The weather couldn’t have been more perfect for the 2019 Cattle Baron’s Ball at Gilley’s Dallas on Saturday, October 19. And, a heckuva lot of folks took full advantage of it to celebrate this year’s theme, “True Grit,” and to raise another big pile of money for the American Cancer Society.
While past CBB Chairs like Founder Jacque Wynne, Mary Martha Pickens, Olivia Kearney, Cindy Stager, Katy Bock, Anne Stodghill, Sunie Solomon, Jonika Nix and Kristi Hoyl admitted that it was fun merely to attend the event, 2019 CBB Co-Chairs Wendy Messmann and Lisa Haddow Shirley went around looking like kids on Christmas morning. As for 2019 CBB Underwriting Co-Chairs/2020 CBB Co-Chairs Diana Hamilton and Heather Randall, their mantra seemed to be, “Let’s focus first on raising money this year. Then we’ll start working on 2020!”
Promptly at 6 p.m., many of the 3,000-plus attendees including Lee Bailey, Doris Jacobs, Angie and Kevin Kadesky, Barbara and Don Daseke, Kim and Greg Hext, Kathleen and Scott Kirby and Joanna Clarke started gathering for the VIP Baron Party, presented by Anne Davidson, in the Live Auction Room. Soon, they knew, country-music star Travis Tritt would be taking the stage there.
Amy and Jim “Sevy” Severson — Sevy would be on stage later to help auction off the Dallas Chefs in Napa package — were eyeing a big handsome new ATV parked near one of the registration tables. The couple said it would be perfect for their getaway home in Port O’Connor, which they visit twice a month. … Mary Martha Pickens was enjoying one of the tray-passed grilled cheese sandwiches. … Crayton Webb, whose wife Nikki Webb had been a 2019 CBB Reveal Party co-chair, was talking about his Sunwest Communications firm doubling the size of its office space and signing Andrews Distributing as a client. A little later, the peripatetic PR man could be seen jawboning with ExxonMobil’s Truman Bell.
At 6:27 — about half an hour later than scheduled — Travis and his band finally hit the stage and opened with one of his biggest records, an uptempo song called “Put Some Drive In Your Country.” There followed hit after hit after hit: “The Whiskey Ain’t Workin’ (Anymore),” “Where Corn Don’t Grow,” “Country Club,” and “Trouble,” to name just a few. At one point, the singer realized the room was so crowded, there wasn’t any space down front for a “dance floor.” So, he suggested the tables and chairs there be shoved aside to allow for a little belly-rubbing, a la a real Texas honky-tonk. Either because of the size of the crowd — or the crowd’s lack of enthusiasm for said belly-rubbing — the human mosh pit at the front of the stage stayed in place.
While Travis was rallying the troops in the Live Auction Room, including Kim Noltemy, Geoffroy van Raemdonck and Alvise Orsini with Lana Todorodvich, who were attending their first Cattle Baron’s Ball, some guests ventured over to the Silent Auction room or to the casino upstairs. Others made for the multiple bars and various food stations, where vittles like Jalapeno mac ‘n’ cheese muffins, beef short-rib sliders, Hill Country sausage, shredded chicken tacos and Shiner Bock chili pie were being served up.
Soon enough it was time for the Live Auction to begin, under the auspices of 20-year veteran CBB auctioneer Mike Jones. As Episcopal School of Dallas’ Parish Rosettes paraded through the tight-knit crowd like adorable ducklings, Mike got things going with an Orlando, Florida, golf experience that wound up being sold for just $13K. When the next three or four items drew similarly “modest,” sub-$20K bids (“I’m not seeing enough hands in the first two rows!” Mike tut-tutted), it began dawning on folks that this year’s auction might turn out to be less than a record-buster.
How come? Perhaps it was because longtime major-league bidders like Nancy C. Rogers, Cliff Fischer, local auto dealers (Lisa and Clay Cooley, Jennifer and John Eagle, Ken Schnitzer and the Sewell family) and others were there in spirit only. Evidently they’d either just made big donations to CBB or ACS — or handed over their seats to non-bidding-prone buds and associates.
And then there was the fact that some of the 20-plus live-auction items seemed to have grown a bit long in the tooth. For instance, the Dean Driver-Custom Crystal package, which had been snapped up for $70K last year, barely nudged across the $30K mark. And even the legendary Chefs Dinner had just four chefs on stage promoting the package (although the MIA chefs all had excellent excuses for being no-shows).
Or, just maybe, the Mother Nature-friendly Gilley’s had gotten a bit too into a “been-there, partied-there” mindset after years of settling into grand pastures and Texas legendary ranches.
Another problem was the meet-and-greet with Keith Urban, who was scheduled to be the Andrews Distributing Main Stage performer starting at 10:30. For the coveted meet-and-greet with the Aussie superstar, top-drawer guests like Laurie Harrison and Barbara and Don Daseke were told to report to a designated spot by the Ferris wheel at 9:30. Problem was, that yanked some premier bidders away from the live auction that was still going on.
Despite everything, Mike’s live auction hauled in more than $1M. Keith’s performance proved to be a real showstopper. And guests like Ron Corning, Nellie Sciutto, Martha Jackson, Kathleen and Scott King, and Kristen and Jim Hinton all seemed to be having a great time, with laughs and good times all-around. For example, NorthPark Center’s Nancy Nasher, Kristen Gibbins and Paula Hayes were asked by a photographer to pose next to a snoozing bronze cowboy. When Nancy accommodated a request to put her hands on the statue’s shoulders, the “snoozing cowboy” moved. Passersby took note—thanks to the squeals of surprise and delight that ensued. Seems the cowpoke wasn’t bronze, but flesh-and-blood, after all.
For more looks at the fun-raising fundraisers, check out MySweetCharity Photo Gallery.
Glenn Hunter contributed to this post.