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It was like déjà vu last Friday night as I walked into the Memminger Auditorium for the Spoleto Festival USA La Dolce Vita auction.

I was last at Memminger for Spoleto's opening night of the opera Amistad. I remember being a newbie in the Spoleto scene--really not knowing what to expect--but after attending a string of operas, plays, and an over-the-top theatrical production (who can forget the Monkey: Journey to the West performance?) all followed by the most lavish after parties, I would consider myself a Spoleto connoisseur of sorts. Ok, maybe that's a bit of a stretch.

In comparison, this event was a lot more laid back. Instead of a sit-down dinner, guests feasted on heavy hors d'oeuvres by Carolina Catering. The silent auction was a major draw, offering an array of items from a Turks & Caicos Safari to a Cynthia Rowley Party Package for 20 of your best girlfriends. As I made my way down the row, I ran into Jeffery Rhodes with the Margo Kaufman Gallery who introduced me to the lovely Sally Benedict who donated one of her original artworks to the auction. The night was off to a good start for Sally with five bids in the first hour. Her oil, acrylic, and charcoal on canvas painting titled Type A was very popular.

Once last call was given for the silent auction, guests were quickly ushered into the seated live auction for champagne and sweets. This is the first time that I have ever seen a live auction with stadium-style seating, but it worked. In each seat, guests were pleasantly surprised with a box filled with chocolate truffles, ladyfingers, and I think a carrot cake sample-all delicious; I ate every last morsel. To help wash things down, volunteers were walking up and down the aisle never allowing your glass to be half empty-perhaps that was to keep the bids flowing as well.

The dynamic duo of auctioneer Doug Warner and host Tom Crawford of Channel 4 handled the live auction which included a Andrew von Oeyen private recital for 30 of your closest friends and a Memminger Stage Dinner prepared by new Charleston Grill executive chef Michelle Weaver. More than $110,000 was raised in support of the Spoleto Festival USA Orchestra.