Front-Row Seat: That’s one grape musical lineup for Naples fest

Mike Joseph is a Naples civic leader, the co-owner of the Mitchell-Joseph Insurance Agency — and a music guy. A singer-songwriter who hosts multiple open-mics in Naples, Joseph can often be found haunting music venues throughout the region checking out bands and performers of many a genre.

That serves him well when it comes time to take on one of his volunteer tasks in the community — putting together the live-music schedule for the Naples Grape Festival. The longtime voluntary chairman of the festival — Donna Scott is executive director — Joseph books a two-day lineup of music-makers of diverse genres, styles and sounds, with an emphasis on artists performing original material.

“That’s the way I’ve rolled for probably about 10 years,” Joseph said. That doesn’t mean fest-goers won’t hear the occasional familiar tune, of course: “Any band has their favorite covers,” he said, “but there aren’t many venues of this scale who are focusing on original music.”

Joseph figures that focus is in keeping with the quality and calibre of the Grape Festival itself. The two-day celebration of the area’s most prominent of crops — and the many delectables that feature it in the starring role, especially wines and pies — includes a juried art show, a tasting tent featuring the offerings of Finger Lakes wineries (plus a brewery and cidery) for a $15 admission, a diverse lineup of food vendors; and, of course, the World’s Greatest Grape Pie Contest. Sponsored by Naples Rotary, this year’s festival is this Saturday and Sunday, Sept. 29-30, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., at Main and Monier streets — in and around the grounds of the Naples Memorial Town Hall and, across Main Street, Naples Central School. Many locals up and down Main Street and the vicinity get in the spirit of the festival with lawn sales, food and drink and such, though the festival notes that they aren’t officially sanctioned vendors.

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