BROOKSVILLE — Although the Florida climate is ideal for olive farming, it has always taken a back seat to the cultivation of citrus, blueberries and strawberries. That's starting to change.
When Dede Rizzo and her husband, Cambren Davis, started the Olive Grove west of Brooksville in October, they brought a rare crop to the area that has sparked interest. But growing olives was just part of what the couple planned to do.
The next phase comes to fruition this weekend with the Spring Olive Festival on the couple's 4 acres on Rester Road.
"We often have small events," Rizzo said, "but this is the first of two big festivals we plan to have every year."
The event will promote the sale of olive trees and products, and will include olive oil tasting, seminars, vendors selling homegrown or handmade items, and soapmaking using an olive oil base.
"It is all natural garden-grown ingredients," Rizzo said.
Seminars on growing olive trees in Florida will be offered at 3 p.m. each day, followed by the olive oil tasting, using Arbequina, Arbosana and Koroneiki olives, the three varieties grown at the Olive Grove.
Entertainment will kick off both days at 11 a.m., with opening acts Local Harmony and Darrell Delk.
Amber Lynn Nicol and the Swingin' Papas headline from 2 to 5 p.m. Saturday.
Amber Lynn, a 25-year-old singer-songwriter based in St. Petersburg, has a sound that has been compared to Jimmy Buffett, Jack Johnson and Sheryl Crow. She will sing original songs from her recently released album, Beach Day.
Sunday's headliner will be the DeLei'ed Parrots, a steel-drum "trop rock" band that performs Buffett songs and those of other artists like Janis Joplin, the Marshall Tucker Band and Eric Clapton.
There will also be Mediterranean dishes, and refreshments. Lawn chairs and coolers are welcome.
This weekend's event is just a start for the growing olive farm and entertainment venue.
The grove, which began with a few dozen trees, now has more than 100. The number is expected to double before the end of the year. A fall harvest festival is being planned for October or November.
"It all depends on when the blossoms come," Rizzo said.
Rizzo said she and her husband are excited about how popular the Olive Grove has become. Open only on Saturdays and Sundays, the grove started as just a fun side venture, she said.
"It got bigger than we thought," she said, "but we're having an awful lot of fun and meeting such great people."