DUNEDIN – Anita Bryant, step aside.
Gail Abel is the new Orange Queen around here, and her vibrant and mouth-watering vendor stand you see at Dunedin’s Downtown Market is proof.
“It’s a symbol of pride and joy,” she said of the orange. “And the orange blossom is the state flower. So how can you go wrong?”
Her creations are inspired in part by her desire to get to know the new town to which she moved two years ago.
“I’ve lived in 14 different cities in many different states, but I’ve never lived in a city like this. It’s magical how Dunedin draws people,” Abel said.
She hopes to make the most of that by showcasing an art form with local relevance. Upon arrival, she learned that orange groves helped but Dunedin on the map, with families who farmed them named Skinner and Douglas leading the way.
She saw oranges painted in tribute on walls and windows around town. However, “There was nothing I could move around, or bring home,” she said. “I went to festivals, craft shows, you name it. But I couldn’t find one.”
So, she sat at her computer and learned graphic design. Then she got out her paint brush and went to town, creating oranges on everything that would hold still. Her little company named Gabelgroves was born in April, and her offerings are on display every Friday and the first Saturday of the month at the market.
Her house serves as a studio and a place to relieve her stress through her art after her long days as a fulltime nurse in Dunedin Hospital’s intensive care unit.
“I work three straight days with insane hours and by the time I’m done I’m just itching to get to my oranges,” she said. “I love my job, but this is the fun stuff in my life.”
Abel made it a point to offer several items less than $10, including key chains, coffee mugs, salt-and-pepper-shaker holders, and coasters. She also wanted to keep things smallish in size.
“Who has room for canvasses in their home? Not me – we downsized when we came here,” Abel said. “Besides, I want people to be able to fit them in their carry-ons if they’re visitors.”
Dunedin resident Selma Hawk was one of many recent market attendees to admire Abel’s work.
“I think they’re cute,” she said. “They sure do advertise Florida. Palm trees and oranges – that’s what people think of.”
Abel isn’t surprised by the positive reactions she receives at the market.
“People here appreciate unique gifts,” she said, “and this market has so much to offer.”