Inside a private meeting room at Gilley’s Dallas, country music legend Charlie Daniels was sipping coffee from an orange Tennessee Volunteers cup and cutting up with guests at the 2018 Cattle Baron’s Ball‘s VIP meet-and-greet.
When a group including Andrea Nayfa, Joanna Clarke, Nancy Gopez, Dawn Greiner, Meghann O’Leary, Julianna LeBlanc, Rachel Michell and Taryn McDonald surrounded Daniels for a photo, someone explained, “Here’s your production crew.” Charlie posed, smiling, and said, “Boy, y’all sure have changed since yesterday!” Spotting one VIP wearing a T-shirt with the inscription, “I’m Just Lucky To Be Here,” the 82-year-old singer/songwriter cracked, “Ain’t we all!”
The quip was more apt than some knew. Daniels himself is a cancer survivor, which made his appearance at the Saturday, October 20, Cattle Baron’s Ball—he performed on the Winston & Strawn LLP Live Auction Stage—all the more appropriate. Charlie’s performance of his timeless hits also got the live-auction crowd primed to open their wallets, helping the 45th annual Cattle Baron’s Ball rake in a record net of $4.8 million for its beneficiary, the American Cancer Society.
Under the direction of Co-Chairs Katy Bock and Jonika Nix, the event with the theme “Sapphires and Spurs” came off seemingly without a hitch. (One small exception, no fault of the organizers: a big beautiful box of BIRD Bakery cupcakes someone brought to help Clay Cooley celebrate his October 20 birthday was swiped off Cooley’s underwriter’s table just below the live-auction stage before Cooley even had a chance to see them. If somebody would like to ‘fess up, “Come see Clay.”)
While food trays groaned with the likes of braised beef loin tip, chicken fajita quesadillas, sauteed Gulf shrimp, cheeseburger sliders and deviled eggs, guests like Cindy Stager, Kelly Perkins, Tanya and Pete Foster, Nancy Rogers, Cara and Jim French, CBB Co-Founder Jacque Wynne, Laurie Harrison, and Olivia and Jeff Kearney began greeting old friends and getting into the Cattle Baron’s spirit. At 6:30 p.m., longtime Cattle Baron’s emcee Deborah Ferguson took to the stage of the VIP Baron Party Presented By Anne Davidson and advised everyone to get set for The Charlie Daniels Band. Soon enough, fiddle-playing maestro Charlie and his five-piece ensemble let ‘er rip, working enthusiastically through such hits as “Trudy,” “A Simple Man,” “The Legend of Wooley Swamp,” and “Long Haired Country Boy.”
While partygoers including Amanda and Brint Ryan, Jim Severson, Sunie and Steve Solomon, and Richard Chamberlain made for the foot of the stage, Daniels took a little break between songs and said, “It’s been 15 years since I was here. If I wait another 15 years, I’ll be real old. I told somebody in Nashville I was going to a gig in Dallas and they said, ‘On a Saturday night?’ I said, ‘Yeah. Why?’ He said, ‘Those people party down there—all night!’ ”
After singing a few more songs like “God Bless America Again,” Bob Dylan’s “I Shall Be Released” and “How Great Thou Art,” Charlie finished up with his biggest hit, “The Devil Went Down to Georgia.” As the first few raucous notes of the familiar song were heard, one woman in the audience jumped up and down and exclaimed loudly, “Oh, my God!”
She might have said the same about the live auction that followed. From the first item up for bid, the 2019 Tag Heuer Indy 500 VIP Experience, which went for $32,000, the auction scooped up major bucks for the ACS under the direction of Mike Jones. Among the highlights were a boatload raised for veterans-related cancer programs, for which a “special guest” offered to match all funds up to $200,000; a seven-day stay at a villa in Umbria, Italy, which attracted a winning bid of $82,000; and the Napa With Dallas’ Finest Chefs package, which sold for $130,000. No sooner had that package sold than Nancy Rogers offered another $130,000 if the boys would cook up a barbecue for 50 of her pals at her homestead. The chefs agreed immediately and made their way down to her front row seat to seal the deal.
With that, it was time for the guests—Tracy and Ben Lange, Anne and Steve Stodghill, Mary Catherine and Don Huffines, Diane and Hal Brierley, Lisa Cooley, Vicki and Bob Chapman with daughter Lauren Chapman and Fancoise Bellemare, Bela and Chase Cooley, Jacki Pick with Doug Deason, Laura and Dennis Moon, Brooke Hortenstine and Ciara Cooley with Jake Fraze among them— to make their way to the Andrews Distributing Main Stage Presented by Miller Lite for a performance by the evening’s headliner, the Zac Brown Band. En route, they could take one more pass through the NorthPark Center Silent Auction Room, stock up on vittles from the Hill Country Barbecue Pit, say, or check out the spectacular view of downtown Dallas from the giant Ferris Wheel.
A great evening called for a boffo finish, and the Zac Brown Band delivered one, in spades. Then again, how could it miss? The Georgia-based country group has a loyal following and a bevy of smash hits. The band blasted out a number of them from the Andrews Distributing stage, including such favorites as “Homegrown,” “As She’s Walking Away,” “Sweet Annie,” “Keep Me In Mind,” and “Chicken Fried.”
For those who still hadn’t had enough fun at the 2018 Cattle Baron’s Ball, there was the After-Party Presented by The Ryan Foundation back in the Live Auction Room. There, the Georgia Bridgwater big-band party orchestra had the cowboys and cowgirls strutting their stuff until 2 a.m., when it was finally time to douse the campfire.
Yes, it was a record-breaking night, thanks to sponsors and guests. It was also the result of a lot of dedication and hard work thanks to Katy, Jonika and the committee of 97 members in memory of CBB member Julie Clancy, who died this past August from cancer.
For more looks of the night, check out MySweetCharity Photo Gallery.