Zora! Festival: A Celebration of Education, Arts and Culture in Orlando

More than half a century before construction began on Walt Disney World Resort’s Magic Kingdom, celebrated author Zora Neale Hurston grew up in Eatonville, just 15 minutes from downtown Orlando. Today, the historic town — one of the first self-governing, all-black communities in the U.S. — honors Hurston’s memory with the Zora Neale Hurston National Museum of Fine Arts and the annual Zora! Festival, also known as the Zora Neale Hurston Festival of the Arts and Humanities.

As Zora! Festival prepares to celebrate its milestone 30th anniversary, here’s what you can expect from the next edition of this multifaceted celebration of education, culture and the arts when it returns to Eatonville.

30th Annual Zora Neale Hurston™ Festival of the Arts and Humanities (ZORA!™ Festival)

Saturday, January 26 – Sunday, February 3, 2019

Outdoor Festival of the Arts in Historic Eatonville

Friday - Sunday, February 1-3, 2019
Hours: Friday & Saturday, 9 a.m. - 6 p.m.
Sunday, 10 a.m. - 5 p.m.

Presented by the Association to Preserve the Eatonville Community, Inc. (P.E.C.), a 501(c)3, historic preservation and cultural arts organization, established in 1987

Zora’s Village

Few writers of the Harlem Renaissance had a greater impact on the world than Hurston. This event highlights the author’s contributions to African-American culture and her hometown with a combination of activities promoting the importance of education and the arts.

The main festival takes place at Zora’s Village. This special area can be found on the front lawn of the historic Robert Hungerford High School’s campus, which is adjacent to The Hurston Museum. Here, you can enjoy cultural arts and heritage booths, or shop for related merchandise, and admission for students and children is free.

In previous years, Zora’s Village has included features such as an International Food Court, a Healthy Lifestyles Pavilion, fine arts, vendors’ booths and more. Look for details on 2019’s Zora’s Village as they become available.

Arts, Culture & Humanities Programming

Each year, Zora! Festival is complemented with related art and humanities programming at locations throughout the Orlando area. In 2018, for instance, The Hurston Museum and St. Lawrence African Episcopal Church both hosted special presentations focusing on Eatonville’s early years, and the events were free to attend.

Winter Park’s Rollins College, about 15 minutes from Eatonville and 20 minutes from downtown Orlando, joined St. Lawrence in presenting civics programming. Nearby, the Winter Park Civic Center served as the venue for two of Zora! Festival’s most fun events: the Zora! Line Dance Showcase and the HATitude Party & Lunch, which invites attendees to wear stylish hats in honor of Hurston.

Located in east Orlando, UCF Rosen College of Hospitality Management played host to “An Evening With David Banner,” featuring the Grammy Award-winning musician, producer, activist and philanthropist. And back in Eatonville, both the Zapp Band and the National Motown Review took the stage at Wymore Athletic Field.

Information about 2019’s programming will be available in the coming months.

Eatonville and The Hurston Museum

If you can’t make it to Orlando during Zora! Festival, note that historic Eatonville and The Hurston Museum are worth visiting whenever you’re in Orlando.

Eatonville was one of hundreds of communities founded by and for African-Americans in the southern U.S. between the 1880s and 1930s, and of a handful still remaining. Encompassing about 20 acres, the town is home to several buildings that were constructed between 1882 and 1946.

In addition to honoring its namesake, The Hurston Museum provides information about the community and displays work by legendary and emerging artists of African descent. Also available from the museum are tour brochures for the Zora Neale Hurston Trail, which ties Hurston’s writing to 16 sites related to Hurston’s life and 10 markers with her writing.