The 2016 Cattle Baron’s Ball redefined the words Texas Proud on Saturday, October 15, at Gilley’s. Despite the MIA of Rogers, Hunts, Simmons and all the legendary names of giving, other philanthropists rose to the occasion of fighting cancer with funding.
In spite of Co-Chair Andrea Weber having given birth just two weeks earlier and Co-Chair Cara French having been hit by the making-the-rounds stomach virus, their game plan and committee of 100 rose to the occasion and impressed even the hard-to-impress oldtimers.
Perhaps it was due to some rearranging of thangs. First of all, the decision was made to have two headliners perform — Dwight Yoakam on the Live Auction Stage and Toby Keith on the Andrews Distributing Main Stage. In the past, the evening had centered around one big name performer like Tim McGraw or Kenny Chesney on the Main Stage. This move was smart…very smart.
Another change in POA was having the VIP party take place in South Side Ballroom with the swells having their own private 30-minute concert provided by Dwight. In the meantime, the general admission types grazed on never-ending vittles, checked out the silent auction and rode the Ferris wheel. One Dwight devotee general admission guest was asked if he was disappointed about missing out on the private performance. His response, after he finished chewing a mouthful of food, was, “Heck, no. We’re having too much fun eating!”
At 7 p.m., the doors to the ballroom were open for all to catch the rest of Dwight’s performance.
Okay, so that’s what was going on publicly. Behind the scenes, just before Dwight went on stage, the VVIPs found themselves queuing up among the catering staff for their photo opp with Dwight. Behind the curtain, all was set up for a quick grip-and-grin including a box for the photogs to use. Seems Dwight prefers that arrangement. One onlooker suggested that it might be due to Dwight’s extra weight. Nah!
As the VVIPs lined up, word was passed that Dwight was present. He accommodated one and all except for one photographer’s request: “Could you raise your hat?” Dwight smiled and said, “No. People don’t want to see my eyes.”
But everybody wanted to see Dwight on stage and he did not disappoint one iota. Playing all his hits—from “Little Ways” and “Fast as You” to “Ain’t That Lonely Yet”—Dwight also performed several songs in tribute to the late Merle Haggard. Thanks to his performance, the energy was in “skyrocket drive.” Even the stuffiest types found themselves being part of the mosh pit.
It was the perfect warm-up for the live auction that took place almost seconds after Dwight and his crew left the stage. And what a live auction it was.
Hal Brierley hinted that he and wife Diane Brierley just might take a pass on the Smokin’ Chefs’ Silver Anniversary Dinner this year. They had already bought five or six in the past. Diane smiled. Perhaps Hal was doing a fake pass. Indeed! With chefs Kent Rathbun, Dean Fearing, Nick Barclay, Jim Severson, Kevin Garvin, David Holben and Richard Chamberlain on stage, the Brierley got into a bidding war with blonde, turquoise-wearing Amy Turner. Kent and the boys were determined to kick the final tab past the six-figure mark. After a brief huddle, the boys agreed to sell two dinners for $75,000 each. Someone recalled that this solution had taken place in past years, with the two dinners hitting the $100,000 mark.
Last year’s dinner co-winner Lisa Cooley had already won her party night earlier in the auction, by picking up the Texas-Sized Party At Gilley’s for 200, complete with Rivers And Rust, for $55,000. When asked how she planned to use the party time, she held up her two hands flashing five fingers on each. Hello? Come again. She’s going to use it for her upcoming 55th birthday.
The Bring Out The Big Guns! Package got a standing ovation, thanks to the presentation by Stand 2 Armory team made up of former Navy Seals, Army Rangers, Green Berets and Dallas SWAT, who would provide a day of shooting all types of machine guns for seven people. Said one of the guys, hyping the package: “Nothing says America more than guns, explosions, and curing cancer!” It went for $82,000.
But the big OMG number of the night was dropped by Cliff Fischer. He hit the $100K mark with a Texas-sized smile for the Steak You Claim On A Night With The Boys…. the boys being Troy Aikman, Charles Haley, Daryl “Moose” Johnston, Ed “Too Tall” Jones and Darren Woodson and the steaks being courtesy of Del Frisco’s Double Eagle Steakhouse. Seems that Cliff bought the package last year, held it at his mansion-sweet-mansion, flew in folks from around the country and had one heck of a great time. This time he’s planning on doing it even bigger and better.
The bidding was so impressive that credit card companies were reeling from the numbers coming out of Dallas.
Of course, there was a bargain or two. For instance, Swiss explorer Johan Ernst Nilson told the crowd that the last time his Bhutan Adventure was put up for auction, it went for $170,000. Guess Dallasites aren’t into trekking through “the happiest place on Earth.” It was picked up for a measly $38,000.
And that was just a snapshot of the live auction that ran right on schedule thanks to the Baronesses ringing those cowbells and auctioneers Wendy Lambert and Amy Assiter running a tight ship. In fact it finished early, so the folks could get back for seconds of food or hit the casino games that made Choctaw looked like a bingo parlor.
That was just enough time to amble next door to the bigger-than-a-small-town tent for Toby Keith on the Andrews Distributing Main Stage. Behind the scenes, the VVIPs lined up for a grip-and-grin with Toby. Despite the line seeming never to end, Toby howdy-ed everyone and even signed cancer-survivor Luke Lange’s cowboy hat.
Just after the last couple posed with Toby and he was headed to the stage, someone noted a couple of Dallas police standing nearby. Shoot! What was one more photo? Toby liked the idea and so did his crew and so did the policewomen. Picture snapped and Toby was on his way.
Like Dwight, Toby didn’t disappoint. It was as if more than 3,000 had all overdosed on Red Bull.
Still another change in operation this year was the line of security types stoically seated in front of the stage facing the thousands. This arrangement helped prevent a mosh pit from taking place and blocking the view of the peeps sitting at tables upfront.
And speaking of “change,” the CBB abacuses are still counting up the amount that will be put on the check to support cancer research and development.
2017 CBB Co-Chairs Sunie Solomon and Anne Stodghill have their work cut out for them, and they love the challenge. It’s gonna be hard to improve on this one.
For more photos from the night’s fun(d)raising, check out MySweetCharity Photo Gallery.