accessibility restaurant explore domain room_service shopping_basket arrow-circle-right search instagram linkedin yelp twitter youtube star facebook Trip Advisor

The Insider’s Guide to 2020 Kumquat Festival

By Diane Bedard Posted on January 2, 2020

Kumquats are fun to eat, and the word kumquat is fun to say, so it stands to reason that the Kumquat Festival January 25 in Dade City is going to be a fantastically fun event for all!

Promoted as a family-friendly alternative to Tampa’s Gasparilla, the Annual Kumquat Festival has been a staple on the last Saturday of January in historic downtown Dade City for over 20 years.

Today, NatureCoaster provides a behind the scenes guide to all things kumquat to help prepare you for the 23rd Annual Kumquat Festival.

What is a Kumquat?

First, one must know what a kumquat is. Kumquats are a small round or oblong-shaped citrus fruit that is sweet on the inside and has a tart skin. Kumquats are supposed to be eaten whole, so one might consider them the original SweetTart®.

Roger Swain, television horticulturist, explains kumquats at the 2016 Kumquat Grower’s Open House. Image by Richard Riley.

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

Why a Kumquat Festival?

More than 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.

kumquat growers at kumquat festival
The Kumquat Growers are located in the Wells Fargo parking lot on Meridian. Image courtesy of Kumquat Growers.

“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.

Music is held on the 1909 Classical Revival style historic courthouse steps throughout the day, where visitors are encouraged to stop and refresh themselves.

What Happens at the Kumquat Festival?

There is some amazing shopping, eating, drinking, fun activities and community spirit that envelope visitors to the Annual Kumquat Festival. With over 400 vendors situated in beautiful downtown Dade City, no-one gets bored.

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 folk dancers, cloggers, local church choirs, and wholesome local acts.

Kumquat pie is so good. Creamy, slightly sweet citrus and a tart kickoff on a delectable graham cracker crust and worth a trip to the Annual Kumquat Festival for an indulgence. Image courtesy of the Greater Dade City Chamber of Commerce.

The vendor choices are off the charts! There are arts and crafts, fine art, farmers market, food and beverages, and sponsor booths.

Because the weather is usually beautiful and sunny, it is a good idea to rest periodically. When you get a little tired, take a few minutes to enjoy a snack and find a place to rest. Chairs can be found at the Historic Courthouse for those who want to take a break while enjoying some live local entertainment. Several picnic tables can be found at various locations. Pace yourself, take a few minutes to relax, and don’t forget to stay hydrated.

Information booths are located at the intersection of 7th Street & Meridian Avenue and 3rd Street & Meridian Avenue. They can also be found on our Live Event Map at www.KumquatFestival.org, along with food and restroom locations. Here is where you can purchase your Official T-Shirt, Hat or Visor, or ask questions. 

Kumquat Festival Car Show

Pops 54 by Mike Groseclose at the Kumquat Festival Car Show a few years back. This year’s Kumquat Festival Car Show is hosted by the Tampa Bay Classic Chevy Club, drawing great vehicles from around Florida and the southeast U.S.

The Annual Kumquat Festival Car Show is hosted by the Tampa Bay Classic Chevy Club this year and features an amazing variety of classic cars and trucks in the large parking lot of the downtown Judicial Courthouse. Trophies, dash plaques and a well-organized show attracts some of the nicest vehicles to be seen in the Southeast U.S. Show runs from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Sponsors Make the Kumquat Festival Happen

2020 kumquat festival
The Annual Kumquat Festival is sponsored by many large, medium, and small organizations in the Dade City area. Sponsors often have large vendor spaces and offer freebies and information to Annual Kumquat Festival guests.

Advent Health Dade City is the headlining sponsor for 2020, joining Florida’s Sports Coast, VisitFlorida, and dozens of business and government partners who come together to make the day memorable.  

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 for the connoisseur.

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 Lunch on Limoges in Dade City. Image courtesy of Robin Draper.

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

Kumquat beer and wine are available through local shops, restaurants, and a retailer or two.
Image courtesy of Tampa Bay Brewing and Kumquat Growers.

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.

face paingint child
There is a kids zone for playing and more at the Annual Kumquat Festival. Image courtesy of Pixabay.

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.

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

Make it an Overnight Visit: Kumquat Growers Open House

The 2020 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 Thursday and Friday before the Annual Kumquat Festival (Jan. 23 and 24). 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.

Come a day or two before the Annual Kumquat Festival and enjoy learning about kumquats at the Kumquat Growers Open House. Image courtesy of Kumquat Growers.

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

Travelers Rest Resort offers nice accommodations close to Dade Citys Annual Kumquat Festival. Image courtesy of Pixabay.

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 Shuttle Service

Bring your family to the Annual Kumquat Festival on January 25, 2020, and have a blast discovering Dade City’s most renown event. Image courtesy of Pixabay.

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 Festival has become an important part of Florida’s Nature Coast, and the 23rd Annual Kumquat Festival January 25 in downtown Dade City promises to be one not to miss.

Where Did the Kumquat Festival Come From?

Frank Gude, president of Kumquat Growers. Image courtesy of Robin Draper.

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.

kumquat preserves
Kumquat Preserves, a real treat, homemade by Robin Draper. Image courtesy of Robin Draper.

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 number of kumquats grown in this rural area of eastern Pasco County grew and grew.

Kumquat Growers, Inc. was started in 1971 by owners/growers Charles Barthle, Frank Gude, Joseph and Paul Neuhofer and Fred Heidgerken.

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

For more information about the 23rd Annual Kumquat Festival, click here.

Comments