New location a dream itself for Possible Dreams
The Possible Dreams Auction 2008, held for the first time on the grounds of Outerland nightclub on Monday, raised more than $560,000 for Martha's Vineyard Community Services (MVCS). About 775 people enjoyed the 30th anniversary of the event, seated comfortably under a magnificent tent, free from the whims of weather.
The change in location was prompted by decreases in attendance and revenues for last year's event. In addition to the death of beloved and long-time auctioneer Art Buchwald, for the first time in 29 years, rain forced a one-day postponement of the auction at its usual outdoor location at the Harborside Inn in Edgartown.
The setbacks prompted the auction committee to look for another site that would be weatherproof. Outerland, located at the entrance to Martha's Vineyard Airport, fit the bill nicely, because its grounds could accommodate a huge tent with a 1,000-person capacity.
"It was a big, big deal to move the auction after so many years - I think there was a level of anxiety above and beyond what is normally associated with this event, and everybody rose to the occasion," said MVCS director of development and communications Jan Hatchard in a phone call Tuesday. "We had so many people helping, it turned out as well as possibly could be expected."
The spacious tent for the auction, complete with globe lights and fans overhead, already proved valuable, shielding people from a brief rain shower during the auction. Ms. Hatchard joked that the rain was a sign of heaven-sent approval from Art Buchwald for the tent and new location.
A second, smaller tent stood nearby for a dinner held after the auction. Ms. Hatchard said over the last three months, her husband Art, who is a builder, helped in designing the site and working with the auction committee on the tent configuration, a parking plan, and signage.
In addition to Ms. Hatchard's tireless organizational efforts, more than 140 volunteers also contributed time and hard work to the event.
Photos by Ralph Stewart
Prelude to payoff
Before the auction started at 4:30 pm, the Bettlebung Jazz Trio provided a lively backdrop of music, competing with a buzz of conversation that grew louder as auction-goers filed in and began people-watching in earnest. Comments heard about the new location were mostly positive.
"It's fun to come out and support a good cause," said Suellan Brichard of Westport, Conn., who spends most of August on the Vineyard. "I like the change - it's a nice setting."
Amy Cangnan of Southwick, who attended the auction in the past, said it doesn't really matter where it is held - it's the cause that matters. She and Lori Life, Patty Curtis, Rosemary Webb, and Paula Stone, friends from grammar school and college, were enjoying the event as a grand finale to a "girl's weekend" spent at her summer home in West Tisbury.
The tent seating seemed to provide a good view of the podium from every vantage point. However, for Kathy Soscia, a Cape Air employee, nothing could compare to the bird's-eye view of the auction she enjoyed the last few years from the balcony of her timeshare unit at the Harborside Inn.
In his opening remarks, auction committee chairman Jim Shane reminded everyone about the Islanders that MVCS programs help. "Let's all remember why we are here - Community Services is not about buildings or even its award-winning programs," he said. "It is about the 6,000 people that are served each year. Many of those folk are the ones that turn on the lights before we arrive and shut them off after we leave. They paint our houses, protect our children, and collectively create this pristine place we call 'The Rock,' the Vineyard."
The Possible Dreams Auction has raised more than $7.25 million over the years. The proceeds benefit six core MVCS programs, Early Childhood programs, the Island Counseling Center, Disability Services, Connect to End Violence (formerly Women's Support Services), Community Building and Innovation, and the Thrift Shop in Vineyard Haven.
Singer/songwriter Livingston Taylor, dressed in his trademark seersucker suit and bow tie, kicked off the program with an upbeat song. Afterwards he remained near the podium to assist returning auctioneers Susan Klein and Rick Lee.
Before starting their quip-filled, no-doze run through 34 "possible dreams," Ms. Klein eyed the audience and remarked, "You do look like a generous bunch."
And she was right. By the time the two auctioneers caught their breath about two hours later, dream-watchers had vicariously enjoyed the experience of dream-buyers, whose bids rose from hundreds of dollars to thousands in a matter of minutes.
A special six-day golf package brought in the most money, $80,000. The dream for two includes attendance at the Masters Tournament in Augusta, Ga., on-course tickets for watching practice and play, and a chance to meet Ernie Els, Gary Player, and David Leadbetter.
