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If you go
3rd annual Neapolitan Opry Cluster Pluckin’
When: 7 to 10 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 14
Where: Norris Center, 755 Eighth Ave S., Naples
Tickets: $22 advance, $25 at the door
The Grand Ole Opry may bring the best in country music to the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville every week. But this Saturday musicians will take their best to the Norris Center stage for a Southwest Florida twist on the opry — the 3rd Annual Neapolitan Opry Cluster Pluckin'.
Founder Russ Morrison said the event originally started as way to showcase the area's high level of local bluegrass talent. Now in its third year, the event has expanded beyond its bluegrass roots to include Celtic, blues and folk music acts.
The show which begins at 7 p.m. Saturday includes performances by: harp guitarist Andy Wahlberg; The Bean Pickers; The Bugtussle Ramblers; Concordia; Screamin' & Cryin'; Frontline Bluegrass; Frank Corso; Chicago musician Gus Friedlander, fiddler Gary Mackey of White Water Bluegrass, Ashville, N.C.; Little Eddie & Fat Fingers; Jon Garon & Steve Palmer; and the Wholetones.
In true Opry style, each band will have a chance to showcase 3 to 4 of their songs and in between acts there will be commercials from local sponsors.
Among the local groups playing the show, is The Wholetones. The Naples and Marco-based band bills its musical style as a mix of folk, jazz and metal.
Founding members Alex Dorris and Taylor Freyberg met in 2007 during a bluegrass jam under Goodland Bridge and formed the folk-based band. Their musical base expanded when they brought on Mayo Coates.
"We realized we needed to hire a drummer. (Coates) was straight metal drummer. And just folded it in," Dorris said.
It's the Wholetones' third appearance at Cluster Pluckin' and Dorris hinted the audience may get a special treat.
"(Coates) has been working on a non-drum set with a washboard and spoons ... We might introduce it at the festival," he said. While tickets will be available at the door on Saturday, it's a good idea to get yours early.
"Each year we've done very well. The first year we had to turn people away. This year we think it will be sold out too, hopefully," Morrison said.
When asked what makes bluegrass popular with people in Southwest Florida, Morrison said it's because the music's roots go back to home and hearth.
"It's very family-oriented music. It takes you back to that kind of feel," Morrison said. "It's hard to be sad with a banjo, even if the lyrics are about death and destruction; it's hard to not tap your foot."
As well as enjoying musical roots, you have a good opportunity this weekend to enjoy the great outdoors in mild weather and learn more about the roots of Southwest Florida's ecosystem. The 2012 Southwest Florida Nature Festival kicks off today and continues through Sunday.
Offering more than 40 guided field trips to local wildlife hot spots, the festival has tours that will appeal to the nature lover in everyone.
The festival is sponsored by Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve, 300 Tower Road Naples. Saturday talks will be there, but tours start at a number of locations around the county.