There were some pretty decadent prize packages that went up for auction during the recent Flamingo 2018 fundraiser to benefit Aspen Education Foundation. But it was the pair of tickets to a dress rehearsal of “Saturday Night Live” that really got the bidders going.
“The Saturday Night Live package sold for a record amount” of $155,000, said Cynthia Chase, AEF’s executive director, on Monday. The buyers received two tickets as well as a hotel stay and some restaurant meals, and will be accompanied to the rehearsal by Judy Belushi, widow of SNL icon John Belushi.
A board member who is a friend of Belushi’s was the connection, Chase said. All told, the event raised in excess of $850,000, which is well ahead of past years. This is Chase’s first year as executive director and AEF board president Raifie Bass credited Chase as a being a key part of the event’s success.
“By far, so many things contributed to it,” Bass said Monday. In addition to Chase becoming the organization’s lead in 2018, the board saw a major restructuring. Another factor was “people in the community prioritizing public education,” he said. How the live auction was organized this year also made a big difference.
“One of the amazing things Cynthia did was in the auction there were no consignment fees. Everything went to AEF,” said Bass, an AEF board member for the past six years.
Also commanding competitive bids during the live auction was a “Trifecta package” with Lance Armstrong, Alex Ferreira and Chris Evert that offered a bike ride with the former cycling professional, a ski day with the 2018 Olympic medalist and a game of tennis with the three-time Wimbledon champion. It sold for $21,000, according to Chase.
A golf package with PGA golfer Justin Leonard fetched $50,000. An online silent auction that’s part of Flamingo 2018 continues until Dec. 14 ataspenaef.org.
Despite the live auction bonanza, the bulk of the money earned by AEF came from local businesses sponsoring tables at the Nov. 30 event, which was held at the St. Regis, Chase said. A total of 19 VIP tables earned $10,000 each. General admission tickets cost $210 and sold out weeks in advance.
Chase attributes the success to the local community’s passion for public education and the programs that are unique to Aspen and funded through the organization.
“The event had an incredible sense of community, all of us coming together to support our public schools,” she said. That included public school families, those with no children, families whose children have graduated and families whose kids attend the private Aspen Country Day School.
Also participating were “people from out of town with no connection to our schools. It was a beautiful mix of people working together. It was really magical,” Chase said.