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Produced & Maintained by Idaho Mountain Express, Box 1013, Ketchum, ID 83340-1013 
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Copyright © 2003 Express Publishing Inc.
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Wednesday, July 28, 2004


Festive event turns heads

Sun Valley Center Wine Auction breaks record for fundraising

Express Staff Writers

Lance Armstrong is not the only one who broke records last weekend. Indeed, the premiere fundraising event for the Sun Valley Center for the Arts, its Wine Auction, broke its record set just last year for fundraising by grossing more than $1 million dollars.

The enormous success of the event was thanks in part to the work of Wine Auction Chair Benjamin Wood.

"I am really proud to be involved, but the truth is it’s team effort," Wood said. "The staff at the Center are amazing. They make it all happen. The involvement of our sponsors like Wells Fargo, NetJets and Ralph Lauren made it just wonderful."

The before expenses amount made during the Gala Dinner and Auction put the Center’s scholarship programs comfortably in the black.

Events began Thursday, July 22 with Vintner Dinners held at private venues.

More than 500 guests enjoyed the Gala Wine Auction Dinner and Dance at the River Run Lodge Friday, July 23.

Guided by the contagious energy of famed auctioneer David Reynolds and his assistant, Denise Simone—"She was our Vanna White," Wood said—the auction set a new record for the Center.

The evening began with a silent auction, which raised $100,000 and warmed up guests for the live auction lot.

"As always it is my pleasure to turn passion into cash," Reynolds joked to the generous attendees.

Live auction bidding raised $900,000. Items for auction included luxuries from fine wine to trips such as a week at the famed Fashion Week in Milan, Italy.

Throughout the night, members of the UMO improvisation group in Salt Lake City, costumed as buffoons and dragonfly muses on stilts, visited with guests.

A special lot directed money to the scholarship fund, where $130,000 was raised. This program benefits valley teachers, college and high school students, as well as underwriting scholarships for art classes at the Center in Ketchum.

Highlights from the auction included a solo sung by Amy Nelson, a three-year scholarship recipient and an appearance by Dick Grace of Grace Family Vineyards. Grace introduced two of the Center’s art students who designed labels for his vineyard’s bottles.

Company of Fool’s members and Elizabeth Price-Asher donated time to put on the event and "that made all the difference in the world," Wood added.

There were goody bags for each guest donated by corporate sponsors, and the head of NetJets stood up to declare he wanted to make their sponsorship of the event a tradition

Saturday’s tasting drew approximately 1,000 tasters sipping exceptional samples of the world’s finest wines. The casual afternoon led the way for the evening picnic.

The annual picnic at the Big Wood Golf Course is always a bit of a bacchanalia. This year it was also notable for its trash. Indeed, Ben Mackay of the Environmental Resource Center reports that over the course of the weekend’s festivities "91 percent of all the waste generated was either composted or recycled."

At the Wine Auction on Friday evening, 740 gallons were recycled. At the tasting on Saturday afternoon, 1,280 gallons were recycled. At the picnic, where all the utensils, cups and plates were compostable 4,560 gallons were gathered.

But trash aside, the picnic drew approximately 1,200 people who feasted happily on a casual dinner catered by Big Wood Bread and Mountain Pride.

Country artist Brenn Hill played tunes while the sun shone and, yes indeed, lots of delicious wine rolled around on tongues.

Still reeling from the weekend’s success, an exhausted Wood said, "It takes a lot of planning, a whole year on this, especially dealing with corporate sponsors. The success is pretty overwhelming. I had fun making it more of a creative event, It was like being part of a show, and that added a lot to it."


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