Dreams proved entirely possible at the 35th annual auction

Cambridge comedian and auctioneer Jimmy Tingle (left) received some help raising bids from NPR host Tom Ashbrook. — Photo by Ralph Stewart

Overcast skies with occasional drops of rain did not dampen the spirits of bidders at the 35th annual art Buchwald Possible Dreams Auction Sunday evening, hosted by the Winnetu Oceanside Resort in Edgartown.

Cambridge comedian Jimmy Tingle entertained about 450 guests under the grand white tent and tried to attract high bids for nearly 30 dreams up for auction, from an audience of generous supporters of Martha’s Vineyard Community Services (MVCS).

The live auction, which ran for nearly three hours, raised about $213,000, slightly more than last year, when the total was between $180,000 to $200,000.

MVCS Director of Development and Community Relations, Nell Coogan, said as of Monday, the event had raised over $450,000. This amount includes admissions, sponsorships of the event, dinner admission, live and silent auction and donations after the event.

“We are very excited,” Ms. Coogan said. “We have exceeded what we were able to bring in last year by $50,000 and we are still calculating.”

The annual event is the umbrella social service organization’s largest fundraiser. Over the years, the Possible Dreams Auction has raised almost $9 million to support services that include behavioral health and substance abuse treatment, child care services and education support.

Ms. Coogan said the auction helps MVCS provide services to those in need.

“Our mission states that we will not turn anyone away based on inability to pay,” she said. “The auction is a vital component to our ability to do just that and it provides for MVCS to offer all of its programs in one way or another in terms of the budget.”

She added the auction helps with about 10 percent of MVCS’s budget.

“We receive funding from many sources, including grants, state and federal funds, but in order to afford to cover those without an ability to pay, we will always need a bit more,” Ms. Coogan said. “This event is a big part of us being able to keep doing what we’re doing.”

New executive director Juliette Fay, who recently joined MVCS this past April, said MVCS not only reaches out to about 6,000 people annually, but employs over a 100 people and is the third, or fourth, largest employer on the Island.

Stand up stand in

Mr. Tingle, who is no stranger to the Island, was recruited to fill the very big shoes that once belonged to longtime auctioneer, Art Buchwald, a renowned humorist and Washington Post columnist who died in January 2007. The auction was renamed in his honor.

The new host took the stage and read a column by Mr. Buchwald dated May 2006 in which the humorist, writing from a hospice center, reflected on his upcoming fate.

Mr. Tingle said Mr. Buchwald could find the humor in anything, even his own death.

Mr. Tingle kicked off the auction with a list of 10 reasons to contribute to MVCS. He said if the goal was not met that night, people would have to get a resident sticker to take a left at the Roundabout. He joked that there will be a swim tax on the Island.

“$1.50 to jump off the bridge,” he said with a smile.

The tried and true auction formula offers participants a chance to bid on “dream” items that include outings with celebrities of the international and local variety. In 2011, the highest priced item, an overnight on an aircraft carrier, came with a $25,000 price tag.

On Sunday, the highest ticket item and one of the most competitive prizes of the evening was the chance to escape for a week next spring to a private villa in Abruzzo, Italy. Jim Ferraro won the bid with $20,000.

Big items, such as a trip to Nantucket aboard the 90-foot motor yacht KelDi, went for $10,500. A multi-course gourmet dinner for up to 12 with chef Christian Thornton of Atria in Edgartown and Hooked in Oak Bluffs netted $7,500.

One of the more historical pieces up for auction Sunday was the Blinker, a unique traffic feature on the Vineyard for decades. Clarence “Trip” Barnes, trucker, auctioneer, and an opponent of the newly installed Roundabout that replaced the Blinker light helped Mr. Tingle auction the historic light.

The Blinker went to Stanley and Mary Ann Snider for $8,600. Mr. Snider wasn’t sure where the Blinker will now call home, but he said it may not be moving too far. He hinted at the possibility that it will live at the Winnetu. Ms. Snider said their son Mark owns the Winnetu and has a passion for history.

What’s worth even more is the “save the Roundabout” bumper sticker, Mr. Barnes joked. “Bumper stickers go down in history on Martha’s Vineyard, and that is one you can frame and put over your mantle piece, and say, ‘Gee I remember what it was like,'” he said.

Anne Clark and Greg Jones, seasonal residents from Newton were “newbies” to the Possible Dreams Auction, but have been spending summers here for several years.

“I don’t know why we weren’t here other years,” Mr. Jones said. “This is a lot of fun.”

Mr. Jones was one of the bidders competing for the Blinker. “It’s very special, and it’s one of a kind,” Mr. Jones said about the old traffic signal. “I might have put it at the end of the driveway.”

Ms. Clark motioned with her hands and mouth to “stop bidding,” to Mr. Jones during the back-and-forth bids for the Blinker, she said.

Ultimately, Mr. Snider won the prized item, but the couple didn’t walk away empty handed. They left with a framed Barbie print from the silent auction.

“It’s all for a good cause,” Mr. Jones said. “We’ll definitely come back.”