“It’s all happening at the zoo…” croons a lyric from Simon & Garfunkel’s song from the ‘60s. Now in 2014, it IS truly all happening on Saturday March 22nd at the awardwinning Naples Zoo when The Rotary Club of Naples hosts the 4th outrageous and elegant wine and food extravaganza known as Grapes & Apes. Last year, hundreds of patrons strolled the torchiered pathways alongside habitats of lions and bears and leopards to sample fabulous foods, exquisite wines and enjoy a robust assortment of entertainment. This year’s event will be even bigger and better. A variety of entertainers will be sprinkled throughout the grounds from the main musical group on center stage to steel drummers, country, pop, jazz and classical musicians. The all new 2014 Wine IQ class, held prior to the main events and sponsored by A. Vernon Allen Builders, will be offered by Chops City Grill & the Culinary Concepts group of restaurants including Yabba, Pazzo and Blue Water Bistro. Besides Wynn’s Catering, other providers for the evening include Truluck’s, Russell’s Clambakes, Chef Paul’s Paella, Boar’s Head, “Sweets” by Mikkelsen’s Pastry and Royal Palm Chocolates, and others. Jerry Wynn, past president of The Rotary Club of Naples and one of the driving forces behind the event, calls this “night out in Naples…a real community event.”
Beyond the fun and frivolity, Grapes & Apes has raised over $670,000 over the last three years through ticket sales, silent auctions and sponsorships to support an array of life-changing programs and projects orchestrated by The Rotary Club of Naples. One of the main sponsors again this year is Seminole Casino Immokalee. Spokesperson Jenn Thomas for the Casino comments: “Our players as well as executive team members had an extraordinary time at your annual soiree. From the moment of entry into the captivating Caribbean Gardens…they could not have been more impressed. The incredible level of service, amazing ‘grazing’ options and the delectable collection of wines were over the top.” Proceeds from the event fund scholarships for students at Naples High School and Lorenzo Walker, along with the YMCA of the Palms Project Graduation, Meals of Hope food program which the club began in 2007, Rotary International’s PolioPlus Initiative to end polio worldwide by 2015, Gift of Life International life saving heart surgeries for children who cannot get care in their own country, and so much more.
Rotarian and one of the event’s major organizers Rich Ahrens is proud of how “Grapes & Apes has helped the club to connect personally with the people of Collier County (and beyond) gaining their support to increase the scope of our activities and to make many people aware of the great things that our Rotary club has done and continues to do for the less fortunate among us. Our years of scholarships, heart surgeries, feeding the hungry and more are no longer done in anonymity. In short it has been the greatest brand building opportunity we could have hoped for!”
Over 100 of the members of The Rotary Club of Naples volunteer along with spouses and friends to help bring Ritz-level of service to every attendee. The intention is to make sure patrons feel pampered and privileged to be a part of this very special experience. Grapes & Apes is a magical evening that benefits the community in two dramatic ways: it brings people together to enjoy a unique and exquisite outdoor tropical experience and it impacts projects that touch an infinite number of lives. So guests feel good in “drinking” in the festivities of the evening knowing their patronage is doing good in the community. Indeed…”it’s all happening at the zoo. I do believe it, I do believe it’s true…”
Tickets for the March 22nd Grapes & Apes (which is action-packed from 6-10 p.m.) are still available for $100 at www.NaplesWine.org or by calling 239.860.1688