There wasn't a raindrop in sight, which delighted co-chairmen Mary Martha Pickens and Tia Love Wynne as they welcomed thousands to the 42nd annual Cattle Baron's Ball at Gilley's Dallas. This year's theme — Cowboy Up, Take Cancer Down! — perfectly articulated this fundraising tradition's goal.
Before the masses arrived, donors and special guests gathered for a VIP party, where they mingled while enjoying bites from Mesero and a variety of cocktails, beer, and wine. It was also the time for big spenders to buy raffle tickets, preregister for the auction, and roam the venue for a sneak peek at this year's setup.
Once the Ferris wheel started to spin, the festivities officially began. Guests — includingBarbara Daseke, Erin and Josh Crofford, Natalie and Mike McGuire, Maggie Kipp, , and Tanya Foster — bid on the silent auction items, bought raffle tickets, and filled up on the endless supply of dining options. Among the morsels: hickory-smoked beef brisket, shrimp jambalaya with andouille sausage, and Shiner Bock chili pie.
Also spotted in the crowd were proud 2015 Cattle Baron's active members Kristi Bare, Katy Bock, Annika Cail, Robin McMonigle, Laura Reeder, Sunie Solomon, and Anne Stodghill, who not only know how to raise money, but also rock a chic pair of cowboy boots. There's something special about this group of ladies, to be sure.
The Ray Johnston Band got the entertainment started before auctioneers Wendy and Doak Lambert rallied the crowd to bid big and bold to give cancer the boot. One highlight of the auction came when the Barbecue with Dallas' Finest Chefs package hit the block. Nick Barclay, Richard Chamberlain, Dean Fearing, Kevin Garvin, David Holben, and Kent Rathbun took the stage to help drive up the bids, and the charismatic crew sold two of 'em for $70,000 apiece. More big bucks were raised when Hall of Famer Charles Haley showed up to help his Poker with Dallas Football Greats package, which sold for just under $100,000.
Post auction, guests filed into the Andrews Distributing Main Stage to see three-time Grammy Award-winning country music legend Tim McGraw. His personable, chatty, and downright dreamy set included past and present hits and a serenade — which someone won at the live auction, of course. The Louisiana boy playfully picked on the Texas guests and won them over with "The Cowboy in Me," among other songs.
After McGraw's unforgettable performance, the Studio 54 Band kicked off the after-party. In order to keep up the good times until the end, attendees loaded up on late-night fare, including biscuits and gravy, breakfast tacos, and cinnamon rolls. When the clock struck 2 am, they finally headed out the door, swag bags in hand.
Most important, Cattle Baron's Ball raised more than $4 million for the American Cancer Society. For that, we tip our cowboy hat.