Lucy Avila got the idea to paint kumquats around Dade City and San Antonio during a visit to Dunedin.
That city, becoming known for its annual Dunedin Orange Festival, was sprinkled with small paintings of oranges. And they were everywhere — businesses, homes, even public areas like a seawall.
“I was sitting there with my Scottish terrier, and I saw an orange painted on a building,” said Avila, a member of the advisory board for the Dade City Center for the Arts. “And then I looked again, and there was another one, and then another one.”
Dunedin might associate itself with oranges, but Dade City and San Antonio have positioned themselves quite solidly with the kumquat, the small orange-like fruit with a sweet rind and sour juicy center the region celebrates with a festival every January. It didn’t take long for Avila to realize such a project would be great for East Pasco County.
“We are the largest kumquat growers in America, and we don’t highlight that as much as we should,” she said. But now, with its own painting project underway, Dade City and San Antonio can do just that.
A collaboration between the DCCA, the Greater Dade City Chamber of Commerce and Saint Leo University, the Paint the Town Kumquat campaign offers 21 different kumquat designs priced between $50 and $250, depending on the size of the painting. Local artists specially chosen by the DCCA will receive half the proceeds, with the rest going toward art programs in the area. It’s open to businesses, merchants, building owners and even homeowners on the eastern side of the county.
So far, two businesses have officially signed up for the paintings, with more ready to commit in the coming weeks, Avila said. They include the Dade City chamber, which had kumquats painted on the shutters of its main offices, located at 14112 Eighth St., in Dade City.
“The kumquat festival has become an event of regional importance,” said John Moors, executive director of the Dade City chamber. “It’s becoming so well-known across the Tampa Bay region, and it’s really quite remarkable. People are moving back toward more authentic and family-friendly fun sort of activities.”
The Kumquat Festival, which runs Jan. 25 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., in Dade City’s historic downtown, is an example of those events with the slower, more rural easier pace that people in the area have come to enjoy, Moors said. And showing pride in the area’s biggest agricultural export — similar to what Plant City has with strawberries — can only grow through projects like the one organized by Avila.
Yet, the festival draws some 45,000 people each year — six times the size of Dade City, Moors said.
“When you think of the logistics of it, that’s quite a feat,” he said. “It’s basically a volunteer-run situation because we don’t have a professional management company running the festival for us. With the help of the county and the city and the state, we are able to pull this off, and certainly painting the kumquats on buildings year-round can help sustain that.”
The kumquat painting project won’t end with the festival, Avila said. It’s likely to continue straight through until November when plans are made to conduct a scavenger hunt involving businesses that receive the works of art on their exteriors. It’s a way to bring the community back to the businesses, many who work hard to support the arts and the annual festivities in the area.
“They’ll have to go by clues to find out where each and every one of the kumquats are,” Avila said. “And with that, we’ll only be closer to the next kumquat festival.”
For more information on how to participate in the project, contact Avila at (352) 521-5858, or Diana Murcar at (813) 966-3704.