26th Annual Jerôme Beillard Festival For Life
By Megan Wadding, Nov. 6, 2014.
For 26 years, the Festival for Life has brought art, holiday spirit and the local community together for an evening of merriment.
This year’s festival, benefiting the Southern Arizona Aids Foundation (SAAF), features live and silent auctions, food and drinks, live entertainment, guest speakers and more Nov. 8 at the Tucson Chinese Cultural Center.
The annual event began in 1989 as the Festival of Trees, a fundraiser for the People with AIDS Coalition of Tucson (P.A.C.T) that included an auction of nearly 200 decorated holiday trees and holiday wreathes.
In 1995, after P.A.C.T.’s co-founder and executive director, Jerôme Beillard, died from AIDS complications, the ever-growing event has since been known as The Jerôme Beillard Festival for Life and is hosted annually by the Southern Arizona AIDS Foundation (SAAF).
There are countless reasons to become a part of this annual holiday tradition, but here’s our top five:
1. IT’S FOR A GOOD CAUSE
The Festival for Life is an annual fundraiser for SAAF. The event in 2013 raised over $105,000 for the organization, according to Moureen Drury, SAAF marketing and events coordinator. And this year, with an anticipated 500 attendees, the goal is to top that.
“The purpose [of the festival] is to raise much needed funds to support the more than 1,200 people served each year with comprehensive case management, peer counseling, food programs, housing [and] complementary therapies,” Drury said. “It also helps fund our targeted prevention education and HIV testing programs which is helping SAAF get ever closer to its goal of no new infections, period!”
2. THE AUCTIONS
The live and silent auctions are the festival’s main event and both feature items that have been donated by businesses, individuals and artists throughout the community.
“We typically see more than 400 pieces of fine art, dozens of pieces of fine jewelry, floral arrangements and several once-in-a-lifetime opportunities,” Drury said. “The festival is new every year as we receive great new artwork, jewelry and gifts to auction off.”
Items up for auction this year include paintings, a family pack of tickets to Tucson Arizona Boys Chorus 2014/2015 season, a Louis Vuitton Noe drawstring bag, a one-year membership for two to the Loft Cinemas, a one night stay for two at the Hilton Sedona Resort and Spa and much more.
The event’s emcee will once again be KVOA Channel 4 reporter, Lupita Murillo, who Drury credits with being “crucial to the success of our live auction.”
3. PAPER PRAYERS
Every year, community members of all ages and backgrounds, including some professional local artists make paper prayers. This year, there will be more than 70 framed and hundreds of unframed paper prayers for purchase at the event.
Paper prayers are derived from the Japanese and Shinto concept of shide, which means “paper of the spirits,” according to saaf.org. Traditionally, in Japan, small papers with written prayers are hung from trees outside of Shinto temples in order to the wind to carry their prayers or wishes into the world.
“They are a way for people to pick up simple and beautiful pieces of art at reasonable prices,” Drury said. “Paper Prayers are a Japanese tradition, which SAAF staff and volunteers observe that promotes good health and well-being, especially in times of need.”
4. EAT, DRINK AND BE MERRY
“Each guest will receive admission to the event, free appetizers and live entertainment,” Drury said. “Guests can expect heavy hors d’oeuvres [and] there will be some really delicious options.”
Live entertainment will be provided by Sticks & Fingers, featuring Richard Noel, and there will be a surprise guest speaker.
“We do usually have someone speak about their experience living with HIV or caring for someone living with HIV,” Drury said. “This year, we are planning a very special guest.”
5. TO GET INTO THE HOLIDAY SPIRIT
Specially decorated Christmas trees will be part of the silent auction again this year, as a nod to the early years of the festival.
“The trees are decorated in all kinds of nontraditional ways,” Drury said. “Sometimes we have simple decorations and sometimes we have individual art pieces … on multicolored trees in the style of a theme. Each one has its own character. They definitely pay homage to festival’s roots.”
The festival also offers attendees the opportunity to start holiday shopping early.
“[The Festival] supports a great organization and it enables my partner, Alan, and me to buy some great items,” said Tucson resident Michael J. Steinberg, who estimates that he has been attending the festival for about 15 years. “We like to travel, eat out, and see shows, and there’s usually a good selection of those items. [I’m looking forward to] spending an evening with great people who all share our feelings about how important it is to support SAAF. Plus, it’s always fun to participate in a bidding war during the live auction!”
The 26th Annual Jerôme Beillard Festival for Life
5:30 p.m. Registration begins
6 p.m. Silent Auction - doors open
7:15 p.m. Live Auction begins
Tucson Chinese Cultural Center
1288 W. River Road, Tucson
Tickets: $45 in advance; $55 at the door