtown Orlando)

9 a.m. – 4 p.m.

$75 (Includes Luncheon Buffet)

 

Afrofuturism Conference

Macedonia Missionary Baptist Church (Eatonville)

8:30 a.m. – 3:30 p.m.

Free (Registration Required)

 

The Spirituality of Zora Neale Hurston

Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts (Downtown Orlando)

7:30-9:30 p.m.

Free With Afrofuturism Conference Badge

Jan. 31

Afrofuturism Conference (Continued)

UCF Communications and Media Building (Downtown Orlando)

9:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.

Free (Registration Required)

 

Line Dance Party

Park Next to Eatonville Library

6-9 p.m.

$5

Feb. 1

An Evening to Remember: Beyond Wakanda — Up Close & Personal Masquerade

Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts, DeVos Family Room and Alexis & Jim Pugh Theater (Downtown Orlando)

8:30-11 p.m.

$150 (Includes Dinner & Program)

 

Eatonville and African-American History in Orlando

Wells'Built Museum of African-American History and Culture in OrlandoWells’Built Museum of African-American History and Culture in Orlando

If you can’t make it to Orlando during ZORA! Festival, note that historic Eatonville and The Hurston Museum are worth visiting at any time of year.

Encompassing about 20 acres, Eatonville was one of hundreds of communities founded by and for African Americans in the southern United States between the 1880s and 1930s. Here, you’ll find several buildings that were constructed between 1882 and 1946.

Besides honoring its namesake, The Hurston Museum provides information about the Eatonville community and displays works by legendary and emerging artists of African descent. You can also pick up a tour brochure for the Zora Neale Hurston Trail, which ties Hurston’s writing to 26 historic sites and markers in Eatonville.

For an equally engaging glimpse into history, stop by the Wells’Built Museum of African-American History and Culture in downtown Orlando. Originally called the Wells’Built Hotel, it was constructed in 1921 by prominent African-American physician Dr. William M. Wells and offered lodging to travelers who were barred from Florida’s then-segregated hotels. Several of those guests were famous musicians, including Count Basie, Duke Ellington and Ray Charles.

Listed on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places, the Wells’Built now houses memorabilia of Orlando’s African-American community. It also features exhibits about the Civil Rights movement and displays African art and artifacts.

Art and history buffs will find much more to love about Orlando beyond these options, including galleries, museums, performing arts venues, multicultural festivals and much more. Start making plans now to experience Orlando’s artistic side for yourself!

All images courtesy On Track Media.


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