Orlando Festival Park: From cow pasture to major attraction

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Photo courtesy of City of Orlando.

What a beautiful fall day it is in The Milk District of Orlando. I’m headed to Orlando Festival Park for a free Opera in The Park concert and I’m wondering what I should do with these pesky kids of mine. Should I send them over to Orlando Skate Park while I go enjoy the music? Or over towards the new basketball and volleyball courts? Or maybe they’ll like playing in the splash pad that’s closer to the music? I’m going for the arts and music either way, and I’m just glad there are options nearby for my kids to enjoy also.

The true story is, I don’t have any children, and besides the skate park and volleyball courts, Festival Park doesn’t currently offer much of what I just dreamed about. Yes, the park is home to a membership-based community garden, and some exercise equipment for residents to use, but besides Orlando Beer Fest and a handful of other festival events, the park mostly sits quiet, dark and empty on a daily basis. The current “basketball court” does attract a decent street ball game on the occasion, but it isn’t much of a court, and more of a parking lot with two goals and some striping. The volleyball courts on the north side are very popular during the day and early evenings but suffer from a lack of proper lighting at night. The volleyball players themselves invest in their own lighting, which runs off a rented generator. This is great initiative, but we can do better than this…

The future of Festival Park is bright, as there are dedicated community volunteers and initiatives taking place that aim to improve the park. Some of the goals are to improve the sports facilities and increase the programming of more arts and culture, including the construction of a proposed performing arts pavilion and new utilities to support these park activities. “We essentially see Festival Park as a blank canvas, and with the proper upgrades and consistent activation, the park will serve as a community magnet and be a safe and welcoming third space where community arts organizations, residents and visitors come together to mingle and enjoy,” says Ricky Rodriguez, board member of The Milk District.

On August 16th, The Milk District Main Street Program is taking the first step toward Festival Park improvements buy hosting a free concert in the park. Proceeds from event sponsorships and merchandise and drink sales will go toward this initiative and furthering the goals of the Main Street Program. It’s exciting to know that this park, which was once a cow pasture and then training grounds for U.S. Armed Forces, can transform itself again into a vibrant destination for all to enjoy, every day. We hope you’ll join us in the park and in this vision for the future of Orlando Festival Park.

For more info and to help with proposed improvement plans, contact The Milk District’s executive director Robert Soviero at director@themilkdistrict.org

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