Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Wine Auction succeeds in down economy

‘Raise That Paddle’ highest donation in Center’s history

Express Staff Writer

Sun Valley Center for the Arts Executive Director Bill Ryberg and his wife, Evelyn, both trained opera singers, give a singing sampling from “Phantom of the Opera” to introduce their “secret lot,” a “Night at Your Opera.” The lot sold twice for $15,000 each and includes a performance by the Rybergs, wine from The Center’s “cellar” and appetizers by Lorna’s Catering for 20 people. Photo by Willy Cook

"Art completes the soul," wrote a wine auction attendee on a menu. "The fact that we can express ourselves or be moved by someone else is amazing."

The Sun Valley Center for the Arts' 28th annual Wine Auction was attended by enthusiastic supporters and winemakers who donated lots upon lots of some of the finest wines in the U.S. After the evening's paddles were finally laid to rest, The Center had made $850,000. The Center did not bring in the revenue of last year, which was over a million dollars, but nonetheless, it maintains the generous support of vintners and attendees.

"This was the first Wine Auction that I was a part of," said Bill Ryberg, The Center's executive director. "Our Raise the Paddle lot was the highest it's ever been, which helped us reach 87 percent of our goal number for the night of the auction."

This year's Raise the Paddle lot, which is a round of donations, raised $247,000 for The Center's many in-school programs and residencies, as well as scholarships for teachers and students and free professional development days for local educators.

Besides the wine, this year's scrumptious dinner was prepared by guest chefs, who also prepared private vintner dinners. Dallas-based chef John Tesar and Las Vegas-based chef Rick Moonen added a spontaneous lot to the auction, combining Dallas Cowboy football tickets, a dinner at Nobu in Houston, a visit to a ranch, then a stay at Mandalay Bay and a special dinner at Moonen's rm seafood restaurant in Las Vegas, which all sold for $30,000.

Another weekend highlight was a sold-out Riedel wine symposium and a series of events aimed at younger art lovers who are members of The Center's Junior Patrons Circle. The new locations for the wine tasting at Carol's Dollar Mountain Lodge and the picnic at Warms Springs Ranch were also a welcome change of venue for all attendees.

The Sun Valley Center Wine Auction is ranked in the top 10 of U.S. charity wine auctions by "Wine Spectator" magazine. The Center depends on the Wine Auction, its only fundraiser, for more than half its operating budget. Many Center programs are offered free of charge thanks in large part to the Wine Auction.

Sabina Dana Plasse:

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