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Dade City packs weekend full of festive celebration

DADE CITY

Anyone who refers to this town as "sleepy" or "quiet" has obviously not checked the schedule for this weekend.

Little Everglades Ranch is unveiling its first horse racing event since it pulled the plug on the steeplechase. History buffs will enjoy life as it was in the 1840s at the Fort Dade Mountain Man Rendezvous. And the kumquats will be celebrated at their annual festival in spite of a cold snap that wiped out much of the crop.

Did organizers intend to stack up all three events on the same weekend?

"It's just by coincidence," said Jill Uber of the Dade City Chamber of Commerce, the group behind the annual Kumquat Festival.

The chamber has received dozens of calls inquiring about the festival's status since the freeze devastated the kumquat crop earlier this month.

But Kumquat Growers Inc., the festival's fruit provider since its inception, was able to salvage enough bushels of the peculiar orange fruit before the freeze.

There were plenty available for the various kumquat concoctions at this year's festival.

"My favorite is the kumquat marmalade and kumquat cranberry sauce, and the kumquat salsa and the kumquat vinaigrette dressing," said Greg Gude, general manager of Kumquat Growers Inc.

(Yes, he's been compared to Benjamin Buford "Bubba" Blue, the character in the movie Forrest Gump who listed all the different recipes one can make with shrimp. "We get that a lot," Gude said.)

Organizers of this weekend's events say there are plenty of spectators to share.

The Fort Dade Mountain Man Rendezvous runs for the next two weekends, giving folks plenty of opportunity to catch the demonstrations of knife throwing, weaving and blacksmithing amid the living history encampments at Withlacoochee River Park.

And the Blanchard family will host its first Little Everglades Combined Driving Event, a four-day competition that includes a race and obstacle course and is a qualifier for the World Equestrian Games. The event will be low-key compared to the Little Everglades Steeplechase: Instead of catering tents and fine linens, spectators will eat box lunches and hot dogs on bales of hay.

But the Jack Russell terriers will be there.

Folks at the races will see ads for the Kumquat Festival.

"We're hoping some of our competitors and the people that are here will go down there. It's a fun thing to do," said Sharon Blanchard of Little Everglades.

And the Kumquat Festival's organizers say there's enough time in the day to make it to more than one attraction.

"Personally, I don't think I would come to the festival and stay from 9 to 5," said Uber. "People could split up their day."

The Kumquat Festival typically runs the same weekend as Gasparilla, the rowdy pirate invasion in Tampa. But the events rarely compete. Traditionally, people who vie for beads thrown by drunken men wearing eye patches don't crave the sweet taste of kumquat chutney.

Asked if the chamber would reschedule the Kumquat Festival knowing that there are other local events running this weekend, the answer was a firm no.

"It's always been, and always will be, the last Saturday of January," Uber said.

Helen Anne Travis can be reached at htravis@sptimes.com or (813) 435-7312.

More historically Old Florida than a mythical Tampa pirate invasion

Forget Gasparilla. Dade City has three big events this weekend offering more family-friendly fun than the drunken pirate revelry down south:

13th annual Kumquat Festival will be held from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday in downtown Dade City. Kumquat Growers Inc. will host an open house from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. today and Friday at the packing house at 31647 Gude Road. Both events are free.

Fort Dade Mountain Man Rendezvous runs weekends Friday through Feb. 7 at the Withlacoochee River Park, 12249 Withlacoochee Blvd. The event, featuring re-enactments of 1840s settlers' camps, is open dawn to dusk. Admission is $2 per person or $5 per carload.

The inaugural Little Everglades International Combined Driving Event runs 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. today through Sunday. The ranch is located east of U.S. 301,

3 miles north of Dade City. General admission is $10.

Dade City packs weekend full of festive celebration 01/27/10 [Last modified: Wednesday, January 27, 2010 9:07pm]
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