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Sun, crowds make fest a success

Thousands attend the daylong event covering 18 blocks in downtown Dade City. A children's parade is a new highlight.

By MOLLY MOORHEAD
Published February 1, 2006


DADE CITY - Perhaps the credit should go to the weather.

With a bright sky Saturday and comfortable temperatures, Dade City's annual Kumquat Festival was, by all accounts, a success again.

Attendance estimates vary greatly, from 20,000 to 35,000. But whatever the number, organizers said it grew from last year's event.

The daylong party, in its ninth year, covered 18 city blocks downtown. Cars were parked as far as 10 blocks away, in neighborhoods and shopping center lots.

The park-and-ride service from the Pasco County Fairgrounds 3 miles away was busier than ever. Phyllis Smith, director of the Greater Dade City Chamber of Commerce, said more shuttles will be added next year.

"It just did not go fast enough," Smith said.

Greg Gude, a St. Joseph kumquat grower, said he came home with a few leftovers of the tiny fruit and marmalade. That was okay, because his booth at the festival ran out early last year.

"We had plenty of kumquats," Gude said. "We surely didn't run out. We wanted to make darn sure we didn't run out."

He said Friday's open house, which included tours of the packing house and groves, drew about 1,500 people, down slightly from the previous year.

"Things went really well. We were never really crowded. It was just a steady flow of people," he said.

And the kumquat craze has stretched into this week. Gude said orders for gift baskets and wholesale fruit were up.

This year's festival included, for the first time, a children's parade Friday. Attendance and participation were both light. The event time was changed only a few days ahead, and Smith said it was important to keep it late in the afternoon and brief, about 30 to 45 minutes.

"We were pleased that we had that, and it will grow next year," she said.

[Last modified February 1, 2006, 01:04:14]


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