As the holiday season unfolds, I am reflecting on our many friends who give generously to the Naples community. Three individuals are exceptionally noteworthy, and deserve a shout out for both their contributions to our city and making their own dreams a reality.
I first heard about Mike Randall from my friend Rose, who met Mike during the Rockin’ on the Bay concerts last season at Bayfront. He was instrumental in launching and promoting the free, family-friendly concerts, and my friend spoke highly of his efforts to bring exciting entertainment to Naples. When my husband, Bob, and I had dinner with Rose and Mike, it was clear right from the get-go that the man had a full head of steam and was determined to make his vision of multiple events featuring outdoor music and other entertainment a reality. Mike had a LOT of work ahead of him, but he is a force to be reckoned with.
This fall, Mike established a concert series set in Fort Myers called Sounds from the River at Centennial Park, and set his sights squarely on Sugden Park in Naples. In short order, he rounded up permission from Collier County, had sponsors and vendors lined up, and relied on the Naples Daily News and social media to get the word out about the series he named Sounds from the Park. These shows are held the second Saturday of each month through April. The first concert on November 9 featured Alter Eagles, an Eagles tribute band. Although Bob and I had another engagement that night we drove to Sugden Park beforehand to give Mike a word of support. When we got there, concertgoers were already streaming in. About 3,000 people showed up at and had a wonderful evening. As Mike was still glowing in this success, he was already planning his next project: Dancing Under the Stars at Mercato, a recurring monthly event debuting December 4, and produced in association with Arthur Murray Dance Studios. Mike has several other festivals in the works, including Taste of the Game, Naples’ biggest tailgate party, February 1. Click on mareventsandmarketing.com for details on all of Mike’s events, and you’ll see why his slogan is “Bringing Fun To Naples.”
I have written many times about our standing Tuesday evening outing—heading to Weekend Willie’s to hear our favorite funky blues band, Mudbone, play the night away. Each Tuesday, the delightful Keriellen Lohrman serves us. Not only does Keri know everything Bob and I like to order, she also knows what our friends prefer. Besides waiting tables at Weekend Willie’s, Keri, along with her husband, runs the Bird Gardens of Naples, a nonprofit sanctuary near Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary that houses abandoned and wild parrots. The Lohrmans dedicate their nearly five acres of land to make a home for more than 200 birds that are not suited to household life and difficult to adopt out. The overhead for taking care of these birds is above $1,000 a month, so the Lohrmans are grateful for any donations. The parrots are like children, Keri says, and she takes care of each of them as if they are her own. For information on tours or to donate to this wonderful cause, visit birdgardensofnaples.info.
Last, but by no means least, I once again feel compelled to shine a light on Kristen Coury (left) and how she started Gulfshore Playhouse. The professional theater company was merely a gleam in her eye, but she pushed forward without funding and no place to perform. Ten years later, Gulfshore Playhouse’s productions are the talk of the town following each show’s debut at the Norris Center, Naples.
This month, December 6-22, Gulfshore Playhouse will stage its third production of the season, a Christmas play called Jacob Marley’s Christmas Carol. Next up will be the world premiere of The God Game in January, which Kristen will direct in Naples before heading to the Great White Way to direct it there. Talk about dreams coming true—Kristen’s next just may be winning a Tony Award.
Three trailblazers … three different trails … stay tuned as they continue to make their mark on Southwest Florida.