April 9, 2014
Long Beach, Calif. - The 20th Annual Jewels of the Night food and wine festival is just one month away on Saturday, May 3 inside of the Walter Pyramid. Acting as a celebration of Long Beach State Athletics and its family members, the event is the largest fundraiser of the year to support student-athlete scholarships at Long Beach State. The evening offers attendees a taste of more than 30 area restaurants, unlimited drinks, 300+ auction items, a cigar lounge, photo booths, piano bars, and more.
The planning of the event is led by a 25-person committee, captained this year by event co-chairs Eric Johnson and Dr. Kalim Rayburn. Johnson and Rayburn are both heavy community supporters, athletic backers, and alumni with Long Beach State and city ties. The pair have committed to the growth and strengthening of the Jewels of the Night event.
We spoke with both of them in advance of this year's of the Jewels of the Night about their background and plans for the event.
Why are you involved in Jewels and supporting LBSU Athletics?
Rayburn: Jewels is a GREAT time and I am so honored to be a part of an event that brings together so many people who share pride in Long Beach State Athletics, an organization very dear to my heart as a student-athlete alumna and volunteer.
Johnson: First and foremost, I think it's important to give back to your community in whatever way you can. The opportunity to co-chair Jewels with one of my oldest and dearest friends makes it all the more enjoyable for me. Long Beach State and the Athletic Department have been an important part of my life so it's a great way for me to give something back to the school.
What are you most excited about at this year's event?
Rayburn: This event is symbolic in that I was given an opportunity to Co-Chair an event with a childhood friend who also grew up loving the BEACH, supporting an organization that laid the foundation for the success of many of my student-athlete alumni peers, bringing together a community of Long Beach State family and friends for one night. I look forward to celebrating with our Jewels planning committee who have been a part of this staple event for years and welcoming all the first-timer Jewels of the Night guests who will make this event an annual tradition like the rest of us.
Johnson: I think the fun factor will be at an all-time high! We have some of the best restaurants in town providing some amazing food, we'll have great entertainment and some fantastic live and silent auction items that you won't want to miss.
Jewels of the Night is now 20 years old. What will make this year's event different and special?
Rayburn: Personally, throughout the entire planning process and volunteering for Long Beach State Athletics behind the scenes, I am more proud of the team that Vic Cegles has put together to carryout this year's monumental event. While 20 years is considered the platinum anniversary, everyone who gives to this year's event is gold, that's Black and Gold of course.
Johnson: The event has been building and growing each year and is truly one of our communities "must attend" events. One of the exciting parts of this year's Jewels will be the automated silent auction system "Qtego". This will allow guests to bid and track their silent auction items through the use of their smart phones while still socializing at their seats. How cool is that!
What does Jewels of the Night mean to Long Beach State Athletics?
Rayburn: This is the event of the year! The Long Beach State Athletics family is committed to its student-athletes, alumni, donors and community at large. Put all those shared stakeholders in a Pyramid full of Long Beach's finest eateries, adult beverages, exciting auction items, a band that will make everyone feel like their a lead singer and ladies and gentlemen we have a party that will generate the resources our student-athletes need so they can represent our school on the track, court, course and field.
Johnson: I think it gives the community a way to participate and support Student-Athletes in a manner that's fun, rewarding and impactful. The money raised at this event makes a big difference in the lives of so many student athletes.
Jewels of the Night has had some awesome live auction items over the years. What item are you most excited about for this year?
Rayburn: As golfer, fan of football and someone who travels at the drop of a hat I'm pretty sure the Super Bowl and Phoenix Open experience will be a SHOWDOWN.
Johnson: I'm not sure I can pick just one! I love traveling and I've not been Australia yet, that one for sure is on my bucket list. The Arizona getaway for Super Bowl XLIX and the Phoenix Open is another that's going to be hard to beat.
How do you see Jewels growing over the next 10 years?
Rayburn: Well there's no doubt that 10 years from now I think Eric and I will be prepared to take the reins as co-live auctioneers. I look forward to Jewels of the Night's place in our city's social calendar as the premier event where everyone knows it's the place to be.
Johnson: I think getting more people involved and creating excitement for this event is critical to seeing it grow. Adding some different elements, like the automated silent auction system that we're introducing this year will definitely help. [We need to] continue to get the message out that this event is so important to supporting OUR community's student athletes. I can't stress that enough, this event makes such a positive difference for so many. It's fun to be a part of something so special.
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Junior Ashley Gonzales led the Beach to an unbeaten season-opening weekend as she scored the team's lone goal in a 1-1 tie vs. Kentucky before finishing with a goal and an assist in a 4-0 victory over Fairfield.
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