The dreams are coming to town. Exotic, international dreams. Adventurous, open-ocean dreams. Exhilarating celebrity-filled dreams. Delicious gourmet dreams.
They all arrive on Monday afternoon in the gardens of the Harborside Inn - more than 50 experiences and items that pretty pennies could not buy unless they are bid on Monday night at the 28th annual Possible Dreams Auction to benefit Martha's Vineyard Community Services.
Doors open at 3:30 p.m., with live music by the Beetlebung Steel Band. The bidding starts at 4:30, with a live auction intermixed with brief performances by dream-givers Carly Simon, Willy Mason and Kahoots. The online auction, which was new last year and this summer offers nearly 45 additional dreams, opens at 8 p.m. on Monday and closes at 8 p.m. on August 21.
By nightfall, someone will have a date to be serenaded by Livingston Taylor on a catered sunset sail; President Bill Clinton's favorite golf putter will find a new owner; a Formula One racing fan will have tickets to the Australian Grand Prix - with team introductions and VIP access, no less; and a barbecue-lover will sign up for a private cooking class and multi-course dinner for six at the Chappaquiddick home of grill-master Steven Raichlen, author of The Barbecue Bible and How to Grill.
"As soon as one year ends, we're working on next year to make it bigger and better," auction chairman Jim Shane said. "Every year it's new and exciting - we never know what will happen, who will show up."
Jan Hatchard of Community Services agreed. "You never know who's going to pop up, go up to the podium, do a performance," she said. "It's a really wonderful thing to be a part of."
This year's dreams run the gamut, including sports fantasies like four tickets to the Patriots-Broncos game in September plus a private tour of the NBC compound at Gillette Stadium; child fancies like an early screening of the new Arthur movie, the entire Arthur library and a school visit by author and illustrator Marc Brown; foreign getaways like an archaeological tour of prehistoric art chambers in France; and plenty of food phenomenons, author encounters and Island experiences.
Proceeds from the auction support the otherwise unfunded programs of Community Services, the Island's umbrella social services agency which serves 6,000 people a year, including 2,000 families. Among the programs that benefit from the event are Women's Support Services, the Island Counseling Center, Visiting Nurse Service and Early Childhood Programs.
With heaps of new dreams, this year's auction tops past years' without question, but the most unbuyable dream of all won't be on the bidding block - he will be running it.
"The return of Art Buchwald is the biggest story of the year," Mr. Shane said, referring to the event's legendary auctioneer and syndicated columnist who returned to the Vineyard this summer after spending months in hospice care in Washington, D.C. "I don't know anything bigger or better than that. Our dreams have come true with Art being here."
Mr. Buchwald is credited with driving up the auction revenue exponentially over the 26 years he has reigned with a comic and ruthless, guilt-trip-style auctioneering - and he's geared up for another go at it on Monday, with the help of fellow auctioneers Rick Lee and Susan Klein.
"I'm going to raise a lot of money," Mr. Buchwald declared. "We got $780,000 last year and we've got a goal much higher than that."
He lamented the dreams that the auction committee was unable to get.
"The ones we didn't get, that fell through, were two people driving in a convertible into the Big Dig tunnel, and they can pick up all the used bolts they can find. I tried for it, but we couldn't get it," Mr. Buchwald said. "The other one was to open up the movie theatre in Vineyard Haven. I wanted four people to go to the Vineyard Haven theatre, but it's not open."
One dream the auction committee was able to get hold of - inspired by Mr. Buchwald - was the former president's putter. Mr. Clinton's friends, Bill and Nancy Rollnick, called him to ask for a donation - preferably a material item, since he is so busy and often travelling.
"He wanted to do something because he had promised Artie, and you don't break a promise to Artie now, because he has this celestial power," Mr. Rollnick explained. "We agreed to that [donation] before we got off the phone - it was Nancy's suggestion."
How did she know?
"She just knew," he said. "He has a fabulous putter."
Mr. Buchwald - a two-time Pulitzer Prize winning humorist - is also donating a couple of dreams himself, including writing someone's family history from an interview he will conduct, while Pia Centenari-Leonard videotapes it. The other dream is his hat (which may have been owned by Henry Kissinger or Martha Stewart, depending on the day you ask him).
But the real reason most people mob the Harborside every year for the auction is not to bid on the dreams, he said.
"The people come because it's a show," Mr. Buchwald said. "Walter Cronkite's going to be there, Mike Wallace, Phil Donahue, Mary Steenburgen. The celebrities will be there."
Those who aren't prepared to splurge for a dream - last year's winning bids ranged from $2,000 to $82,000 - may be tempted to buy raffle tickets, which are on sale for the second year. A $100 ticket gives the chance to win a choice of either $10,000 or a first class trip to Hawaii to see the PGA tour. The raffle prize was donated by Marty Homlish, who also donated the Grand Prix trip as well as Stevie Nicks's guitar (signed with a special message) for the online auction.
The auction experience has been as rewarding for the dream donors as the dream winners.
"One of the nicest things I have gotten out of the many years that I have done the Possible Dreams Auction is meeting wonderful families on the Vineyard," said Mr. Brown, who has donated Arthur-related dreams for more than 15 years. "I have a lot of enthusiasm for my job because I love it so much and I like to share that with kids."
Mr. Brown this year will travel to the child's school anywhere in the country to talk about illustrating, animating, writing and storytelling.
"I'm getting a lot back when I give, and that's a bonus I wasn't expecting," he said.
The Possible Dreams Auction will be held Monday, August 7, at the Harborside Inn in Edgartown. The rain date is August 8. Gates open at 3:30 and bidding begins at 4:30. Tickets cost $25 and may be purchased in advance at a number of stores across the Vineyard. For more information, call 508-693-7900 or visit possibledreams auction.org.