READERS' POLL RUNNER-UP--TIE: The 13th annual Southern Arizona AIDS Foundation Jell-O Wrestling event held this spring was the first of three fundraisers this year for the SAAF service agency. (The next is the October 22 AIDS Walk, followed by the Jerome Beillard "Festival for Life" holiday art auction on November 19.) Thanks to the generous support of local businesses and amateur contenders, the non-profit received a record $21,000 in contributions ($8,000 were pledges raised by the 30 wrestlers themselves). All of that money goes directly to HIV-positive members of our community who need housing, case management, medical care, transportation, meals and other support services. This year's event was held in the sand volleyball court at Woody's on Oracle Road, where 400 pounds of pre-made Jell-O were dumped into a plastic-lined pit, and ceremonially topped with fruit cocktail and whipped cream. Local celebrity drag queens emcee the event, which this year doubled in attendance to 700. (Clients and their guests are invited free of charge.) SAAF sends out a special note of gratitude to IBT/Woody's owners Dave and Frank for their financial and organizational support year after year, and to Reno Gannon, who founded this event before AIDS took his life. The other contender for our readers' affection is El Tour de Tucson, a 111-mile bike race around the perimeter of the Baked Pueblo. Held annually the Saturday before Thanksgiving, this 14-year tradition has raised nearly $1.8 million for various charitable agencies. This year's beneficiary for El Tour's main events (which include 75-, 50- and 25-mile rides in addition to the century race) is the Tucson Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired. Two kid competitions (quarter- and four-mile fun ride events) benefit Project Yes, a local non-profit offering stay-in-school and gang-prevention programs. In addition to bringing together 4,000 cyclists (including three-time Tour de France winner and event honoree Greg LeMond), El Tour 2000 will newly include a 10K in-line skating event, a duathlon (skating and cycling), and the El Tour Golf Classic, hosted by the Golf Club at Vistoso in Oro Valley. This year's event will cost the Perimeter Bicycling Association of America (PBAA) an estimated $500,000 to pull off, so if you're a fan of the sport (or Mr. LeMond), reserve your tickets for the dedication dinner on November 16. Tickets are $25 per person (e-mail PBAA@dakotacom.net, or fax 745-2033). Invitations will be mailed starting October 1, on a first-come first-served basis. The 2000 Touchstone Energy El Tour de Tucson, presented by Diamond Ventures, is scheduled for Saturday, November 18. Registration closes Thursday, November 16.
LOOSE CHANGE: Ready, Set, D'Art, Tucson Museum of Art, 140 N. Main Ave. Everyone goes home a winner at this phenomenal bi-annual fundraiser. Fork over $275 per couple for an opportunity to sip wonderful wines, nibble on to-die-for hors d'oeuvres and tote home far more than your pedestrian party favor. Partygoers here get to select a work of art as their memento. The vast array of choices goes on exhibit a week before the big shindig , allowing art lovers ample time to peruse each piece at their leisure. The suspense culminates with an evening of excitement and anticipation as each couple anxiously awaits the sound of their name being randomly called, allowing them a chance to hightail it over to their favorite art form (if it's still there) and stake their claim. Start collecting all of that loose change now--you have almost 15 months until the next D'Art.