WARNING: Settle back with a jug of coffee or a carafe of wine because this post is going to be a long one. If words aren’t your thing, then just check out the pictures on MySweetCharity Photo Gallery.
The sun was shining and there wasn’t a cloud in the sky on Saturday, October 18. Veteran Cattle Baron’s Ball-ers were feeling a bit off balance. They were used to years of hourly updates on the weather and dreading a drenching. After all, in the past 10 years of holding the American Cancer Society fundraiser at area ranches (The Farm, Travis Ranch, Star Brand Ranch) and Southfork, only three had been washouts, but those three had been legendary. After the 2009 “Mud Ball” at Star Brand Ranch, it was decided that the whole kit-and-caboodle would move to Southfork because of its convention center that could be used as a proposed weather backup. And that’s where it stayed until last year’s gulley washers. Evidently the convention center couldn’t accommodate the thousands of guests after all. That night 2014 CBB Co-Chairs Cindy Stager and Jill Tananbaum decided there was no debating the matter. The next fundraiser would be indoor come “hail” or high water. The major sponsors and donors once again returned to back the 100 ladies of Cattle Baron’s and their battle to conquer cancer.
But where would be a place big enough to accommodate such an event indoors? American Airlines Center was out of the question due to the Stars’ and Mavericks’ schedules. A similar problem existed for a move to AT&T Stadium with the Dallas Cowboys schedule. So, the gals decided on Gilley’s. As the year progressed they upped the excitement announcing that Kenny Chesney would be the headliner, despite an impressive price tag and his decision not to tour for the year. In order to accommodate the 3,200+ guests plus a Kenny Chesney concert, Gilley’s was going to have to undergo some adjustments.
First there was the tent. No, not just a tent. It was The Tent, a fabric structure that could accommodate a blimp. In this case, it was to cover the thousands of tables and chairs and the gargantuan Andrews Distributing Stage, come rain or shine. It was built on Gilley’s concrete parking lot, so there was no way mud was going to dirty up the party goers’ pristine boots.
The day before the event, Jill was still vexing about the lack of gutters — both elevated and along the ground. But on this night, it was high and dry, so the subject of gutters seemed like suggesting air conditioner units for igloos. Still, Jill said she wanted the 2015 Co-Chairs Mary Martha Pickens and Tia Wynne to know that gutters should be in place. That is, if they returned to Gilley’s.
Then there was the issue of the parking. Since the Gilley’s parking lot was now home of The Tent, where were people to park? With 3,000+ coming, taking care of their modes of transportation posed a challenge. But remote parking at two locations in downtown Dallas with shuttle buses was put into place for Baron VIP’s and General Admission. Those with Rockstar VIP status or using “commercial transportation” had the luxury of being dropped off at Gilley’s.
Since the event was in Dallas, the Dallas Police were the conductors of how traffic would flow. Anyone who thought a handshake and a wink at Jack Boles folks would work were soon to learn that Gary Ferraro and Kathy Weideman were at the mercy of Dallas’ finest, too. The Boles team was also juggling personal cars and the parade of “Ubers.” As one CBB traffic vet surmised, “Uber should be the presenting sponsor.”
Despite the hordes of black SUV’s and limos, the standout in the lineup was one son-of-an-18-wheeler, white vehicle that unloaded 18 pals of Jill’s.
To ease the arrival logistics, the 1,600 VIP party guests had a private entrance into the South Side Music Hall and a starting time of 6 p.m. with Sam Moore on stage. The general admission partiers were to arrive at Gilley’s front door starting at 7 p.m.
Another change was the need for tickets. In the past, guests just breezed on in. This time the ticket was required not to just get in Gilley’s proper but to gain entrance into The Tent.
As VIP-ers arrived, they were greeted by D’Andra Simmons, who was described by one onlooker as knowing everyone and being hugged by everyone.
Inside Gilley’s, the complex had been transformed into a CBB wonderland with signage and rooms for silent auctions and games. The centerpiece was the 23,000-square-foot South Side Ballroom with Mockingbird Sun and the live auction on the Bank of America/Merrill Lynch/U.S. Trust stage. To the side of the stage was parked the Gas Monkey Garage auction item — a custom, restored Chevy pickup. It plus a day’s venture to the garage and palling around with Richard R. Rawlings was valued at $200,000. Filling the dance floor were rows of chairs and setup of tables and chairs for high rollers. Just beyond the dance floor were elevated Country Rocker VIP Lounge for top-tier underwriters.
Adjacent to the building was the well-lit Deloitte Food Court tent where rows of buffet lines soon were busy with hungry barons and baronesses. For some it was a bit of a light shock coming from the dark, honky-tonk interior of Gilley’s to the brightly lit food court.
Nancy and Clint Carlson along with son Lewis Carlson and Emily Koehler had plates filled to the max… Janie Condon was doing double-duty filling plates for herself and husband David.
Just between the building and The Tent was the MetroPCS Ferris Wheel that seemed downright pint-sized compared to The Tent. Still the lineup seemed to never end for a spin in the clear evening air.
In the meantime, the VIP Lounge was buzzing with activity. The co-chairs greeted each person like an old friend. One person teased Cindy about her birthday the day before. She had postponed the official celebration until Monday. So, where did she eat din-din Friday night? Why, El Fenix on Northwest Highway.
Meanwhile, the VIP-ers kept the Truluck staff moving trying to meet the demands for food. Despite Sam Moore being a hit on stage, Steve Stodghill wasn’t paying attention. He was focused on the TV over the bar televising the Texas-Iowa State football game. Good thang. It was a close one.
But the lounge wasn’t as crowded as organizers had feared. Guests tended to get their drinks and enjoy the camaraderie, then head to explore the rest of the CBB wonderland including the Mercedes that was one of the raffle prizes and the treasures in the silent auction areas.
