Festive event turns heads
Sun Valley Center Wine Auction breaks
record for fundraising
By DANA DUGAN
and MEGAN THOMAS
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
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
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."