Every year, as marauders take over Bayshore Boulevard in Tampa’s Gasparilla Parade, there’s another invasion of sorts— as thousands stream into downtown Dade City for the city’s annual Kumquat Festival.
“It’s a wonderful alternative (to Gasparilla),” said John Moors, executive director of The Greater Dade City Chamber of Commerce.
The Dade City event — which draws its name from a diminutive, tangy orange fruit — gives visitors a chance to experience a taste of old Florida in a family friendly atmosphere, Moors said.
With its free parking, free admission, free entertainment and assorted free activities, people can enjoy the day without having to spend a fortune, Moors said.
Of course, Moors said, the chamber would like to see festival-goers do a bit of spending on items sold by vendors, at area restaurants and in merchant’s stores.
The event, now in its 18th year, is expected to attract 30,000 to 40,000.
Event-goers come from as far north as The Villages, as far south as Sarasota, as far west as the beaches, and as far east as Orlando.
For some, it’s an annual tradition. For others, a reunion. And for still others, it’s an introduction to the East Pasco city with the historic courthouse and quaint shops.
The annual festival started simply.
It began when Phyllis Smith, Roxanne Barthle and Carlene Ellberg were looking for a way to help inject new life into downtown Dade City.
They decided to have a festival to honor the kumquat, and the first event was held on the lawn of the historic Pasco County Courthouse.
This year there will be 450 vendors, a car show, children’s activities, an enlarged health and wellness section, entertainment and, for the first time, several food trucks.
The food trucks are an additional component to the area’s restaurants and food vendors at the festival, Moors said.
Local restaurants are always swarmed on festival day, the chamber executive said, adding some restaurant owners have told him they do a week’s worth of business on that single day.
Of course, the kumquat is king at this event, and vendors offer it up in myriad forms. There’s kumquat pie, kumquat salsas, kumquat jam, kumquat jelly, kumquat preserves, and even kumquat lotions and soaps.
Over the years, the event has helped put Dade City on the map and has helped raise the community’s profile. It was heralded by the Pasco County Tourism Board as the Pasco County Event of the Year in 2012 and has enjoyed the distinction of being named a “Top 20 Event” by the Southeast Tourism Society, which selects premier events in 13 Southeastern states.
Offering the event without charging an admission means that organizers rely on the generosity of sponsors, income from vendor fees and support achieved through other fundraising efforts.
This year, Florida Hospital Zephyrhills is the event’s headlining sponsor, Moors said.
Besides providing financial support, the hospital is a partner with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, so the team will be sending its bus as well as cheerleaders and a player or two, Moors said.
The importance of the sponsors cannot be overstated, Moors said.
They make it possible for event organizers to stage the festival without admission or parking charges, Moors said.
“There’s a lot of expense in putting something like this on. Somebody has to pay for the buses and the Port-o-lets and the insurance and the volunteer expenses,” the chamber executive said.
To get the full enjoyment out of the event, Moors recommends that people arrive early.
“Get in and get settled and enjoy the day.”
The festival is held, rain or shine.
Moors is optimistic that the weather will cooperate.
“Bring an umbrella,” he said. “You can always leave it in the car.”
18th annual Kumquat Festival
When: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Jan. 31
Where: Downtown Dade City
How much: Admission is free, parking is free, entertainment is free, and many activities are free.
For more information, call (352) 567-3769, or visit DadeCityChamber.org or KumquatFestival.org.
Kumquat Festival Entertainment Schedule, Historic Courthouse Square
9:30 a.m. to 10 a.m.: Saint Leo University SASS (Women’s a capella)
10 a.m. to 10:30 a.m.: First Baptist Church of Dade City (Christian blended music)
10:30 a.m. to 11 a.m.: Strawberry Express Cloggers
11 a.m. to noon: Cypress Creek Dixieland Band (Seven-piece New Orleans-style jazz band)
Noon to 1 p.m.: Noah Gamer (Alabama male vocalist award in traditional country, in 17 to 20 age group)
1 p.m. to 2 p.m.: Dean Johnson’s Music & Friends (Various styles)
2 p.m. to 2:30 p.m.: Bailey Coats (Rhythm and blues and jazz)
2:30 p.m. to 3 p.m.: Danielle Pacifico (Country)
3 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.: This Train (’50s and ’60s pop and gospel)
O’Reilly Auto Parts Annual Kumquat Festival Car Show
Registration, 8 a.m.
Car show, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Dash plaque and specialty trophies will be awarded.
For more information contact Ronnie Setser, (813) 879-1616 or RonnieSetsers.com.
Would you like a slice of kumquat pie?
1 9-inch baked pie crust
1 can condensed milk
1 8-ounce container of whipped topping
2/3 cup of Kumquat puree
1/2 cup of lemon juice
Beat condensed milk with whipped topping. Add lemon juice and beat until thickened. Add Kumquat puree. Pour in pie crust and chill for several hours. Garnish with Kumquats and mint leaves.
What is a kumquat?
Kumquats have been called the little gold gems of the citrus family. They are believed to be native to China and have a very distinctive taste. Kumquats are the only citrus fruit that can be eaten whole. The peel is the sweetest part and can be eaten separately. The pulp contains seeds and juice, which is sour. Together, the taste is sweet and sour. The seeds contain pectin, which can be removed by boiling for use in jams and jellies.
— Kumquat Growers Inc.
How do you eat a kumquat?
—Kumquats taste best when they are gently rolled between the fingers before being eaten. The gentle rolling action releases the essential oils in the rind. Eat kumquats the same way you eat a grape — peel on.
—Kumquats can be candied or on a kabob with fruits, vegetables and meat, such as poultry, duck, pork or lamb.
—Kumquats are also a favorite for jelly, jam, marmalade, salsa or chutney.
Published January 21, 2015