Key West, Fla.— For a truly “fruitful experience” that’s fun and free, plan to attend the Fifth Annual Florida Keys Tropical Fruit Fiesta June 28 at Bayview Park in Key West.
“It’s a family-friendly event that’s all about fun,” said Gail Keeler, who is coordinating the 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. fiesta for the Monroe County Extension Service.
“Nowhere else in the Keys can you be in one location and experience first-hand the wonders of many different kinds of tropical fruit trees and fruit,” she said. “To see and taste many kinds of fruit, come to the fiesta. Hundreds of top-quality fruit trees will be available for purchase.”
The annual fiesta is produced by the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences in cooperation with Monroe County Extension.
“There will be three fun activities for kids, including planting a pineapple for the home garden, painting a seagrape leaf and having a roll at the orange-pineapple bowl,” Keeler said. “New this year will be a kid’s fruit art show in conjunction with the Key West Art & Historical Society summer art program.”
Experts from UF and Fairchild Tropical Gardens in Miami will be available to answer horticultural questions.
Richard Campbell, tropical fruit curator from Fairchild Tropical Gardens in Miami, will sign copies of his new book, “Tropical mangos: how to grow the world’s most delicious fruit.” He also will give a free lecture on “tough love for better mangos.”
Other speakers include Robert McMillan, a professor at UF’s Tropical Research and Education Center in Homestead, who will discuss disease problems of tropical fruit trees, and Jonathan Crane, an associate professor at the Homestead center, who will speak about giving a new tree the best start. The free lectures begin at 9:30 a.m. in a tent cooled with a mister system.
“Many tropical and subtropical species thrive here and are easily grown in a home garden,” Keeler said. “Mango, papaya, key lime, jaboticaba, longan, canistel, sugar apple, avocado, carambola, pineapple, banana, sapote, breadfruit and jakfruit are among the fruit trees that can be grown in the Keys.”
“Even folks who don’t want to buy a fruit tree will enjoy the fruit fiesta,” she said. “There will be foods and drinks, ice cream sampling and lots of shade under four big tents. It all resembles an old-time county fair.”
Highlighting the event will be a homegrown fruit contest and dessert-cooking contest. Each recipe must use tropical fruit. Contestants must pre-register by calling (305) 292-4501.
“Folks who are proud of fruit they have grown in their yard can enter it in the homegrown fruit contest,” Keeler said. “Categories will include mango, banana, papaya, citrus and miscellaneous. Prizes will be awarded, and the grand prize is a silver pendant designed by Sunlion Jewelry.”
- Highlights of the fiesta include: Trees for sale
- Expert speakers
- Homegrown fruit contest w/prizes
- Fruit tasting
- First State Bank ATM van
- Kids’ fruit art show
- Books for sale
- Free publications
- Plant clinic with UF experts
- Three fun activities for kids
- Fruit dessert-cooking contest w/prizes
- Book signing by Richard Campbell
- Food and drinks
- Nonprofit groups
- Health screenings
- Fruit displays
- Educational exhibits
“For those who love to shop, there will be a wide selection of trees, foods, books, t-shirts, and dozens of fruit and garden-related products – including items you may not be able find elsewhere,” Keeler said. “Most of all, bring your curiosity and desire to learn more about tropical fruits.”
Keeler said local sponsors of the fiesta include the Waterfront Market, First State Bank, Navy MWR Department, Spottswood Companies, Davison & Associates, Marine Bank, Angelina’s Pizza, Sunlion Jewelry, Doubletree Grand Key Resort, Home Depot, Albertson’s, Ambrosia Key West, The Restaurant Store, Mango Tree Inn and Fausto’s market.