By Nancy Koeneman Imagine eating an exotic brunch in a bird bower or at a fly-in breakfast. How about learning to play your own accordion or taking a home tour that includes viewing a special collection of art glass? Or what about serving to friends or family a loaf of scrumptious Challah bread nearly as large as the table? These items are only a sampling of the variety of unusual and special items donated by UI departments and faculty and staff members for the World Heritage Museum Women's Guild auction March 31. This is the guild's seventh year of gathering a marvelous bounty of items for its auction. The collection of goodies also come from local residents, UI alumni, the area business community and Chicago. Many members of the guild also contribute items for the auction. Members of the UI community give a good share of the unusual and valuable items, including combinations of their time and talents. Tom Schleis has led Broadway sing-alongs and opera-performance dinner parties as an auction item in previous years. A lecturer for the UI School of Music and principal coach for Illinois Opera Theater, Schleis will this year lead an opera sing-along with help from Jean and Howard Osborne. Jean is co-chair for the 1996 auction. "I've donated services to them for three or four years," Schleis said. "I enjoy supporting the museum in any way I can." The purchaser of his services will have a say in the selection of the opera for the sing-along party, he said. Anyone not as vocally gifted as the professional, shouldn't be intimidated, though. "Certain operas are very accessible," he said. "One year we did a 'Carmen' party, and one year we did a Gilbert and Sullivan party." On the more practical, but still very special, list of items is a selection of gourmet meats, courtesy of the UI Meat Salesroom. The auction package includes a crown lamb roast, a boneless pork loin stuffed with sausage and a standing rib beef roast. This is the first year the department of animal sciences' Meat Salesroom has participated, said Charles Stites, manager of the salesroom. "Contributing to the auction is an excellent opportunity to promote our program," Stites said. "Once I was told what was being done to raise funds at the museum, I chose some special cuts of meat that people wouldn't ordinarily buy [for everyday meals]. These are things you would prepare for a dinner party or holiday meal." For those who want a special meal, but don't want to actually prepare it, Donna McHugh and her husband are providing a French meal accompanied by French music. "I have done salon music and lectures before but we've never combined it with a dinner," McHugh said. She is a faculty scholar in the music school; her husband, Anthony, is a professor in the chemical engineering department. "My husband is a lovely cook, and I'm buried in the music, so that's how it came about," she said. The dinner will be a team effort for the McHughs, but the music is Donna's domain. The McHughs consider the museum's efforts a worthy cause to support. "I think the museum is a wonderful thing. It deserves the notice. I'm impressed with the people who work there and the dedication of the guild," Donna McHughs said. Astronomy professor James Kaler's monstrous and marvelous loaf of Challah bread has become an annual fixture of the auction. "I've been doing this a few years," Kaler said. "I think it's a wonderful organization and a great museum, and I want to support it. Where else can you go to see the Parthenon frieze better than the original?" Barbara Bohen, the museum's director, can attest to the size and quality of Kaler's contribution. She bought it at the auction one year. "I could hardly carry it home," she said. "And it was superb." Bohen said the auction is a "tremendous amount of effort" for the people involved. The members of the guild are a particularly dedicated group and a godsend to the museum, she said. It's all this effort that makes the event such a hit. The auction is held in the museum on the fourth floor of Lincoln Hall. It begins with an elegant champagne buffet and silent auction at 5 p.m. The auction begins at 6:15 followed by dessert and music. "The food is just wonderful, very special," Bohen said. "It's very elegant. Some men come in black tie, and the ladies are often resplendent in sequins." Bohen herself has picked up some extraordinary items at the auction. One year she was high bidder on herbs from the garden of UI President and Mrs. Stanley Ikenberry. "For a whole summer, into the fall, the president and his wife would come tooling up in their vintage Model-T and deliver that month's bounty of herbs from their garden," Bohen said. Delivery of the herbs became a neighborhood event, as children dashed out to see the car and hear its horn. "What's really nice about the auction is that some things are expensive and some things are really inexpensive. A person could come and spend a small amount of money and get something they really like," auction co-chair Osborne said. She's been involved with the auction for several years and credits the efforts of the entire committee for the smashing success it's seen. Mehri Cowan, who is co-chair with Osborne, notes that the involvement of the UI faculty and staff members and departments is not surprising because of the museum's contribution to the university community. "It is already bringing in children from a 50-mile radius, and the museum is for the enrichment of the entire community," she said. Guild members, who also serve as docents giving the guided tours of the museum, are a dedicated group who emphasize education in addition to their monumental fund-raising efforts. And while the donors also give a substantial amount of time and effort as their contributions, they all echoed the sentiment that it's not really a chore. "We have wonderful times," Schleis said. Tickets for the event are $30 per person and the evening includes cocktails, dinner and dessert in addition to the auction. For more information or tickets, call 367-5490 or 344-3717.