At 7:30 p.m. an elite number of guests quietly disappeared. They had headed to The Tent that had been cleared of all humans. Not even the wait staff was allowed in. Quietly the small group of special people were led on stage for a meet-and-greet with Kenny. As photos were taken, other guests tried to enter The Tent to sit at their assigned tables to chow down. After all, Jill had announced The Tent would be available for seating at a morning meeting. And besides, the Andrews Distributing Main Stage had always been open for folks to settle back and relax at past CBB’s.
But, no, not on this night. A lineup of men in black Polo shirts with serious faces waved the guests off, telling them it was off limits. Auctioneer Louis Murad tried to get in with a plate of food explaining that he just wanted to check the tent out. No go. It might have helped had there been some of the adorable Baronesses on hand to diplomatically explain the delayed opening of the tent.
One couple who was turned away was Richard “Gas Monkey” Rawlings and his ex-wife Suzanne. Despite their divorce, they were still friends and she was looking forward to the Chesney concert, plus the opportunity to meet Kenny. Thanks to the co-chairs that opportunity was possible. But that didn’t sway the boys in black.
Remember it was Richard who had donated that $200,000 auction package. Did he pull a “Do you know I am?” Nope. He and Suzanne were cool. They just ambled back to the ballroom, where The Discovery Channel crew taped him with his pickup.
Seems there was a “failure to communicate” between the rest of the world and the CBB’s backstage manager about who could attend the meet-and-greet and the availability of The Tent.
But back to Richard. He wasn’t through. Once the live auction started, he got in the swim of things and won an item. He was in good company with winning bidders like Nancy Rogers and Dallas Snadon.
For those just watching and wandering, the entertainment was chat and catch up. Traffic LA’s Matthew Simon revealed that he was headed to Atlanta because his partner Keith Schumann had been transferred…Pete Foster was trying out his new iPhone 6 camera with wife Tanya Foster and buddy Gina Betts as models…Eugene Jabbour reported that wife Melanie is expecting a daughter in April…To the horror of one CBB staffer, a man sauntered through the ballroom smoking a cigarette. So very wrong in so many ways at an American Cancer Society fundraiser!
Fashion-wise, black was the color du jour. Some took the bare shoulder route (Kris Johnson, Amy Green, Isabell Novakov, Mary Gill, Holly Deason), while others opted for leather (Diane Brierley, Tina Rich, Kelly Barnes, Nikki Webb, Stephanie Oakes ). But leave it to Tracy Lange to be the real showstopper with Chanel necklace and purse. Of course, there were the more daring ones who shunned the black for more colorful attire like Nancy Rogers in brighter-than-bright white, shirt, suede fringe skirt with boots (“They’re from the 80’s!”) and delicious turquoise-and-diamond jewelry, Anne Stodghill in orange sequins to match her hair, Olivia Kearney, Traci McGuiness, Dallas Snadon and Katie McDaniel in wedding cake white and Paige McDaniel in a Lone Star jacket from a past DIFFA auction.
Mixing color with a touch of the old west were American Airlines’ Sarah Fullhart in a purple and white checked country girl dress topped off with braids, Bernadette Schaeffler taking a German pioneer look and Nardos Imam in a steel-blue dress with billowing skirt that stopped just short of her cowgirl boots.
Naturally splashes of turquoise were everywhere — Leisa Street, Brooke Hortensine, Laura Jorgeson, Amy Van Cleave, Kristi Hoyl, Andrea Weber, Joanna Clarke, Barbara Daseke and Lisa Ogle to name a few.
With cowbells ringing and Baronesses like Marybeth Conlon, Kim Bannister, Julianna LeBlanc, Merry Wyatt and Dawn Grenier hollering, the live auction got underway. Roz Colombo admitted that she had been exercising to strengthen her arm for the lengthy ringing. As KXAS’s Deborah Ferguson and auctioneer Murad kept the pace going to get top bids for more than 25 items, Co-Chair Cindy sat on the front row saying, “The live auction always worries me.”
But there was no need to worry. It went well. One surprise was the Chefs’ Dinner. Traditionally, the chefs Richard Chamberlain, Dean Fearing, Kevin Garvin, David Holben, Kent Rathbun and Jim Severson appeared on stage to pony up the bidding. This year Dean wasn’t able to make it.
While all of that was going on, there were behind-the-scene rumblings that Kenny was a little anxious to get the show on. It had been scheduled for 10:10, but Kenny wanted to get going early. He had to wait for the auction to finish and the multitudes to fill The Tent.
No problem. As soon as the final bid was submitted, the thousands moved quite orderly to the never-ending rows of tables with barely room to squeeze by.
Before anyone knew it, Kenny and his No Shoes Tour exploded on stage with lights and sound equipment so loud that parts of South Dallas felt like they were part of the festivities. Some guests were literally blown out of their seats and headed home after the first couple of tunes. Evidently, it was a case of too much of a good thing.
In the pit nearest the main stage were Lana and Barry Andrews, Natalie and Mike McGuire, Brian Bolke and Faisal Hallum, Gonzalo Bueno, Marena Gault, Sherwood Wagner and other sky-high underwriters who got an up-close-and-personal view of Kenny in his baseball cap, jeans, T-shirt and boots.
At first it was a perfect view of the stage. But then guests just couldn’t resist standing along the front stage extension. As the crowd grew, it either blocked the view of people seated at tables or forced them to stand, too. No real problem. With Kenny rocking, it was hard to sit still. As for the crowd getting too rowdy or rushing the stage, not to worry one iota. The men in black Polo shirts with the serious faces were on the scene.