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Here & Now

Naples Dreams, Marvels Happen

I don’t know about you, but it seems to me that November 2009 is the Bugatti of the Naples calendar, hurtling from zero to 60 in less than five seconds. Besides a nationally acclaimed art festival, this month brings the world premiere of our own international film festival and the debut of a majestic new botanical garden. But banish any visions of run-of-the-mill shows and festivals, because frankly, Naples simply does not do run of the mill.

I call it the NWWF Factor. Which means, roughly, "What do you mean, ‘impossible dream’? See you at the ribbon-cutting."

Did not our quiet little seaside town (which doesn’t grow a single grape) turn the wine festival world on its ear 10 years ago with the Naples Winter Wine Festival? That’s NWWF to insiders. NWWF brings in a staggering average of $5 million a year for children’s causes.

Maybe it’s something in our salt water, or the mystical shadows cast from our stately Royal Palms, or those blue martinis they’re cranking out at the trendy new bar of the same name at Mercato. Who knows what causes folks around here to get downright cheeky with their grandiose ideas. But here comes Brian Holley of the Naples Botanical Garden and landscape architect Ellin Goetz, who get the completely illogical idea that they can recreate a chunk of the Everglades’ River of Grass just off sophisticated Fifth Avenue South. Which they proceed to do. More about that in a minute.

Meanwhile, a gulfshore Life magazine alum, the 30-something Eric Raddatz, with partners Dan Linehan and Rowan Samuel, dream up a film festival on the level of Sundance, Cannes, Toronto and
the rest.

Talk about cheeky! Raddatz/Linehan/Samuel promise that the Naples International Film Festival (NIFF) will "... showcase the finest and most creative cinematic works in the world." And you know what? When the house lights dim for the NIFF headliner of the season, the stunning Oscar-bound documentary, The Cove, I’m betting the indie film world will, in fact, be watching.

Of course, the art world is already watching Naples. Is it not enough to present three renowned international juried art shows? Of course not. The Naples Art Association (NAA), which
launches its 2009-10 season with the Naples Renaissance Art Festival on Thanksgiving weekend, will debut its fourth, and definitely its most sophisticated, juried show in February. It’s quite a status symbol to be invited.
The jury on that show convenes this month.

Nov. 11 marks the sixth annual Naples Botanical Garden’s Hats in the Garden affair, in which the crème de Naples gentility shows up in haute garden party couture with an astonishing collection of objets d’art on their heads. But this time, it’s just one of many celebrations marking the garden’s achievement of the impossible.

Yes, a ribbon will be cut. But this is Naples: A gumbo-limbo tree will be wearing striped socks. Vines will walk. Rocks will rearrange themselves, and orchids will assume ballet positions. Musicians will stroll. Gourmet food will abound, and wine will flow. And yes, the River of Grass—a wilderness habitat for the flora and fauna of the Everglades—now grows where a concrete parking lot and strip mall once stood.

Now that’s the NWWF Factor.

This is a great month to secure your place in Naples history. Get your tickets to the VIP Opening Celebration on the magical grounds of the Naples Botanical Garden. Attend the black tie, red carpet gala for the Naples International Film Festival at the Philharmonic Center for the Arts, and be among the first to preview some of the world’s best independent films at Mercato’s Silverspot Cinema. Slip into your strolling shoes and tie a perky bow on Fluffy’s collar on Thanksgiving weekend to mingle with serious art buyers and art festival lovers along 10th Avenue South. You can’t help but savor every moment.

Dates and Details

• Naples International Film Festival, Nov. 5–8, (239) 591-2583

• Naples Botanical Garden, Nov. 9–15, (239) 643-7275

• Naples Renaissance Fall Art Festival, Nov. 28–29, (239)
262-6517, www.naplesart.org.

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