Florida festivals often celebrate things that are special about our state--food, wildlife, nature and other gifts we enjoy in the Sunshine State. 

Two of these are upcoming this month, both celebrating 20-year anniversaries with a "down home" vibe highlighting the best of Florida:

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Reddish Egret

Image: Robin Draper

2017 Space Coast Birding & Wildlife Festival

Watching birds gives many of us a way to connect with the natural world around us. We disconnect from our own daily lives and observe our feathered friends in their natural environment. Whether stalking a meal, flying through a forest, busily building a nest or soaring high above, these creatures can teach us many lessons. Admiring their beauty while listening to songbirds adds to our world while we quietly observe their beauty, relishing the present moment.

Maybe you are a casual bird watcher, but have you ever wanted to know more about the world of birds? Have you ever wondered, while walking the beach, what is the difference between a tern and gull, or a sandpiper, or a plover? If you want to learn more, gain first-hand experience, and get more enjoyment from the world of birding, there’s an easy way. 

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Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge, Space Coast

Image: Robin Draper

Florida is rich in native populations of wildlife and birds, but it is also on a busy route for migrating birds stopping over for the winter. Florida’s Space Coast, home to the Kennedy Space Center, is one of the best birding locations in the United States because it is situated at the convergence of two zones — temperate and tropical — creating a natural diversity of unique habitats that attract varied bird species. 

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Florida Kingfisher

The 2017 Space Coast Birding and Wildlife Festival will host its annual event Jan. 25 through 30. Based at Eastern Florida State College’s Titusville campus, the event features the bird industry’s most renowned experts as they conduct immersive field trips, hikes and expeditions. For a crash course on Florida’s wildlife, this Festival is ideal for all ages, from beginners to veterans.

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Dade City Kumquat Festival

 2017 Dade City Kumquat Festival

Pasco County's Dade City celebrates the golden gem known as the kumquat during the January 28th Kumquat Festival honoring its distinction as the world’s leading supplier of the tasty petite fruit.  Amidst green hills and pastures an hour north of Tampa, you'll find groves of Florida kumquats. Held the last Saturday in January, in downtown Dade City, attendees join in the fun and admission is free.

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Florida kumquats

Image: Robin Draper

So what exactly is a kumquat? Orange in color, this small bite-sized fruit can be eaten – skin and all, providing a flavorful, pungent sweet and sour taste. It is a member of the citrus family and often baked into desserts and used as a glaze or flavoring for main dishes. 

The Kumquat Festival is a homegrown family event that provides fruit tastings of every imaginable combination including kumquat pies, cookies, smoothies, ice cream, marmalade, marinades, vinaigrettes and salsa. And there is plenty of fruit to purchase for creating your own signature dishes at home. 

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Kumquat Pie, photo courtesy, Dade City Kumquat Festival

Over 425 vendors and 40 sponsors, including headliner supporter, Florida Hospital Zephyrhills join together to make this a fun filled day of celebration as local entertainment kicks up the celebration giving the event a special homespun feel. The Strawberry Express Cloggers, the Cypress Creek Dixieland Band and church groups perform Christian, Soul, Pop and Gospel music. And don’t miss Mr. and Ms. Kumquat, the arts and crafts exhibition, the antique car show and the downtown storefronts dressed in what else, but “kumquat themes.” Get into the spirit at the Kumquat Capital of the World.

Visit Pasco

Florida native Robin Draper is a columnist and owner of the award-winning “Blog of the Year” and “Best Travel Blog” website, AuthenticFlorida.com, a travel and lifestyle blog. Sign up for ENEWs to get weekly travel and living updates.

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