Living in a place with a seasonal population is a little bit like having your relatives come to town. You can’t wait for them to visit, but you’re also always a little relieved to see them go.
We get it. And while we love the snowbirds, come May, we’re ready for Naples to have just a little more elbowroom. So what better way to kickoff the reclaiming of our city than with a nine-day-long festival of everything Naples? CityFest is back. The twice-yearly celebration is a time for year-round residents to finally get out and play (and not have to wait in super long lines to do so).
“CityFest is a great opportunity for our local residents to enjoy themselves without the seasonal crowds,” said Naples Mayor John Sorey. “While it assists local businesses, the main purpose is for our residents.”
Over the next nine days, each of Naples’ downtown business districts will roll out the red carpet for the locals. During that time, Naples will surely have more partying per square mile than any other city. Here’s your definitive guide to how to hit it all:
DERBY DAY AND CINCO DE MAYO
If timing is everything, CityFest is doing everything right. Kicking off on Kentucky Derby day, the party likely will get started right out of the gate. While the Naples Junior Women’s Club is hosting a Derby Day party — bring your hat and come craving juleps — Shane’s Cabana Bar will be hosting a different kind of race.
The Fourth Annual Stand Up Paddleboard Races promises to reward some studs of the two-legged variety. The race benefits the Special Olympics of Collier County, which, fun fact, is the first chapter in the United States to offer standup paddleboarding to its participants. On Saturday, racers of all abilities will pit themselves against both the waves and each other for a chance at the title of “Best Paddler in Collier County.”
Not to be outdone by the paddlers or the ponies, on Sunday morning, Naples’ runners get a chance to strut their stuff during the Tropicool 5K. In a course that winds through beautiful downtown Naples, runners can stretch their legs while working up an appetite for tacos and margaritas.
The weekend ends with a Cinco de Mayo party at Tavern on the Bay. Think fresh-squeezed margaritas, ice-cold Coronas and plenty of Mexican food favorites.
■ Kentucky Derby Party: Fancy hats and Southern attire encouraged for a party at 4 p.m. Saturday, May 4, at Tavern on the Bay, 489 Bayfront Place, Naples, 239-530-2225
■ Derby Day: By the Naples Junior Women’s Club from 5 to 7:30 p.m. Saturday, May 4, with hors d’oeuvres, mint juleps, red and white wine, Prosecco, 50/50 raffles, hat and best-dressed contests and racing game prizes, 5 to 7:30 p.m. Ridgway Bar & Grill, 1300 Third St. S., Naples. $75. www.naplesjuniors.com
■ Paddle board races: 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday, May 4, register at Shane's Cabana Bar, 465 Bayfront Place, Naples. $25, registration fee, donated to the Special Olympics of Collier County. 239-370-6577
■ Cinco de Mayo Fiesta: Tacos, tequila and ice-cold Coronas, 2 p.m., Tavern on the Bay, Bayfront. 239-530-2225
■ Tropical 5K run: Presented by the Gulf Coast Runners with proceeds support the Gulf Coast Runner’s Youth Development program, 7:30 p.m., starts at Broad Avenue South and Third Street South, Naples. $10, students; $20, adults; $25 day of race. Registration: http://gcrunner.org or Naples on the Run, 2116 Ninth St. N., Naples. 239-434-9786
PALETTE TO PALATE
Beth Preddy will be the first to admit Crayton Cove deserves more attention. The local PR diva runs her PR firm in the awesome little neighborhood, which she wishes more people knew about. A few years ago, Preddy and some of the merchants, artists and restaurants in the district got together to try and put Crayton Cove on the map. They devised Palette to Palate as the district’s signature event. Each year since, it has gotten bigger and bigger.
“It’s the first real event that combined the area’s restaurants and galleries,” Preddy said. For those who don’t know, Crayton Cove labels itself as an artist’s enclave, with many local creative-types having workshops and galleries in the area.
“Initially, Palette to Palate was a reservation-based event, a real dine-around style event, but we’ve worked it into an event where people can be more flexible,” she said.
Visitors on Tuesday, May 7, can slowly wine and dine themselves around the historic neighborhood. Starting at the Dock at Crayton Cove, where participants will be greeted with a complimentary glass of wine, the evening will progress through the galleries of Paul Arsenault, Jerry Vallez and the Guess-Fischer Gallery. Preddy says that at least three of the area’s artists will be working on pieces during the night, and painter Paul Arsenault will be unveiling his new painting of the neighborhood.
