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Arts and Viticulture, Year 25

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Underneath an enormous tent festooned with hundreds of rice paper globes, a fancy crowd of art patrons, vintners and friends came together for the 25th Sun Valley Center for the Arts Wine Auction last weekend at the River Run Lodge. They threw parties for one another and raised about $1.3 million for The Sun Valley Center for the Arts for continued arts education and excellence in Blaine County. Some of the auction lot winners will be drinking their prizes while biking through Provence, shopping in Florence, or lying on hammocks in Rarotonga. Others will be whisked by private jet around Napa Valley, tooling around in Lexus Hybrid SUVs or playing the in a Pro Am golf tournament at Torrey Pines. Doing good never looked so good.

By most accounts, the recent vintages and vacation packages from around the world were ridiculously over-bid, but no one comes to this auction looking for deals. It's all about having a good time, catching up with old friends and promoting the education mission of the Sun Valley Center for the Arts, which recently expanded to Hailey with the purchase and expansion of the historic birthplace of the Ezra Pound. The wine auction fundraiser also provides employee salaries to SVC employees, who are joined in singing for their supper by dozens of hard-working volunteers from the Wood River Valley who have come to appreciate what the center has done for the community over the years.

For more than 25 years, the SVC has offered free classes, arts-in-the-schools programs, concerts and gallery presentations, both high-brow and home-spun, throughout the year. According to Executive Director Sam Gappmeyer, the SVC will also spend about $60,000 on scholarships in 2007 for students and teachers, some of whom were on hand at the start of Friday night's Gala Auction serving champagne to patrons on the River Run Bridge.

Eighteen-year-old Anneka Preston will be entering Manhattanville College in Purchase, New York, as a McCormick Scholar this fall in order to continue classical voice training begun in the Wood River Valley, where she won two scholarships as a youngster through the Sun Valley Center. "The center is a kind of a support community around here for artists," she says. Her choir director at Wood River High School, Max Stimac, has also benefited from the center's scholarship program, which afforded him a period of study with Opera singer Norman Bailey in Driggs, Idaho, and current studies with Hailey's Company of Fools Musical Director R.L. Rowsey.

Rowsey was busy before the auction, managing a group of Cirque du Soleil "Zoomanity" performers from Las Vegas, including gymnasts, a Russian contortionist and stiltwalkers bouncing giant colored balloons. On the following day, the wine-tasting drew hundreds for a sample that set the palate spinning, followed by the Big Wood Golf Course fairway-sized picnic that ended with one of those rose sunsets you have around the valley in summer. As the patenque matches and hangover BBQs came to a close on Sunday, most of the auction patrons dispersed to parts unknown, leaving the town a bit richer in the art department.

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