NAPLES — For nearly 60 years this festival has celebrated the grape harvest and the talent that keeps the area alive.
Naples Grape Festival was held Sept. 23 and 24 around downtown. Many of the artists and food vendors were in James R. Moore Memorial Park. The festival is the highlight of the area every year.
Merkley’s Photos owner Ben Merkley of Port Byron had his first experience participating in the famous grape festival.
“I bought a camera for my girlfriend, but she didn’t want to use it,” Merkley said. “I picked it up for fun, and started traveling around taking photos.”
“I take thousands of photos a month,” Merkley continued. “I travel a lot for work, so if I see something I like I will pull-over.”
The importance of taking photos is something that Merkley takes seriously when he is capturing the world around him.
Merkley has gone through the beautiful Finger Lakes National Forest, and captured the natural glow there.
“You never know what you are going to find,” he said. “I like to capture something that might not be there again.”
Merkley enjoys taking photos of abandoned cars in the fields with trees growing out of them, abandoned homes, and barns.
“I never leave the house without taking my camera,” he said.
Rachel MacKenzie grew up in Connecticut, moved to Florida, and spends time in Springwater. During Hurricane Irma her youngest daughter, Grace, lost everything when her apartment complex was taken out. Mackenzie said the American Virgin Islands got slammed, and St. John’s is where Grace lived.
MacKenzie went down to check her Florida home and found everything was good. Luckily her husband Greg and herself were up in Springwater at the time.
“We had a big fear that our home would be destroyed, but luckily it is in good shape,” she said. “My daughter Grace wasn’t so lucky. She built her entire life there and is devastated.”
“Young people make their way down there to build a life for themselves, and this storm came and took that all away,” MacKenzie continued. “Grace is working in Michigan now, and we are trying to help her with everything she lost.”
MacKenzie was selling her upcycled art at the grape festival. She has been doing this kind of art for 35 years.
“The arts and crafts are a billion dollar industry in this country,” she said. “It is neat to be able to purchase something from someone who came up with the original idea.”
“My husband started this business 35 years ago, and this is how we make our living,” MacKenzie continued. “We built a good life for our girls doing this. There is nothing else like what we do. This all comes from my imagination, and not a single one is alike.”
Roger Kuhn of Rochester was on the corner of the park singing his soulful tunes to all who walked by.
“I felt it was necessary to leave the big city and howl like a hippie on the sidewalks of Naples,” he said. “I parked my car down by the cemetery, and I feel like I am possessed by the spirits of this town.”
Kuhn writes all of his own music, and has 4 albums out already. He has been doing this for the past 10 years.
Kuhn has traveled from Chicago, to Nashville, and all the way to the soul of Mississippi singing his music. He has even been to Texas.
“Everytime I get vacation time I take to the streets,” Kuhn said. “I learned how to play the guitar from my mother and stepfather. I wrote songs from an early age.”
Kuhn loves the history of the Seneca Nation in the Naples area, and thinks it is a magical place.
“People can listen to all of my songs for free before deciding to buy the album,” Kuhn said. “I am working on my fifth album now.”
If you are interested in checking out his music you can visit his website www.rogerkuhn.bandcamp.com