Billed as an “iconic” event, the 2023 Cattle Baron’s 50th fundraiser for the American Cancer Society of North Texas nonetheless got off to a bit of an un-iconic start for some of the VIP-ers at Parker’s Southfork Ranch on Saturday, October 14.
Just for openers, guests arrived in the designated area per instructions for the meet-and-greet with lead singer Randy Rogers of the Randy Rogers Band, who would be performing later on the Live Auction Stage. But, finding instead a meeting of the Ball’s 25+ security staffers under way, some wondered if perhaps they’d read their directions wrong. Soon, though, they were waved to the far side of the Southfork Office/Gift Store, where a wall festooned with multiple western hats would serve as a backdrop for the photo opp. Then, as guests watched the security folks depart, they realized there was no official photographer on hand. They’re on their way! someone assured them.
Meantime, Randy killed time by shooting the breeze with his road manager, Kyle Wieters. “Can I get a little blush, Kyle?” Randy smiled, adding, “After filming so many movies and TV commercials, anytime there’s a makeup girl, I say, ‘Hit me!'” As the minutes ticked slowly — and awkwardly — by, some of the guests decided on their own to have friends and even strangers snap cellphone shots of themselves with the singer. One was Texas Ranger Laura Simmons, who said she’d been invited to the ball to provide some extra security. Eventually the event photographer arrived, and the few remaining VIPers were happily snapped before high-tailing it to the VIP Baron Party.
In open areas between the Southfork Event Center and the big-enough-for-a-blimp Main Tent, where C&W icon Shania Twain would be the headline act, guests saw that Sydney Sherrill was on stage with her band, the Mechanical Bull was twisting away and the Glam Cam was capturing some great looks.
The centerpiece of the area was a mammoth block of letters spelling out the word “Iconic.” On closer inspection, you could see the names of each of the CBB past chairs had been etched on the letters.
To tighten up the layout this year, it had been decided to hold the VIP Party and After-Party, Silent Auction, Big Board, Raffles, Casino, Lounge and Live Auction Stage all under one roof in the Event Center. This POA would also be perfect if the weather turned nasty.
In the Event Center, 2023 CBB Co-Chairs Andrea Cheek and Isabell Novavkov Higginbotham were greeting guests, each outfitted in gold-colored cowgirl boots— a special collaboration with bespoke boot brand Miron Crosby. Andrea was wearing a dress her mother had made, while Isabell was in a Libertine jacket from NorthPark. Not far away, Baroness Daniella Giglio was showing off a spiffy blue-denim bag she’d picked up at the Stagecoach Country Music Festival in Palm Desert, California.
Andrea and Isabell, it seems, had arranged for a dining room adjacent to the Past Ball Chair Room, where the colorful outfits worn by previous CBB chairs were on display. Despite a doorway connecting the two areas, problems arose when a security guard played traffic cop, allowing only passage from the dining room into the Past Ball Chair Room. No matter how much begging took place, one wasn’t allowed to go in the opposite direction. As the guard explained, “I’m just following orders.”
Still more entry challenges loomed with the three restrooms inside the center. While the gents had speedy visits to the men’s rooms, the ladies were lined up waiting for an opening. Some, who just couldn’t wait, headed outdoors to the four pop-up restrooms on either side of the Main Stage Tent.
At the VIP Party, the requirement for entry was a wristband of a certain color for VIP-ers like Anne Davidson, Gail Fischer, Mary and Rich Templeton, Lydia and Dan Novakov, Joyce and Larry Lacerte and past CBB chairs Susan Collins Lewis, Olivia Kearney, Amy Turner, Lynn McBee, Janie Condon, Mary Martha Picken, Wendy Messmann, Lisa Shirley, Sunie Solomon and Tanya Foster.
On the other hand, media types and other key players were given green wristbands providing access supposedly throughout the venue. The only problem developed when, overnight, someone somewhere had deemed that “green” meant “no-go” to practically anywhere. Even Live Auction auctioneer Louis Murad was given the cold shoulder. “Are you a VIP?” the gatekeeper demanded. “Oh, yes,” Louis said emphatically. “I’m the auctioneer!” Luckily, his pleas were heard by the right person, and he finally made it through the hallowed doors and into the party.
Even the CBB media coordinator was seen wandering the grounds outside the center, baffled by the situation that prevented even him from entering the center or the Main Stage tent!
Despite the upset, last-minute peppermint colored bands were provided for the event photographer, and other media types managed to overcome the challenges.
