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Zora Festival of the Arts: 3 Days of Culture, History, and Music

Every year, the close-knit town of Eatonville, Florida hosts the Zora!® Festival. The event celebrates Black culture and Eatonville’s best-known resident, writer Zora Neale Hurston.  

Zora Festival Hurston Portrait

Van Vechten, Carl, 1880-1964, photographer, Copyrighted free use, via Wikimedia Commons

Outdoor Festival of the Arts 

While Zora Festival programming takes place year-round, the Outdoor Festival of the Arts is the main event.  

In 2022, it will take place from Friday, June 3, to Sunday, June 5, at the Preserve in Eatonville. Admission is free for K-12 students (ID required for middle and high schoolers) and $20 at the gate for adults. Discounts are available for adults who preorder tickets online. One-day VIP passes are $100. They come with food, drinks, and priority seating for the day’s musical acts.  

What to Expect at the Zora Festival

This year’s theme, “Celebration for the Generations” fits the event’s wide range of activities. Guests of all ages will enjoy art and literature events, diverse food options, and shopping. 

Friday is the festival’s “Youth Day.” The morning will be geared toward K-8 students. From 4 p.m. until 8 p.m., there will be a teens-only Black Music Month event with a showcase of young performers. The next two days are catered to the whole family. Gates open at 9 a.m. on Saturday and 10 a.m. Sunday.  

Tunes in the Afternoon 

Prominent Black musicians like James Brown, Sam Cooke, B.B. King, and Ray Charles have all played in Eatonville.  

The 33rd annual Zora!® Festival will aptly feature acclaimed acts. On Saturday at 1 p.m., supergroup George Clinton & Parliament-Funkadelic of “Flash Light” and “Give Up the Funk” fame will perform.

Zora Festival George Clinton

Raj Gupta, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Florida’s own Special Formula Band will open for them. The festival will take a jazzy turn on Sunday at 2 p.m. with trumpeter Tom Browne and star saxophonist Kim Waters. 

All About Eatonville 

When Eatonville was founded in 1887, it became the first self-governing, all-Black city in Florida. It was among the first of its kind anywhere in the country.  

Today Eatonville is a centrally located Orlando suburb, six miles north of downtown. Its residents are committed to preserving the town’s rich history. In 1990, the town opened the Zora Neale Hurston Museum of Fine Arts and held the first Zora!® event. Over time, the festival has brought in over 1.5 million visitors. 

Zora Festival Eatonville Sign

Ebyabe, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Zora: An Eatonville Success Story 

Before she was a famed author and Harlem Renaissance icon, Zora Neale Hurston spent most of her childhood in Eatonville. Her father served as the town’s mayor for three terms.  

After she moved to New York City and launched a writing career, part of Hurston’s heart remained in her hometown. Hurston’s most famous book, Their Eyes Were Watching God, is set in Eatonville. Tales she heard at the local general store shaped her writing style.  

 Hurston died in relative obscurity in 1960. Her work, however, gained attention through the late 20th century. It is still popular today.  

 Where Culture and Comfort Come Together 

Eatonville and the Zora Festival of the Arts are conveniently located off I-4. When traveling eastbound from any Rosen Inn, take exit 88 toward State Route 423.  

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