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Family Fun & Kumquat Delights at the 2019 Kumquat Festival

By Florida's Original NatureCoaster™ Posted on January 17, 2019

Kumquats are fun to eat and the word kumquat is fun to say, so it stands to reason that the Kumquat Festival January 26 in Dade City is going to be a fantastically fun event for all! Today, NatureCoaster explores all things kumquat to help prepare you for the 22nd Annual Kumquat Festival. Read on.

What is a Kumquat?

The kumquat is native to China and was given as a traditional gift on New Year’s Day. Translating to “golden coins,” the kumquat represents prosperity, according to information from TV horticulturist Roger Swain.

Where Did the Kumquat Festival Come From?

Nearly 100 years ago, Casper Joseph “J. C.” Nathe came to what is now known as St. Joseph, and worked several jobs to make ends meet, including at a nursery near Jessamine owned by J. W. Ellsworth. There, he became acquainted with the kumquat, an ornamental plant that was given to wish prosperity to the recipient.

Nathe planted an acre of kumquat trees in 1912, as well as 50 acres of citrus, and bananas, avocados, guavas, pineapples and vegetables to feed his family and trade for other goods and services.

The Nathe family used the fruit for preserves and they became popular among area residents. Orders started coming in, so they began growing more kumquats. In less than 15 years, Florida Grower magazine crowned J.C. Nathe “the world’s kumquat king.”

Several local St. Joseph families began converting their acreage to the profitable little sweet and sour fruit. From the 1930s to 1962, when a bad freeze destroyed the fruit on most of the trees, the quantity of kumquats grown in this rural area of eastern Pasco County grew and grew.

Frank Gude, president of Kumquat Growers.

Kumquat Growers, Inc. was started in 1971 by owners/growers Charles Barthle, Frank Gude, Joseph and Paul Neuhofer and Fred Heidgerken. Today, Frank and Rosemarie Gude and Joseph and Margie Neuhofer own the nation’s largest producer and shipper of kumquats and kumquat products.

They are descendants of the original St. Joseph families that have been growing, packing and selling kumquats for close to 100 years.

Why a Kumquat Festival?

Over twenty years ago, the Greater Dade City Chamber of Commerce began holding a festival to celebrate the golden kumquat and all it has contributed to the area. Today, this wholesome, fun, and delicious event features over 400 vendors and 30 sponsors coming together throughout the streets of an historic, charming Southern town to celebrate the little fruit that is both sweet and sour.

This family friendly festival celebrates wonderful creations from the delicious kumquat citrus fruit. The whole town gets involved. Image by Gary Hatrick

“Once again, Dade City and Eastern Pasco County are preparing to welcome thousands of residents and visitors to our area.  It is our pleasure to produce this quality event, and we invite everyone to enjoy the Festival and come back and visit us again” says John Moors, Executive Director of the Greater Dade City Chamber of Commerce.

What Happens at the Kumquat Festival?

Music is held on the 1909 Classical Revival style historic courthouse steps throughout the day, where visitors are encouraged to stop and refresh themselves.  Local entertainment includes Saint Leo University’s Totally TABS, Calvary Assembly of Dade City’s Christian Contemporary, Melissa Lee Zenker, the Strawberry Express Cloggers, Frank Savers with Influence of Music, Folkloric Company, Emmet Stevens, Jr. & Seventeenth Street, and Frank Inversso & Pasco Talent throughout the day.

Pops 54 by Mike Groseclose at the Kumquat Festival Car Show. Ronnie Setser’s Car & Truck Shows puts on the annual event, drawing great vehicles from around Florida and the southeast U.S.

Kumquat Festival Car Show

The Annual Kumquat Festival Car Show is sponsored by O’Reilly Auto Parts this year and features an amazing variety of classic cars and trucks in the large parking lot of the downtown Judicial Courthouse. Organized by Ronnie Setser’s Car and Truck Shows, the trophies, dash plaques and well-organized show attracts some of the nicest vehicles to be seen in the Southeast U.S. The Annual Kumquat Festival Car Show is sponsored by O’Reilly Auto Parts runs from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Sponsors Make the Kumquat Festival Happen

Advent Health Dade City is the headlining sponsor for 2019, joining dozens of business and government partners who come together to make the day memorable.

