One small step for man, one giant leap for the Naples Winter Wine Festival.
For its eighth annual charity auction for the ultra-rich, organizers announced a trip literally out of this world — a ride for one on Virgin Galactic’s spacecraft will go to the highest bidder.
The three-day, exclusive party begins Jan. 25.
Each year, the festival, which donates all of its money to area children’s charities, has made an attempt to find something that will intrigue and entice, along with bringing in the biggest bids.
“One of our big questions this year was: How can we top a $2 million Rolls Royce?” said Dawn Montecalvo, executive director of the Naples Children and Education Foundation, alluding to last year’s top ‘must-have’ auction lot.
“Now our new statement is, we will send them to outer space,” she said.
NCEF founded and has organized each year’s festival.
The winner will receive three days of training, before he or she heads off to space for a 3-hour ride with five other passengers.
According to Virgin Galactic’s Web site, the trip takes its occupants at speeds up to 2,500 mph (more than three times the speed of sound) to about 70,000 feet, where they are able to see more than 1,000 miles in any direction out of large windows positioned strategically all around the craft. The trips normally cost around $200,000, the Web site states.
“The great thing about this is that, when you’re done, you’re actually an astronaut,” Montecalvo said.
Montecalvo mentioned that Mary Ann Ramsey, a travel agent who owns Betty Maclean Travel Inc. — one of the festival’s cooperate sponsors — came up with the idea for the trip. Ramsey is one of only 47 nationwide consultants hand-picked by Virgin Galactic to sell the exclusive spacecraft seats.
Along with the exclusive space trip, the three-day festival that starts Jan. 25 includes 69 other auction lots. Among them are excursions to the Galapagos Islands, Dubai and Argentina, and a specially inscribed Maserati Gran Turismo Coupe.
A majority of the lots also normally include rare bottles of wine selected by vintners and the award-winning chefs, such as the California club cab Screaming Eagle, Fontodi from Italy and Torbreck from Australia.
Other exciting lots include a walk-on role on an undisclosed hit ABC-TV show coupled with four tickets to the Academy Awards and the Vanity Fair Oscar Party. Another walk-on role is available for the popular, Emmy and Golden Globe award-winning TV show “24.”
“We don’t try to outdo ourselves each year,” 2008 festival Chairman Don Gunther said. “We just keep our eyes on the prize, creating irresistible lots that will raise as much money as possible for underprivileged and at-risk children in Collier County. When donors and patrons learn about the children and programs we support, their generosity flows from there.”
Those who attended the festival earlier this year brought the total in donations to $16.5 million, shattering the previous record of $12.2 million. The festival, which is limited to 550 guests, costs $7,500 per couple, and $20,000 for reserved seating at an exclusive vintner dinner for two.
NAPLES WINE FESTIVAL MULTIMEDIA - 2007
- VIDEO: Naples Winter Wine Festival Auction
- VIDEO: Evanstad Dinner
- VIDEO: The Gunther Dinner
- VIDEO: Boys & Girls Club
- VIDEO: Dinner with Daniel Boulud
- VIDEO: Tom Colicchio
- VIDEO: NWWF Malone Dinner
- VIDEO: Wine Critic Robert Parker
- VIDEO: Wine Fest VIP Party
- VIDEO: Wine Festival Invitations
- VIDEO: Bentley's Auction Car
- VIDEO: NCEF Documentary Premier
- VIDEO: NCEF: Transforming Children's Lives
- VINTNER DINNERS GUIDE: An interactive guide to the vintner dinners from the Wine Festival
- VIDEOS: See more video coverage of the Naples Wine Festival
- PHOTO GALLERY: View the latest photos from this year's Naples Winter Wine Festival
- PHOTO GALLERY: See past photos from previous Naples Wine Festivals
- PHOTO GALLERY: See photos of modified wine bottle labels used during the 2005 Naples Winter Wine Festival
- EXPANDED COVERAGE: Get more coverage about the Naples Winter Wine Festival