After a monumental drenching in 2012 and again in 2013 at Southfork Ranch, the Cattle Baronesses pulled up stakes and hightailed the gangbuster fundraiser for North Texas cancer research and treatment to the rain-proof Gilley’s Dallas campus. And wouldn’t you know it, not a drop of rain has fallen on the Cattle Baron’s megafest since.
So, 2022 Cattle Baron’s Ball Co-Chairs Nancy Gopez and Kris Johnson decided to roll the dice and take a chance on returning to the fictional Ewing TV spread in Parker. With the drought of 2022 simmering, the gals’ decision looked like a safe bet. Adding to the good vibrations was the fact that Fauxcades and Southfork’s new owners had created a layout and plan for “Lasso a Cure – Ranches, Rubies and Ropers” just in case the day’s hot weather turned wet. Why, they even created a back-up plan and also a Plan B for the back-up plan.
And while no rain plan turned out to be necessary, too much of a good thing — like piercingly sunny skies — resulted in the beautiful people more than glistening.
But more about that later.
As party buses and private cars lined up along the front drive, guests waiting to flash their colored wristbands were welcomed by the U.S. Marshal Posse of Texas, with one quarterhorse grazing on the grass and providing its own fertilizer. Except for detecting a slight scent wafting thru the air, not many noticed. No sooner had guests, like Michael Flores, Lee Bailey, Preston Evans with Jarrett Browning, Gail Fischer with Ken Christensen, Louise and Joe LaManna, Jamie and Craig Williams, Kim and Greg Hext, Monica and Brent Christopher, Robbie Kruithoff with Ryan Ross, William Jennings and Mary McGreevy Jennings, arrived — many decked out in their cowboy finery — than they entered through a towering faux-ruby archway to discover a much more compact layout for the night of fun and fundraising at Southfork than in years past.
The event’s layout was definitely different this time around — not as spread out, and easier to get around. But even with the slim, trim plan, it still had some folks wandering around a bit lost after they’d been welcomed by the baronesses.
To the right was a miniature carousel that Steve Kemble and his gang quickly discovered (“Yoo-hoo!” they waved to arriving guests) and, off in the distance, the mammoth tent where Old Dominion would appear on the Andrews Distributing Main Stage later in the evening.
To the left was a Cattle Baron’s backdrop and a photographer who was doing a land-office business as guests waited their turns in the heat to be digitally captured. From that point on, most just followed the train of guests to the Pike Corporation VIP/Live Auction Stage — or wondered what to do next in all that open ground in front of the big tent.
Hearing the din of the crowd growing in front of the Live Auction Stage, guests were drawn to the area like Odysseus’ sailors to the Sirens. Little did many know that, had they paused to check out the sprawling Event Center on their left, they would have discovered a building complex containing the Moody Foundation Silent Auction Room, the Frost Brown Todd Big Board, the Choctaw Casinos and Resorts games, the Scotch and Sports Lounge and — even more importantly at this point in the day — air conditioning.
While the VIP crowd arrived at 6 and headed to the lawn between the well-known Southfork house and the Pike Corporation Live Auction stage, organizers redirected former CBB chairs Olivia Kearney, Kristen Sanger, Tanya Foster, Brooke Shelby and Jana Wood to the Event Center’s Scotch and Sports Lounge, with 2023 CBB Co-Chairs Andrea Cheek and Isabell Novakov Higgingbotham checking in. The reason: to videotape them about their experiences in chairing the event for a film segment to be shown during 2023’s 50th anniversary year.
The original plan had been to videotape the former leadership in an area on the side of the Southfork mansion. But with natural elements creating all types of lighting challenges, in addition to the heat and noise from the growing crowd, it was decided to move the interviews inside while the chairs’ menfolk, like Jeff Kearney, Pete Foster and Ladd Sanger, watched from the sidelines.
Unfortunately, due to a back accident, CBB Co-Founder Jacque Wynne wasn’t able to finish her taping. And others were interrupted when guests burst unexpectedly through the unlocked doors. One guy who did that bellowed to his companion — “Honey, I said I wanted to! I just didn’t see what the … ” — before clamming up and sheepishly backing out of the room.
While the gents like Carl Sewell III, Bill Atkinson, Al Allred and Brent Christopher fell back on their Saturday night cowboy look — jeans, boots and Stetson hats — the ladies opted to wait, letting the day’s weather determine their choice of apparel. As it turned out, the forecast was a mix of great news (no rain), some good news (full blast sunshine) and some uncomfortable news (high humidity). But CBB vets were old hands at such outdoor conditions, drafting caftans that welcomed breezes, deep-diving tops and short skirts with tall cowboy boots … along with an extra swipe or two of deodorant.
2022 CBB Underwriting Co-Chair Natalie Lesikar admitted that she thought her pink outfit would be a home run when she bought it. But on the big day, she realized that the dress’ décolletage seemed a bit more showy that she’d reckoned on.
Others went for unbridled glitter comfort including Josie Sewell and Claire Emanuelson, who didn’t hold back on her night’s review: “This is the best people watching I’ve ever been to!”
