Sweepstakes is Pittsburgh Symphony Association’s oldest fundraiser.
The Sweepstakes campaign begins with recruiting Ambassadors, who underwrite the cash prizes and campaign printing costs with donations of $300 each. The 2021 Sweepstakes netted $75,887 which was donated directly to PSO.
We asked Carolyn J. Friedrich, PSO Archivist, to help find the Sweepstakes fundraiser origins and history. She was unable to pinpoint the year it began, but the information she found highlighted the generous support for Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra that has continued through the Pandemic.
For many years Pittsburgh Symphony Association hosted a formal ball, which included drawing the winning ticket for the Car Raffle. Grand prize at the 1980 Symphony Ball was a Volvo auto.
At the Nov. 12, 1982, Pops concert drawing an Oldsmobile luxury sedan was the prize. Over 16,000 $2 tickets were sold to net $30,000. In1983, the Car Raffle name was changed and other prizes were added, a car remaining the grand prize.
Ticket prices for the raffle/sweepstakes changed several times. In 1984, tickets were $10 each or 3/$25. In 1986, according to the PSA minutes, sweepstakes tickets cost $20, which would be about $50 today.
In 1985 the raffle was called a sweepstakes. First prize that year was four-night trip to London for two.
PSA minutes during the 1980s reflect a continuing discussion on separating the raffle from the Symphony Ball and making it a spring event. In 1987 the two were finally separated and the Symphony Spectacular sweepstakes became a spring event.
A switch to cash prizes was made in 1988, and the Symphony Spectacular drawing (top prize $5,000) was held at a March Pops concert featuring Carol Channing.
Symphony Spectacular is now Symphony Sweepstakes, which is now underway.