Two high rollers in a bidding war to share a peanut butter sandwich with Carly Simon?
That was great fun when it happened in the mid-1990s and certainly all for a good cause, specifically Martha’s Vineyard Community Services. But this year the annual Possible Dreams Auction is taking a whole new approach, retooled for present-day lives, which for most people do not include long hours of bidding and rubbing shoulders with celebrities over copious numbers of cocktails. Today’s family-oriented crowd would rather be at the beach with their children and grandchildren during the day and do something a little more lively at night — and organizers for the auction, the event held on the first Monday of August each year that’s an institution in its own right and a key fundraiser for Community Services, have taken note.
The 34-year-old auction will still be held in Ocean Park in Oak Bluffs and it will still include some stunning high-end dreams for sale at a live auction, including a few new dreams (how about a walk down the red carpet at the Emmy Awards in Los Angeles or a stay at an Italian manor in Abruzzi with dinner al fresco in the olive groves of Bomba?) and popular old dreams (golf on the Vineyard with Vernon Jordan and a private tour through restricted caves near Paris to view prehistoric paintings with expert Duncan Caldwell).
A special dream competition will pit Yankees against Red Sox fans.
But the overall list will be shortened to about 30 dreams, and the event will begin a short time earlier with an hourlong silent auction of less costly items that have been donated by Islanders. And when the bidding is over, the after party will move a short distance away to Hooked, the new seafood restaurant on Beach Road, where guests will be treated to dinner and then dance the night away to Johnny Hoy and the Bluefish.
It all adds up to more entertainment, a shorter auction and hopefully more fun for the people who attend, auction organizers said this week.
“Our goal is to preserve all the wonderful things that have made the auction great while reaching deeper into our community with some constructive and fun additions,” said auction chairman Sandra Pimentel in a press release about the changes to the upcoming event.
Community Services, the Island’s only umbrella social service agency that is more than 50 years old, annually provides services to some 6,000 of the Island’s nearly 16,000 year-round residents. Mental health counseling, early childhood programs, domestic violence counseling and domestic violence intervention are just a few of the services provided. The agency depends on the auction each year to help close a growing budget gap due to cuts in state and federal funding for health and human services.
In recent years the auction has raised from $500,000 to $800,000. For decades the auctioneer was the late humorist Art Buchwald, who famously coaxed bidders to open their wallets for silly things like his hat or that peanut butter sandwich with singer-songwriter Carly Simon.
“This Island is sort of a crazy safe haven, a safe house, so to speak,” Mr. Buchwald once said. “We come here not only because it is beautiful, but because we feel safe. Our children can be safe. It’s Our Town. People fall in love; people die. I really feel like the stage manager in Our Town. It’s real life. What makes it so good is that you’re a witness to life on this Island.”
The auction will be held this year on Monday, August 6. The silent auction will begin at 4 p.m.; the live auction begins at 5 p.m.
“We want this to be a celebration for people of all ages,” Mrs. Pimentel said.