1996 CBB Chair Vicki and Bob Chapman stayed long enough to congratulate their daughter, 2022 Underwriting Co-Chair Lauren Bellemare, on topping the $4M mark with Natalie and their committee. Lauren’s husband Francois Bellemare was fast on the draw, pulling out his cellphone to show pictures of toddler Lucille Bellemare. The Trojan-loving Chapmans, meantime, had to make it home to watch USC play Fresno State.
Another couple not holding back with cellphotos of their new baby were CBB Theresa Bando Parkinson and Brian Parkinson. Despite having given birth to a boy less than three months before, Theresa was already back to her shipshape shape.
Sporting a beautiful engagement ring, Paige Westhoff recalled how before Patrick Brandt proposed on Sunday, July 3, in Park City, Utah, he spent some time trying to decide on the perfect engagement ring. After sipping tequila and trying on the rings himself, he found the perfect sparkler. Let’s just say that the Fourth of July fireworks dimmed compared to the big beauty on Paige’s hand.
One couple — Amy and Jim “Sevy” Severson — could have told Paige and Patrick a little about married life, having tied the knot 34 years ago. The Seversons were also cheering a couple of other figures: 15, the number of years Sevy has been cancer-free, and 25 years, for how long their Sevy’s Grill has been open.
For first-timers like Linda and Les Secrest, the ranch-style fundraiser was a marvelous break from the polished floors of indoor ballrooms. For old-timers, the setting was compact and easier to get around — but still a tad confusing as to exactly what was available, where.
As the lines to the bar grew in the time leading up to Chris Young’s performance on the sun-splashed Pike Corporation Live Auction stage, guests like Georgina Hartland and her posse, including Sue and Jimmy Gragg, were smart to stake a claim on benches in the shade created by the staging.
It turned out that the set-up had the audience facing smack into the setting sun. That, combined with the high humidity and the liquor bars in desperate need of restocking, created a “broil factor” for the VIPs and the rest of the guests. Wailed one overheated doyenne: “I’ve got on too many layers!” No doubt, the couple of hours of facing old sol wasn’t a cool situation. Not to throw shade on the event, but had the organizers splurged a little and had an open tent erected in front of the stage, it might have a bit more user-friendly. On the other hand, auctioneer Louis Murad wasn’t fazed by the arrangement: The live auction wouldn’t be starting until after sunset, after all.
A performance by The Lake Highlands High School Wildcat Wranglers and the Jesuit Rangerettes in front of the stage lightened up the situation, as did Chris coming out to perform his big C&W hits like “Gettin’ You Home.” The dancers then made a second appearance and, as soon as they exited, the area was filled with still more tables and benches resulting in general admission guests crowding in down front, right alongside VIPs like Kathleen and her husband United Airlines CEO Scott Kirby.
Perhaps it was the time facing the sun and/or the lengthy waits in line for liquid refreshment, but, as the bidding commenced, it seemed as if the auction crowd had had the wind taken out of its sails. Even the traditional scene of the baroness “ring girls” ginning up the thrill of the bid with arms raised sporting signage about the item up grabs — and simultaneously shaking their cattle bells — seemed to lack the energy that was required to ramp up the paddle raising.
Consider, for example, how Louis started the bidding at $10,000 for a top-tier seating for 20 at Chris Young’s performance at the Choctaw Grand Theater in Durant. Even with Chris coming back on stage to lead the charge, the item wound up going for just $5,000. Fortunately, Chris saved the day by kicking in an additional $5,000.
Even the most Botox-ed baronesses started sprouting worry lines as things continued to limp along (only $14,000 for the next item, $10,000 for the third) until Georgina Hartland jumped in to kick things up to grand paddling. Thanks to the blonde decked out in diamonds and sapphires, some of the auction packages started hitting the six-figure universe. Georgina even got into a bidding war for the Chefs’ Dinner, finally agreeing to a price tag of $125,000.
But Georgina didn’t corner the market on spending greenbacks. When the Dolce and Gabbana fashion show package passed the $100K mark, NorthParkies Kristen Gibbins and Shelby Foster and Andrea Nayfa were seen doing a happy dance with cellphones recording the moment.
Another auction highlight was “A Call To Action” for funds to support the American Cancer Society Gene and Jerry Jones Family Hope Lodge. Not only did big numbers result, but a very impressive one from an anonymous donor impressed the baronesses at the calculators.
After the final auction item was announced and won — Best Seats in the House for Old Dominion’s performance, which went for $5,000 — guests started making their way to the mammoth tent for the headliners’ concert. But then they had to cool their boot-heels for a while, since the doors to the air-conditioned tent were guarded and locked tight until 10. And even then, the colored wristband hierarchy allowed guests only so far past the barriers. Newcomers who’d purchased $50,000 spots had a humble awakening once they found out they didn’t make it anywhere near the long rows of tables closest to the tall raised stage.
The really high rollers had the primo views, of course, as Old Dominion — so named because four members of the group have ties to Virginia — ran through an energetic set of their greatest hits. In no time, it seemed, the reigning Country Music Association Group of the Year had the big crowd on its feet, dancing and rocking to upbeat chart-toppers like “Make it Sweet” and “Never Be Sorry.”
It was a raucous, appropriate ending for the Southfork homecoming of the 2022 Cattle Baron’s Ball.
For more looks at the baronesses and their barons, check out the MySweetCharity Photo Gallery.