Kumquats: Part II - Kumquat Festival
Bushnell, FL - Events of Saturday, January 30, 2016
As we mentioned in our last post on the open house at the Kumquat Growers Packing House, the Kumquat Festival was scheduled for the following day (the last Saturday in January) in nearby Dade City. The festival, which was started in 1996, has grown to be a major event covering an area in downtown Dade City about 5 blocks long and 3 blocks wide with over 350 craft and food booths. There are also a classic car show, a farmers market, activities for children like bounce houses and face painting and more. The annual estimated attendance for the show is around 40,000, which is a LOT of people for a one-day show.
There is free parking at the fairgrounds about a mile outside town with free shuttle service to the festival, but we like to come and go on our own schedule and don't like to have to depend on shuttles. Therefore, we headed to Dade City bright and early on Saturday morning in the hope of being able to find free parking within walking distance of the festival even though we knew parking close to the festival would be very limited.
We arrived about 40 minutes ahead of the officially-scheduled 9:00 a.m. opening. Almost everyone in the downtown area with a vacant lot was trying to sell parking spaces anywhere from $5 to $20 depending on how close they were to the festival. On-street parking in the downtown area near the show was prohibited in order to help traffic flow. We also drove past several free, municipal lots that were already filled. We eventually lucked out and found a free parking space in a slightly more distant lot near the bike trail that passes through Dade City.
By the time we got parked walked 4 or 5 blocks to the show, it was about 8:45. Essentially all the festival booths were already open in spite of the fact the official opening wasn't until 9:00. There were already a fair number of people looking around. The take-away here is to go ahead and arrive even earlier than we did if you don't want to have to park at the remote lot and take a shuttle. Arriving early improves your chances of getting a parking spot, and the fact the vendors open early means also you can start browsing before it gets too crowded.
Even though we don't have room for many decorative items, we still enjoy looking. One booth that caught our eye featured a wood craft called intarsia. Strips of wood of various colors are assembled to form a picture. The one below had wine bottles framed by real wine corks.
Since woodworking was, and still is to some extent, one of Paul's hobbies, he is always attracted to examples of fine woodworking like the furniture in the photo below.
One of Margery's favorite vendors had hats, purses and necklaces made from cork. Cork producers in places like Portugal are looking for other markets for their products now that so many winemakers have switched to synthetic corks. The material used for the hats and purses is smooth and pliable. It's supposed to be very durable, and it's waterproof.
As we walked around the festival, we paused for a few minutes to listen to the girls' a cappella choir from nearby St. Leo University.
After trying a sample of kumquat pie filling at the open house the day before, it was our intention to purchase a whole kumquat pie at the festival to take home with us. As we approached the Kumquat Growers Association booth where the pies were being sold, we saw a booth right in front with Amish selling baked goods.
We stopped for a quick look and found they had wet-bottom shoo-fly pie, which is a gooey, sweet pie that usually has a fairly strong molasses flavor. Both of us (especially Paul) love shoo-fly pie. Shoo-fly pie is popular among the Amish, but only the Amish in eastern Pennsylvania. The Amish in Ohio where we spend a lot of time in summer unfortunately don't make shoo-fly pie. Since it's been several years since we've had shoo-fly pie, we couldn't pass up the opportunity to buy one.
As you can see in the photo above, we decided on a small shoo-fly pie instead of a full-sized one because we weren't about to give up the kumquat pie. Since we had a shoo-fly pie to take home with us, we decided to each have a slice of kumquat pie to eat right then. It was delish! We found out that 40 women spent three days prior to the festival making 650 pies. In any book, that's a lot of pies!
The most interesting craft we saw at the festival were orchids made from air-dried polymer clay.
By about 10:30 our feet were getting tired and we started heading back to where we parked the truck. The crowds were getting very thick by the time we left making it difficult to get up to some of the booths to see what was being sold.
As we left Dade City and headed back to Blueberry Hill, we could see traffic into Dade City was VERY heavy as even more people made their way to the Festival. At one point the traffic was backed up over 4 miles bumper to bumper on the road to Dade City. We were glad we went early.