It is coldly ironic that the weekend meant to showcase how Collier County has recovered from bad weather was beset by bad weather.
But you can’t keep a good town down, and while the cold may have dampened enthusiasm for the marquee events, the events came off nonetheless — and then some.
Naples got the exposure it bargained for Friday, when the QBE Shootout golf tournament began at Tiburón.
While heavy equipment loaded mountains of storm debris into semi-trailers just out of camerashot, announcers marveled at the condition of the course and the community three months after Hurricane Irma destroyed more than 1,000 trees on the golf course.
The obligatory panoramic views of Naples showed a sun-drenched landscape, and the day’s high temperature in the low 80s played well to a heartland dealing with low 30s.
Collier County tourism director Jack Wert said the Shootout would be a great way of showing the world that Naples is back and open for business, and Friday proved him right.
But Saturday brought a cold front with heavy overnight rains and plunging temperatures.
The on-again, off-again drizzle blowing across Tiburón didn’t play nearly as well on TV, and crowds were visibly down from prior years.
That same weather couldn’t have done anything but hurt attendance at Saturday’s Naples is Rockin’ concert, an event devised specifically to show the world that the party is back on in Southwest Florida after Irma.
The annual Christmas boat parade on Naples Bay also had to go on despite the cold.
“The weather wasn’t our friend,” Wert said Monday, looking back.
But a peek behind the gray curtain of clouds and rain shows that Collier County was still buzzing with the sort of activity that drives a tourism-based economy.
Even with the cold, ticket sales at the concert, headlined by the band Sugar Ray and bankrolled with county tourism dollars, amounted to about $40,000, Wert said. At $25 a pop, that’s about 1,600 attendees.
The weather, while cool, was sunny Sunday, bringing back the sort of televised golf course views that fill Northern viewers with envy.
Wert said he got positive feedback from friends elsewhere who saw the tournament and the Collier County tourism ads interspersed throughout. “We got a lot of good talk,” Wert said.
On top of the concert and golf, there were other signs of a healthy tourism rebound from the hurricane.
The main event isn’t for another week, but multiple youth football teams from around Florida were in town over the weekend to compete in qualifying rounds of the FBU National Championships.
Youngsters in sixth, seventh and eighth grade from Tampa, Miami, Panama City and Orlando were vying for one of 42 spots in the main tournament draw.
Games were held Saturday and Sunday, meaning overnight hotel stays and restaurant meals.
Similarly, Southwest High School from Dade County sent varsity and junior varsity basketball teams for games at Barron Collier and St. John Neumann high schools on Saturday and Sunday.
Travel soccer teams were also in action here over the weekend.
Steven Quinn, vice president of Football University, the organizer of the youth football tournament, said the cold, wet Saturday didn’t affect the games. Nor did the prospect that hurricane damage might impact fields or hotels.
“From the get-go, we were very proactive, making sure people were comfortable coming to Naples,” he said.
The football tournament gets underway in earnest Monday with a groundbreaking for the county’s sports complex, intended to provide a permanent home for the event. The competition will continue through Dec. 21, with many of the games carried on Eleven Sports, a cable network that’s in some 50 million homes.
Even though the weather didn’t fully cooperate, Wert believes what was intended as a showcase weekend was a success.
“Definitely mission accomplished. We got the word out,” he said. “We hope to do the same next week.”
The forecast for the coming weekend calls for partly cloudy skies and highs near 80.
“That’s a pretty good forecast. I’ll take that,” Quinn said.