When bidding topped at $40,000, donor Martin Homlish, president and chief executive officer of SAP Global Marketing, offered to donate a second trip for the same price, so that Joel Greenberg and Michael Shalett both came out winners.
Some bidders looked for dreams that matched special interests. Daniel Burstein made the winning bid of $8,500 on an auction package that includes a trip to the set of Director Doug Liman's upcoming untitled movie about moon colonization starring Jake Gyllenhall, and two tickets to its premiere.
Mr. Burstein said he and his family, who live in Connecticut and visit the Island every summer, consider themselves Possible Dreams Auction "connoisseurs." The movie "dream" caught the eye of his 19-year-old son David, who is interested in filmmaking.
"Music is my passion," explained Jenni Robin of Edgartown, after making a winning bid of $10,000 on a trip to attend the 2008 American Music Awards in Los Angeles. Ms. Robin said she has a special affinity for MVCS and its programs because of her background as a social worker.
Many women in the audience envied Deborah Williams of Los Angeles, whose husband David bid $19,000 to win an evening for her and three guests with "The Women of the Vineyard." Ms. Williams and friends will dine with writer/director Diane English at her home, along with producer Victoria Pearman, art collector Olga Hirshhorn, actress Patricia Neal, photographer Alison Shaw, and Tamara Buchwald.
Guest women chefs will prepare the dinner, including Espresso Love's chef Carol McManus. The dream also includes attendance at the premiere of Ms. English's upcoming film, "The Women." Ms. Williams said she plans to invite Nancy Parrish, her friend and Vineyard Haven hostess, to join her.
At last, success
After getting outbid at several past auctions, Carol Vaughn of Darien, Conn., finally enjoyed success. For her winning bid of $6,500, she and a guest will get to hang out backstage with the Neville Brothers before their concert at the Martha's Vineyard Festival on August 10, and act as guest emcees when the group performs.
"I wanted to go to the concert anyway, and since my daughter, who is 22, has a birthday this month, I bid on it for her," said Ms. Vaughn, a summer resident of Chilmark.
The third time proved the charm for another Chilmark summer resident, Barbara Walsh, who won the last dream on the program, a round of golf for three with Vernon Jordan, with a bid of $10,000. When outbid on two previous items, Ms. Walsh had exhibited the true spirit of the event, cheering on her competitors because their higher bids meant more dollars for MVCS.
Ms. Walsh's husband, Dilly, currently is hospitalized at Martha's Vineyard Hospital for treatment of amyotrophic lateral disease (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig's disease. "Both of us totally support Community Services," she said, "and since he's in the hospital, I came here tonight to carry on for both of us."
More to come
Although shorter this year, the possible dreams list still contained many favorites from years past - sailing trips, attendance at prime sporting events, and dinners with famous authors and celebrities. And no auction would be complete without a dream provided by author Norman Bridwell, who made an appearance with his creation, Clifford the Big Red Dog.
Mr. Lee ended the auction with a surprise, the opportunity to bid on the last two tickets to a dinner that followed, celebrating 30 years of Possible Dreams and honoring long-time supporters - Mr. Bridwell, actress Patricia Neal, singer Carly Simon, philanthropist Olga Hirshhorn, newsmen Walter Cronkite and Mike Wallace, and cartoonist, playwright, and screenwriter Jules Feiffer.
Katie Mayhew, a 16-year-old from West Tisbury, sang "The Impossible Dream" for the dinner crowd of about 300. An Island celebrity in her own right, Ms. Mayhew won a state-wide high school singing contest and performed with the Boston Pops on July 4.
In addition, singer and actress Jennifer Holliday, one of the original Broadway musical "Dreamgirls," wowed the crowd with a concert.
Joel Buchwald, Art's son, has vowed to keep the auction going strong, and served as emcee at the dinner. In a special outpouring of support, Ms. Hatchard said guests spontaneously donated about $73,000 in addition to what was raised at the auction. Some revenue remains to be counted, she added.
"It is a lot for people going to events to have to choose between them," Ms. Hatchard noted on Tuesday. "We're so grateful so many came out to support us. Looking out at the crowd last night, I thought, this is what makes the event, the faces we see year after year - it's like a family, in a way."