If you get lucky, you might find Fairy Cake when you visit Dade City.
If you get lucky, you might find Fairy Cake when you visit Dade City’s local shops and restaurants. This wonderful confection is at Lunch on Limoges. Image courtesy of Robin Draper.

Stop in one of the Friendly Local Shops and Restaurants

Local storefronts are decorated for the festival in kumquat themes and it can be nice to duck into a shop or restaurant and rest during the festivities. The Brass Tap, at the corner of 7th Street and Pasco Avenue offers Kumquat beer and wine for the connoisseur. Kumquat wine sales also benefit the local Rotary club.

Maybe a special treat for your favorite furry friend would be a good choice. Just stop in DogMania and Cats Too to choose from their large selection of hand-baked goodies.

Dade City is a great town to visit any day and the unique shops and restaurants that make up this vibrant downtown are another great way to spend part of your day. Antiques, toys, books, jewelry, quilting, and pet supplies are some of the types of shops you will find.

Restaurants vary from an authentic tea house to sandwich shops, coffee shops, Mexican, Italian, craft beer and fine dining.

Although Dade City is a pet-friendly city, please allow your pets to stay at home during the festival.

Hundreds of Vendors provide Unique & Kumquat Items

Unique arts and crafts are fun to discover in many of the vendor booths lining the streets of this quaint city in eastern Pasco County. Many of these artisans return year after year to sell their wares.

Delicious kumquat foods, as well as many ethnic offerings are available to festivalgoers.

There is a myriad of opportunities to sample the tasty little fruit, whether it be as marmalade, cookies, salsa, ice cream, refrigerator pie, or a sip of kumquat beer.

Great festival foods are available at the 22nd Annual Kumquat Festival in Dade City from Kumquat Pie to fresh tamales. Image courtesy of Richard Riley.

Kumquat Kids Corral and Health Fair Onsite

A Kumquat Kids Corral offers families the opportunity to let off some steam with bounce houses, pony rides, games, face painting, rock climbing wall, a euro-bungee and more.

The health fair gives visitors a chance to talk with providers and glean valuable information.

Make it an Overnight Visit: Kumquat Growers Open House

The 2019 Kumquat Growers Open House will be held at the Kumquat Growers packing house in St. Joseph from 10:00 AM to 3:00 PM on the two days before the Kumquat Festival (Jan. 24 and 25). Here you can immerse yourself in the agricultural side of kumquats.

Learn about the origin and history of kumquats in the Dade City area during the 15-minute talks held several times each day. You will also learn about the different types of kumquats and how they are used.

Tram tours of a kumquat grove are part of the Kumquat Growers Open House event.

There are tours of the Kumquat Growers packing house where we learn how kumquats are picked, processed, packaged and shipped, and a visit to the Kumquat Gift Shop where you will find a little bit of “all things kumquat.”

Lunch and live music, along with some historic demonstrations are provided.

Half hour tram tours allow visitors to see an actual kumquat grove. This tour explains the planting, maintenance and care of kumquat trees for commercial production.

Places to Stay

There is a nice Hampton Inn just south of downtown Dade City, and several hotels in Wesley Chapel along the I-75 and SR 56-SR54 corridor. Camping and RV hookups can be had at the Travelers Rest Resort.

Free admission and easy shuttle service helps make the Kumquat Festival a great way to spend your Saturday. The atmosphere is, well, festive and relaxed.

Free Admission and Shuttle Service

Free admission, family fun and free shuttle service from parking areas. Satellite parking lots are at the Pasco County Fairgrounds, 36733 State Road 53, Dade City, and along U.S. 301 across from Jarrett Ford.

The kumquat has become an important part of Florida’s Nature Coast, and the 22nd Annual Kumquat Festival January 26 in downtown Dade City promises to be one not to miss. For more information, click here.

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