Arts and entertainment means something different to each person. Someone like me, a transplant to West Orange County who arrived in 1989, may think that the term arts and entertainment means theme parks. Theme parks emerged in West Orange with Walt Disney World in 1971, then expanded with SeaWorld in 1973, followed by Universal Studios Orlando in 1990. I can recall the family trip with my brother and parents in 1974 to Walt Disney World and then my own family trip with Nick, and our 2-year-old twins back in 1988. That was our entertainment then and now, with many more options as well.
West Orange has grown in so many ways over the nearly three decades in which I have lived here. Lucky for us, our choices are many and some have come full circle. The history of arts and entrainment in West Orange predates our theme parks by many decades. In 1935, a movie theater opened in downtown Winter Garden that attracted residents from the surrounding West Orange area. While it was the place to go for many years, times changed and the theater eventually closed and remained vacant for many years. Yet, as history tends to do, it repeats itself and its doors opened again.
Lucky for us, community members partnered with the Winter Garden Heritage Foundation and developed a plan to restore the theatre to its original splendor. This effort led to the reopening of the Garden Theatre in 2008. The Garden Theatre showcases local talent in plays, musicals, concerts and still shows movies and hosts private functions.
As the theatre thrived in Winter Garden’s historic downtown, other community leaders realized that other forms of art had a place in the city. This led to the formation of the Winter Garden Art Association to fill the need for a place for local artists to feature their artwork. The art gallery, known as SOBO, was born and fulfills this need on South Boyd.
I am thankful to the community leaders who have had visions and fulfilled them for all of us to have arts and entertainment right in our backyards.