It's the best summer garden party ... ever.
That's how Sherry Kramer, chairman emeritus of the upcoming Manhattan Wine Auction, describes the event, celebrating its silver anniversary on June 8.
Kramer, who has been with the annual fundraiser for the Manhattan Beach Education Foundation since its inception, said she never would have imagined it would still be going 25 years later.
“I think originally it started out as just parents, but now it’s much broader," said Kramer, who also serves on the business advisory council. "You develop these relationships and not only do people attend to see what’s new and happening, but also to support the Ed Foundation.”
During its first year in 1995, the auction had humble community roots. More than two decades later, it's an upscale soiree with thousands in attendance and lofty fundraising goals. Last year, the Wine Auction drew in more than 2,000 attendees and raised $1.3 million.
Event coordinators said MBEF is seeking to outdo those previous numbers with the silver anniversary-themed event this year at the Manhattan Country Club.
“It all started with a need for funding for our schools. And I think it grew from a seed of an idea,” mused Hilary Mahan, the executive director of the Manhattan Beach Education Foundation. “We like wine. We like to hang out together. There is a great community that enjoys that and look how far it’s come.”
The goal this year is to raise at least $1.3 million, said Mahan, noting some tickets—which are $300 per person for general admission and $500 for the exclusive reserve room —are still available.
This year’s Wine Auction will include 40 South Bay restaurants serving gourmet cuisine, 70 wineries offering rare wine lots, corporate sponsor American Airlines donating air miles for auction bidders, a live band and a few other surprises in honor of the anniversary.
This is also the first year that online bidding will be available for people not in attendance, Mahan added.
“It’s a different look and feel every year but everybody is challenged to make it even better than it was before,” added John Oshiro, a chairman emeritus of the wine auction who has been with the event since the early days. “Ultimately, we’re doing it all for our schools and our kids. Even parents out of the community can appreciate that.”
The Wine Auction is one of the main sources of fundraising for MBEF, which funded $6.2 million in educational grants for the Manhattan Beach Unified School District last year, according to Mahan, who said MBEF finances programs such as music, STEM and additional staff.
The MBEF currently has an endowment of $18.5 million, she added, but has the goal to increase that to $20 million by 2020.
The endowment, which kicks back a certain percentage every year for direct donation to the school district, is set up to protect education funding in the event of economic fluctuations, according to Oshiro.
“The endowment gives you perpetuity. It continually ensures that our schools get funding no matter where the cuts come from and that we can survive this elasticity of money coming in. That’s the future for us,” he explained. “We see it not only as an investment in our schools, but an investment in the community.”
Mahan said the Wine Auction plays a key role in fundraising for the district’s seven schools.
“The more we raise at the wine auction, the more we raise through major gifts and donations towards the endowment means...MBEF can make larger grants to the district,” she said.
Mahan noted the annual event, which takes several days and hundreds of volunteers to make happen—including a prestigious Wine Advisory Board which meets on a regular basis and selects wine donations for the event—is successful because of a grassroots, local effort.
“The community that helped make this grow to the point that it is and having that individual touch, that feeling of being special is what draws people in,” said Mahan. “People know that this is a well produced event but produced by their neighbor, their friend, a parent that they run into in the hallway. The wine auction just captures exactly what makes Manhattan Beach so phenomenal.”
For more information on the Manhattan Wine Auction, visit https://manhattanwineauction.com/