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High time for lowly kumquat

The Kumquat Festival celebrates the diminutive delicacy as visitors sample the fruit in every delicious way.

By MICHELLE JONES, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published January 27, 2002


photo
[Times photo: Lance Rothstein]
Heather Neuhofer, 2 1/2, enjoys a tasty kumquat at the Kumquat Growers Inc. booth, which is half-owners by her grandfather.
DADE CITY -- Annette and Marvin Platzner came to the fifth annual Kumquat Festival Saturday in Dade City because when they lived in Boca Raton they always went to the big fairs.

"But we never went to one named after a little fruit," said Mrs. Platzner.

Recently they moved to San Antonio and, according to them, they are still getting used to country living.

The all-day festival that circled the historic courthouse and spilled onto Meridian Avenue east a few blocks, was packed by 10 a.m.

People came to peruse the arts and crafts, be entertained and to eat a large variety of food including kumquat pie, cookies and candy. They could purchase the tiniest of the citrus family in bags, jars and in bottles as the fruit was offered in jams, jellies and syrup. They could even purchase a kumquat tree.

Katy Dorr, 13, Kailyn Hart, 8, and Dakota Hart, 11, were dressed in orange and green as they handed out kumquat balloons. All three said they had tasted kumquats and thought they were good.

First used as ornamentals, the fruit is grown in groves in and around Saint Joseph, considered the kumquat capital of the world. Some years ago people discovered they were quite tasty in a variety of recipes including cakes, chips, chutney, marmalade and Hawaiian chicken. The tiny fruit has a thick, sweet peel and a tart pulp, and can be eaten whole, minus the seeds.

Alan and Jennifer Davis came from Lake Park, Ga., and provided an entertaining as well as edible treat. Taking turns on a bike, they provided the power to run the generator to churn homemade ice cream. They had two churns going at the same time.

"This is a Johnson Iron Horse water pump that was used in World War II," said Alan Davis as he pedaled his bike.

Their ice cream is their own recipe and consists of soy cream, three kinds of milk cream, four kinds of vanilla, sugar -- very little he said -- and a pinch of salt.

"No eggs," he added.

For their breakfast, Sherrill Sims of Brooksville and her friend Gertrude Tresness of Riverview had some of the Davises' ice cream.

"It is delicious," said Sims. "It is topped with hot caramel."

They said they love to come to craft shows and this one is a good one.

"There are a lot of things here I have never seen before," said Tresness.

More than 200 booths featured homemade articles and other items including hand painted switch covers, crocheted towels, rocks with candlewicks stuck inside, stuffed bears wearing vests touting football team logos and all sorts of wood crafts and metal works.

Diane and Aimee Davenport of Dade City said they have come every year since the festival began.

"It has really grown since it opened," said Diane Davenport. "I love coming every year and running into people I know who don't live here anymore."

Soybean candles were one of the newest products offered. They came in jars and in many scents, including hot apple pie, blueberry, hazelnut and, of course, kumquat.

Paul Beasley of Dade City said he makes them himself.

"They are clean burning and leave no black residue," he said.

Scented salts, potpourri and crystals were also available to buy.

Combined with the aroma of all the many foods available, fragrances mingled together wafting through the warm, humid air enticing people to try a sample of kettle corn, buy a turkey leg or purchase a scented candle or some salts.

Nancy Rutherford painted designs on buckets and covered the lids with soft material to provide a seat. The buckets could be used for cat food, bird seed or even beach toys for children.

And the children were not left out at the festival as there were train, pedal car and pony rides.

Face painting, cotton candy and hot dogs, the usual fare for kids, were also available.

Entertainment on three different stages, with lots of chairs, provided a respite all day long for visitors to the free festival.

Sponsored by the Dade City Chamber of Commerce, organizers said the festival received a boost this year with publicity on national television and in nationally circulated magazines.

"Next year the event will probably have to expand into more of the city to fit everything in," said Phyllis Smith, executive director for the chamber.

-- Michelle Jones covers central Pasco community news. She can be reached at (800) 333-7505 Ext. 4612 or (813) 909-4612. Her e-mail address is jones@sptimes.com

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