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How the other half parties

The most prestigious arts and entertainment events of the year draw the wealthiest guests —often in hopes of attracting their wealth.
Chelsea Flower Show
A woman takes a photo of a flower at the Chelsea Flower Show in London on May 23, 2006. The Chelsea Flower Show is the gardening Mecca of Europe.Daniel Berehulak / Getty Images file
/ Source: Business Week

A report released last week by the annual World Wealth Report, created by Merrill Lynch and Capgemini, found that the number of millionaires living in the U.S. grew by 6.8 percent in 2005 over the previous year. With more people joining the millionaire club, it's no surprise that advertisers are fighting for their attention; leisure events in the arts and entertainment categories are a favorite tool of advertisers.

The Luxury Institute, a Manhattan-based research institution that follows the behavior of the wealthiest American consumers, conducted a survey requested by certain advertisers and clients to determine which arts and entertainment events were perceived by the affluent to be the most prestigious. The survey was given to 500 wealthy Americans with a gross annual household income of $200,000 and a net worth of at least $5 million.

Good company
The respondents were given a list of events — everything from the Academy Awards to the Cannes Film Festival to the American Wine & Food Festival — and were asked to rate them based on such categories as exclusivity, quality, and whether the event is a "must see" or a "must attend." According to Milton Pedraza, CEO of the Luxury Institute, the survey results help advertisers and companies decide which events to sponsor.

Making it to the top of the list of prestigious events is the Kennedy Center Honors, an annual show that pays tribute to artists who have made a lifetime contribution to the arts and American culture. It is followed by the Chelsea Flower Show, a garden show and garden design competition held annually in London. These two events also feature some pretty prominent guests. The current President and First Lady always attend the Kennedy Center Honors, while the Queen and the rest of the British Royal Family are always expected to attend the Chelsea Flower Show in London.

Good causes
The top 10 events share common themes. There are the more cultural events that made the list — such as any performance by the American Ballet Theatre, New York City Ballet, and the New York Philharmonic. Other events voted into the top 10 focus on food and wine, such as the Naples Winter Wine Festival, Auction Napa Valley, and the Taste of Vail Food & Wine Fest. The Kennedy Center Honors, the Chelsea Flower Show, and the Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance fall under the award show category. The one show that stands out from the crowd is the Annual Yacht & Brokerage Show, held in February in Miami, which unlike the other top 10 events is totally free to attend.

Sure the events all sound like a great time, but many are more than just a way to enjoy a performance or taste a great bottle of wine. Taking advantage of the large presence of wealthy audience members, many of the events are also huge fundraisers that donate a portion of ticket sales and proceeds to different charities. Two of the biggest fundraisers on this list are Auction Napa Valley and the Naples Winter Wine Festival. During 2006's Auction Napa Valley, $8.6 million was raised in four days for charities that supported health care, youth services, and low-income housing efforts. During its three-day event, the 2006 Naples Winter Wine Festival raised $13.7 million for local children's charities.