Nearly 400 varieties of wine were featured on Friday (March 5) evening as Bost presented its 13th annual Grape Escapes. The "A Vine Affair" showcased everything from white, red and blush wines to delectable hors d'oeuvres and desserts prepared by local eateries.
More than 500 patrons attended the event, which was held at the Holiday Inn City Center in Fort Smith. Upon arrival, guests were greeted with a plate and wine glass to use as they made their way around the room to the various sampling tables and food stations.
Fourteen food vendors took part in this year's event, offering guests a wide-range of options to pair with their wines. Representatives from each of the participating beverage distributors were also on-hand to answer questions about their products and pour samples for guests.
Following the initial tastings, the live auction got underway. Master of Ceremonies Daren Bobb helped lead the charge as a number of premier trips and jewelry were sold to the highest bidder. Featured items included a Hearts on Fire diamond pendant, donated by John Mays Jewelers, as well as a one-week trip for four to Napa Valley, donated by Ken and Sandy Pyle.
The evening also showcased the musical talents of local favorite, the Don Bailey Jazz Combo, who played throughout the early part of the night. Fort Smith native Jonathan Karrant also delighted the audience with his jazz vocal performance.
First held in 2003, Grape Escapes has become one of the region's most highly-anticipated and well-attended fundraisers.
"After attending a similar charity event in another city, Maggie Malloy, former Bost Foundation executive director, created Grape Escapes," said Shannon Fawcett, BostFoundation Assistant Executive Director.
Bost is a non-profit agency that provides services to more than 700 individuals with mental, physical and developmental disabilities. It also offers special programs for disadvantaged non-disabled individuals. The organization serves people of all ages in 34 counties, located throughout Arkansas and Oklahoma.
Grape Escapes is hosted annually by the Bost Foundation, which exists to "support the programs and services provided by Bost, by cultivating community awareness and developing funding sources so as to lessen the agency’s dependence on government funding.”
Tickets for the event were $100. The 2014 event brought in $108,000 for Bost. Organizers hope to increase that to $120,000 this year.
“Proceeds from Grape Escapes help fund our fleet of vans that pick our children for school and take them home, as well as, pick up our adult consumers and take them to work or to the Adult Skills Center and back home," said Fawcett. "The proceeds also go toward classroom supplies, building maintenance and things the government doesn't subsidize."