Not to forget the other palate, Bleu Provence will be offering a wine tasting with complimentary hors de oeuvres from 4 to 7 p.m. Chez Boet, meanwhile, will offer its French Happy Hour from 5 to 8 p.m. with two-for-one drink specials and $5 small plates. The Dock at Crayton Cove will be hosting the welcome reception and will be offering 20 percent off to all dining guests who are part of the Palette to Palate event.
“It’s not just one thing that makes this event cool,” says Preddy, adding, “It’s the whole thing, it’s the vibe. You’ve got people strolling about and music coming out of the galleries, it just coalesces into one groovy feeling.”
■ Palette to Palate: 4 to 7 p.m. Tuesday, May 7, complimentary hors d’oeuvres and wine tasting, Bleu Provence; complimentary glass of wine 5 to 6 p.m. reception at the Dock and 20 percent dining discount; 5 to 8 p.m. French happy hour featuring $5 small plates and two-for-one drink pricing at the Bar Salon and terrace at Chez Boët and 10 percent discount on dinner when you mention Palette to Palate; and view art at the galleries including Phil Fisher Studio/Gallery, Nora Butler Designs, Naples Ship Store, the Beached Boat, Art Gallery Old Naples 2, Random Acts of Art, Arsenault Gallery, Earth & Fire and Guess-Fisher Gallery, Crayton Cove at 12th Avenue, Naples. 239-435-3938
WINE TOURS ON FIFTH
For the past few years, the Fifth Avenue South retail district has hosted something called Sip of Fifth, which was a full-on street festival. This year, however, things will be a little different.
“This year it’s a wine tour of Fifth Avenue, so it will be a little different,” says Lisa Sundrla the executive director of the Fifth Avenue South Business Improvement District. “This year, 20 businesses and restaurants will be participating with wine and taste temptations. Participants will receive a complimentary wine glass and a passport to take to each of the restaurants. Each passport that is completed will be entered into a drawing for a Fifth Avenue experience.”
While the event will still have that street-festival vibe, this year those who want to participate will need to register. The idea behind the change is to get residents off the street and in to try restaurants that perhaps they’ve never been to. Says Sundrla, “We want to encourage all the folks to realize all the offerings we have here on Fifth Avenue South.”
■ Wine tours: 6 to 8 p.m. Thursday, May 9, Fifth Avenue South restaurants and live music, 7 to 10 p.m. up and down the Street. $25 single or $45 double. Tickets available at www.fifthavenuesouth.com or at Sugden Plaza on Thursday. 239-692-8436
BLUES, BREWS AND BBQ
The best place to watch the Great Dock Canoe Races (the theme of which is “Saturday Night Live,” so bring your cowbell) is from Tin City during the Blues, Brews and BBQ festival. If good things come in threes, even better things come in threes that all start with the letter “B.” Beer, blues and barbequed meat: does it get any better than that? Actually it does, add in beautiful views to that list, since the whole thing happens on the water.
“Coming down to the waterfront reminds people of the beauty of Naples,” says Jenny Foegen, the president of the Waterfront Business Association. “The waterfront is why so many of us live here, it’s a reminder of what we’ve all got going on here.”
On Friday and Saturday it will be impossible to forget how good we’ve got it. With bands like Little Eddie and the Fat Fingers and the Blues Brothers Soul Band strumming away and food from Texas Tony’s slowly cooking in the smoker, we dare you to think of a place you’d rather be.
And as the boats from the Great Dock Canoe Race paddle by — dressed to the nines in their “Saturday Night Live” finest — we bet you’ll find yourself thinking, this city rocks.
Which is exactly the point of CityFest: to remind all the locals — especially those of use who tend to take it for granted — that Naples rocks.
■ Blues, Brews & BBQ Festival: Party starts at 4 p.m. May 10 with music at 6 p.m., Deb & the Dynamics and live music, specialty craft beers and barbecue by Texas Tony’s, 10 a.m. to 9 p.m., May 11, Little Eddie and the Fat Fingers jam, 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. and the Dazzling Delrays and Blues Brothers Soul Band tribute performance, Tin City, 1200 Fifth Ave. S., Naples. 239-221-880
■ Great Dock Canoe Race: 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. May 11, Crayton Cove. Register: www.greatdockcanoerace.com or 239-404-6718.
■ After the races party: Tavern on the Bay, Bayfront. 239-530-2225.