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Sunday, Jun 24, 2018
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Kumquats survive winter cold snap

DADE CITY — Kumquat fans, fret not.

The momentary cold snap that descended upon the area did not harm Dade City’s kumquats.

More importantly, the supply earmarked for the 17th Annual Kumquat Festival in Dade City is just fine.

“They’ve been picking since November, and they usually pick right until just about the festival day,” said John Moors, executive director of the Greater Dade City Chamber of Commerce. “But the crop was fine. There was no problem with it over the last couple of days.”

The Kumquat Festival will take place Jan. 25 in downtown Dade City, near the historic courthouse. The event features kumquats in many forms — pies, salsa, ice cream, wine, marmalade and whatever else the citrus fruit can be manipulated into. Parking and admission is free.

The blissful crop report didn’t come without its challenges.

Greg Gude, general manager of Kumquat Growers, Inc., hasn’t had the most restful of weeks. He labeled the first part of the week as stressful.

Tuesday and Wednesday, Gude rose from his sleep almost every hour to check on the kumquats and the temperature readings at the business’ groves just north of San Antonio. The farm uses about 42 acres to harvest kumquats.

The fruit and their trees can sustain temperatures of about 27 degrees, he said. Anything below that is harmful. The lowest reading came Wednesday morning, and briefly, at 28.

“It is a benefit to us to get cold like that,” Gude said. “We did not get any damage. The kumquats are probably going to be even sweeter for the festival because coolness like this makes the sap go down in the trees and makes it go more dormant. And it will make the acid drop out of the fruit. … It makes all citrus do that.”

Kumquat Growers also has an event leading into the Kumquat Festival — its open house. The cold weather will not affect the two-day (Jan. 22-23) open house.

More than 400 bushels of kumquats used for the festival will come from Kumquat Growers, Gude said.

In December, Gude was reminded of the 2010 season in which a cold January ruined half the farm’s crop, roughly $250,000 in monetary value.

“I was getting Christmas decorations down for our employee appreciation dinner (recently) and stumbled across one of the signs back before Christmas,” Gude said. “It said, ‘Due to the January freeze … .’ I was like, man, I hope we don’t have to use those signs again.”

In 2010, the farm supplied the festival, but those buying kumquats were limited in the number of bags they could buy. Even the amount of kumquats per bag was reduced, he said.

Festival organizers expect more than 40,000 people to attend the one-day festival, which has made a name for itself across the state.

Moors said marketing has targeted as far north as The Villages and as far south as Sun City Center. It also aims to draw from Pinellas County and throughout the Nature Coast region.

“It’s a festival of regional impact. There’s no question,” Moors said. “There’s a huge audience area and it’s a very iconic, old fashioned, unique, family friendly event. It’s very authentic and you just don’t see that sort of thing everywhere.”

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