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Celebrity charity party during Super Bowl Week shows off Arizona

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PARADISE VALLEY – Telescopes from Flagstaff’s Lowell Observatory dotted the rooftop.

On the ground, guests experienced the Arizona extremes, from a wintry Arizona Snowbowl photo-op to an historic area with a “super Americana Route 66 vibe” featuring food prepared by chef Aaron May. Among the choices: Spiked root beer floats, corn dogs with fries and dreamcicle cocktails.

Even the most star-struck partygoer at Saturday’s Big Game Big Give affair couldn’t have missed the overt theme Arizona Shines, which showcased The Grand Canyon State at the extravagant Paradise Valley mansion of former Arizona Diamondbacks star and current Washington Nationals Manager Matt Williams and his wife, Erika.

Hollywood stars Mark Wahlberg and Michael Bay brought together celebrities and professional athletes who found it impossible to ignore the state motif. They entered the festivities to a phenomenal sunset behind Valley icon Camelback Mountain and departed after Phoenix’s own Jordin Sparks performed.

The gathering capped off a week in which much of the country started to view Arizona in a more positive light.

Even the weekend’s precipitation, a rainy reminder of the 2008 Super Bowl, couldn’t tarnish Arizona’s rapidly improving image.

“I think in Seattle they have real rain, we have kind of desert rain,” Gov. Doug Ducey said as the rain subsided for a perfect Saturday evening. “It was a warm rain but it seemed like everyone was enjoying it.”

As the NFL and the country turn their attention to the California coast for Super Bowl 50 in San Francisco, influential Arizonans are quick to remind the nation of the reasons why Arizona belongs in the Super Bowl rotation.

Williams lives in Washington, D.C., for much of the baseball season but maintains a residence and connections in the Phoenix area, in part to continue a tradition of giving.

“We have a fantastic philanthropic community here in Arizona so we invited everybody we got together,” Williams said. “It’s a fantastic opportunity for us to support some very worthwhile causes.”

Through silent and live auctions and a raffle, Big Game Big Give generated more than $1 million — the first non-NFL Super Bowl charity event to do so. The funds will be donated to The Giving Back Fund, The Mark Wahlberg Youth Foundation and Boys and Girls Clubs of Metropolitan Phoenix.