At the far end of the VIP Party space, The Diamond Factory for the first time was hosting a Very VIP reception up on the mezzanine level, complete with reserved seating and a private wait staff for guests like Jo Temming, Marshal Hillman, Julie and Barry Adler, Chris Parvin, Amy Turner and Scott Kirby. To gain entry, one had to flash a silvery wristband. For some reason, though, even those coveted bracelets were occasionally challenged.
But, who really cared? Eventually the VIP party ended, and the rest of the roughly 3,000 guests all swarmed into the hall to catch the last half of the show by Cleburne-born Randy and his band on the Pike Corporation VIP Live Auction Stage. During its long performance the group had more than lived up to its unofficial billing as “the epitome of Texas country music,” working through its multiple big red-dirt hits like “Down and Out,” “Too Late for Goodbye” and “Kiss Me in the Dark.”
As it came time for the transition from Randy to the Live Auction, additional chairs and rectangular tables were hauled in close to the stage and covered with tablecloths. As soon as the tables were in place and filled with high-roller types, bidding overseen by auctioneers Louis and Wes Pool got off to a very healthy early start. The Ultimate Libertine Los Angeles Experience raised $50,000, for example, and Wine Wonders of the World brought in $40,000. It was definitely a Black Card kind of occasion.
Like UFC ring girls, too-adorable-for-words Baronesses walked through the crowd with arms raised, flashing placards about the items up for bid. The sound of cowbells competed with Wes and Louis spying new bids and the crowd cheering the bidding on to new heights.
At one point in the competition for the Custom Sapphire Experience With Diamonds Direct, a fella on the front row had offered $18,000, only to be outbid by a rival. In pondering whether to continue bidding, he stood up and walked over to a local jeweler and asked something. The jeweler shook his head, “No.” The fella returned to his table and took a pass on the Sapphire package, which wound up going for $19,000.
Watching from a table or two back was a trio of area philanthropists who seemed in awe of the youthful exuberance and energetic bidding that often skyrocketed to the six-figure mark. Looking a bit like senior-care residents at a fraternity kegger, they eased out midway through the action.
Error of the night: Time and time again, Wes declared that the bidding needed to be amped-up since it was CBB’s “50th anniversary.” Unfortunately, he had drunk from the same well as others, including local media. The first CBB took place in June 1974; therefore, the 2023 CBB was the 50th ball but only the 49th anniversary. The landmark 50th anniversary will take place in 2024.
The auction’s highpoint was the arrival on stage of teenager Ava Danuser, who had survived a “harrowing battle against Ewing Sarcoma, a rare bone cancer.” Ava was made the focus of the Call To Action. Immediately responding to the call was philanthropist Georgina Hartland, who raised her paddle to donate a whopping $200,000.
As the live auction was winding down, top sponsors were heading to the front of Miss Ellie’s Porch Deli, where they would be herded backstage for a meet-and-greet with Shania, the evening’s main attraction. While initially no one was quite sure where to head, things eventually got straightened out and the group walked to the back of the Main Stage tent.
Before guests entered the area, a handler stressed that they only had 10 minutes in all for the photo opps; that cellphone shots would not be allowed; and that if guests wasted their window talking with Shania, then they probably wouldn’t have time for a photo, too. Suddenly the clock started ticking, and there was no Shania in sight. Would this delayed start chip away at the 10-minute window? Luckily, Shania not only showed up, but she made special time to meet and hug Ava.
As Ava’s mother, former Baroness Christine Danuser, said, “I will never forget it. … Ava is completely over-the-moon!”
Soon enough, the tent was filled with 3,000 people who were completely over the moon, too.
After a welcome by NBC 5’s Deborah Ferguson and a touching tribute by the co-chairs to the late Barry Andrews, whose company’s Andrews Distributing Main Stage has been a staple of Cattle Baron’s Balls for years, Shania emerged into the spotlight with a splash. Outfitted in platform boots and a shimmering miniskirt, the energetic brunette showed quickly why she’s the best-selling female country artist of all time.
Shania’s hit songs came one after another, from 1990s classics like “Don’t Be Stupid” to her newer material, such as “Wake Up Dreaming.” Finishing up the latter, she took a cue from its lyrics and told the crowd, “Hey, Dallas! It can only go up from here!”
And, it sure did. By evening’s end the legendary Canadian had not only put on an “iconic” show, but she’d helped break all fundraising records set by the previous 49 Cattle Baron’s Balls with a whopping $5,510,772 check!
For more looks of the night of record-breaking, check out the more than 65 pictures at MySweetCharity Photo Gallery.