Claudia Polzin Consultant to Nonprofits

As the 8th Stay inMay Festival gets ready to move into high gear – one wonders how does a festival gets its start?

Quite honestly it takes an imagination, an ability to dream dreams, desire to provide quality entertainment in the “offseason”; and a knowledge of the interests and desires of the year round audience.

One might think that the year round audience wants the same entertainment as the much larger seasonal audience – to some extent that it is true. But a larger segment of this year round audience wants entertainment that is not available to them during “season” and wants to enjoy entertainment in venues that are not the norm.

In its infancy the festival was named Arts Naples World Festival –and for the first four festivals featured the culture and arts of a specific country or region of the world.

In 2012 the Festival invited you to become immersed in the culture of Russia – and featured music created by Russian composers, Russian pianists, visual artists and Tchaikovsky’s “Eugene Onegin”.

The venues were also varied – the former “Philharmonic Center”, Naples Art Association, Golisano Children’s Museum, and the Sugden Theatre.

Through 2015 the Festival invited us all to explore a specific country or region each year – in 2013 it was Latin America, 2014 –Italy and 2015 – France.

In the 2013 Festival a new component was introduced – the educational component -making available the artists to students and inviting students to be guests at the concerts.

As the festivals explored countries and cultures the founders and organizers also began to ask the attendees what they would like to have in the future and so the festival began to evolve.

As the audience members were asked what they would like some interesting points emerged: reasonably priced tickets; small venues where the artists are more up close; more jazz and bluegrass; and not having a featured country.

So when the 2016 festival was announced the first important change was the name – “Stay in May” we will bring the world to you. Secondly – it no longer featured a specific country but expanded to the arts and culture of our country and many others all in the same festival. The Festival at this time had grown from one week to almost three and the venues now spanned over 30 locations throughout Collier County and southern Lee County.

In 2016 one of the newest additions that has continued to be one of the most popular and always a “sell out” – is the Short Film Festival at the Sheffield Theatre in Moorings Park. The director of the film festival is herself a filmmaker and actor – Judy Copeland. She finds shorts that are all award-winning and brings them to Naples.

With each evening of shorts there is a director, producer and/or actor present to discuss the films and answer questions. Every year this author is amazed at how much can be “packed” into a “short”.

There had always been a culinary component – but with the 2017 Festival a twist was added – one culinary adventure featured the upcoming chefs that are in training at our area high schools. These students and their professionally trained instructors are truly amazing- and if you attend you get the opportunity to meet them, talk to them and get to know them and their hopes and dreams.

So as I hope you can see, the “Making of a Festival” is not simply –I think it would fun to have an arts festival.

Because multiple venues are involved the logistics of that component alone could be daunting– but with imagination and determination it works.

Then because it happens in the “off season” finding the quality entertainment that is probably not touring can be a challenge – after all everyone wants to come to Naples in the winter but not so much in our warmer months.

The Stay in May Festival is truly Collier County’s own arts festival celebrating all that the arts offers to all of us – so come and enjoy.

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