Supporting the Arts with Foodie Fundraisers

Writer Shoshana Leon
Photography Courtesy of Tim Fuchs and the Westin Kierland Resort and Spa

Formed in 1978, the Scottsdale League for the Arts has a long history of supporting the arts through culinary fundraising events. Since 2000, the Scottsdale League for the Arts has raised more than $4.5 million to support the arts in Maricopa County, providing grants to organizations such as Ballet Arizona, Free Arts for Abused Children of Arizona and Valley Youth Theatre.

The Scottsdale League for the Arts’ signature fundraiser is the Scottsdale Culinary Festival, which attracts 25,000 people for food and drink samples, entertainment and family-friendly activities every April. The Scottsdale League for the Arts hosts a variety of foodie fundraisers throughout the year, especially in the weeks leading up to the festival.

Burger Battle

Burger Battle debuted in 2012, and the event now draws nearly 1,000 burger enthusiasts to enjoy unlimited samples of burgers, fries, milkshakes and beer at the Scottsdale Waterfront. Attendees are invited to cast their vote in the People’s Choice competition.

Restaurant contenders also compete for the Judges’ Choice award and a Golden Ticket to the World Food Championships as decided by a panel of celebrity judges and culinary experts. Competitors in this year’s Four Peaks Burger Battle Friday, March 22 include Mariposa Latin Inspired Grill in Sedona, last year’s Judges’ Choice winner, and Aioli Gourmet Burgers, last year’s People’s Choice winner.

The Cocktail Society

The Cocktail Society event started more than a decade ago and kicks off the Scottsdale Culinary Festival weekend Friday, April 12. This year’s theme is Shaken, Not Stirred and the event showcases spy-worthy cocktails from Phoenix’s top mixologists and culinary creations from 10 restaurants. Entertainment includes live music, casino games and models sporting 007-inspired fashions. Guests are encouraged to dress for the theme.

Mixed: A Cocktail Culinary Series

A new addition to the Scottsdale League for the Arts’ culinary events calendar is Mixed: A Cocktail Culinary Series at the Westin Kierland Resort and Spa. Each monthly dinner features innovative, themed menus highlighting cocktail and food pairings.

The March 15 locals-only dinner will feature Arizona spirits paired with Arizona meats sourced from ranches across the state. The April 26 Nature’s Balance dinner offers organic cocktails and cuisine hand-selected from organic farms, ranches, purveyors and distilleries across the Southwest.

“We added this series to showcase local talent and to provide an intimate dining experience for our guests. While the Scottsdale Culinary Festival draws 25,000 guests and Burger Battle draws around 1,000, we want to provide an exclusive event for anyone who wants an experience in which they can engage in-depth over the course of an evening with one chef, one restaurant, one meal,” said Dr. Glenn Azzari, president of the Scottsdale League for the Arts.

“The Westin Kierland Resort and Spa has been a longtime partner of the Scottsdale League for the Arts, and this event brings culinary philanthropy into an exciting new realm for us both.”

These fundraising events lead up to the 2019 Scottsdale Culinary Festival April 13 and 14 on the Scottsdale Civic Center Mall. Weekend activities include food and beverage tastings, competitions, cooking demonstrations, family activities and live music. Every year the event offers something new for attendees.

“The event is an ever-changing festival due to the nature of food, restaurants and entertainment. This year we have an exciting lineup of culinary demos, featuring everything from foraging to fermented foods, microgreens to spice blending,” said Dr. Azzari.

“Our restaurant and food exhibitors feature the world’s flavors during this travel-themed event. The festival grounds will be decorated with themed selfie stations featuring world landmarks created by local art students.”

Other Scottsdale League for the Arts fundraisers take place throughout the year. Cooks + Corks in November features sophisticated bites from Arizona’s best chefs paired with fine wines. One of the newer events is the Brunch Club in December, which features brunch bites from Valley chefs paired with cocktails, champagne and beer.

The Scottsdale League for the Arts hosts happy hour fundraisers on the third Thursday of each month at restaurants around the Valley where supporters can gather to enjoy food and drink specials. Attendees also have the opportunity to win raffle prizes.

Community and volunteer support are key to the success of the Scottsdale League for the Arts’ fundraising events.

“As a non-profit, we operate on a lean budget and donate net proceeds to local arts programs each year,” said Dr. Azzari. “The Scottsdale League for the Arts organizes our events though a team of volunteer members who work all year to create our tasty fundraisers to support arts charities. Community members volunteer to help during the events, providing customer service support, serving beverages and welcoming guests—demonstrating the many ways that Arizona donates to the arts.”

From burgers to cocktails, the Scottsdale League for the Arts’ calendar of culinary fundraisers offers options for everyone to support a worthy cause.

“Our events have changed with the times in terms of fashion and food trends, but our mission has remained constant: to make ‘eater-tainment’ a fundraising success so that we can support the arts through our grants program,” said Dr. Azzari.

Scottsdale League for the Arts Culinary Fundraisers

March 15
Mixed: A Cocktail Culinary Series | Locals Only Dinner| Westin Kierland Resort and Spa | 6–9:30 p.m. | $100 | kierlandresort.com

March 22
Four Peaks Burger Battle | Scottsdale Waterfront | 6–7:00 p.m. VIP/7–9:30 p.m. General admission | $65/ VIP $85 | scottsdalefest.org

April 12
The Cocktail Society | Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts | 7–10:30 p.m. | $75 | scottsdalefest.org

April 13–14
Scottsdale Culinary Festival | Scottsdale Civic Center Mall | Tickets: Range from $12 to $150 | scottsdalefest.org

April 26
Mixed: A Cocktail Culinary Series | Nature’s Balance | Westin Kierland Resort and Spa | 6–9:30 p.m. | Tickets $100 | kierlandresort.com

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