Well, Dallas didn't forget how to party. In fact, "Double Down" proved the perfect theme for Cattle Baron's Ball 2021, which emerged from last year's COVID-cancellation to a sell-out extravaganza that packed 2,600 revelers into Gilley's Dallas on Saturday, October 23.
Dallasites doubled down, alright — not only in their efforts to raise big bucks for the American Cancer Society (read on for some eye-popping auction amounts), but in their passion for the city's premier party of the year. All the rhinestones, feathers, sequins, and leather that hung in mothballs last fall finally came out to play.
A tip of the hat to co-chairs Diana Hamilton and Heather Randall, who were heading up the 2020 CBB starring headliner Dierks Bentley (themed "Just Livin': Take Cancer by the Horns") when the pandemic came along and kicked it off the calendar. With an extra (and exceedingly challenging) year, they took the ball by the horns — streamlining things, changing the theme, and bringing on presenting sponsor Texas Oncology — and put on a gala that felt fresh and exciting. Even the crowd seemed younger and higher-energy this year.
The evening kicked off with an onstage greeting from NBC5 morning anchor Deborah Ferguson, who welcomed earlybirds to an exclusive VIP party presented by Anne Davidson. Singer-songwriter Cole Swindell got the crowd on its feet at the Copart, Inc VIP/Live Auction Stage.
Once the masses began arriving, every room of Gilley's was buzzing without feeling overly crowded. If you wanted space, you could find space. Spotted in the crowd and dressed to impress were Trey Davis, Lori Cox, Heather Cole, Michael Ashy, Tricia Sims, Monika Anderson, Liz Hernandez, Liz Smith Theis, Bill Anderson, Jane McGarry, Tashara Parker, Stephanie Carvell, Kim Porter-Glaser, Susan Pettit, Kim Schlachter, Gregg Asher, Brooke Murrell, Chaton Turner, Tasha Grinnell, Tia Wynne, Jonika Nix, Dan Dijak, and Sara Dijak.
G Texas Catering stocked food stations with favorite Southern fare, like shaved prime rib sliders, fried jalapeño pork chops, shrimp jambalaya, and a Pit Boss barbecue buffet. A loaded tater tot bar was a big hit, as was the Shiner Bock chili Frito pie.
Drinks flowed all night too, of course. The signature cocktail, "Just Livin'," poured together Grey Goose Essences White Peach & Rosemary (a svelte 73 calories per serving!), lemon juice, and Topo Chico. Thirsty patrons also had a selection of premium Bacardi and Grey Goose spirits; Jackson Family Wines; and Champagne Ayala bubbly.
Sufficiently stuffed, attendees browsed and bid via their smartphones in the auctions, which had amassed hundreds of items from artists, jewelers, retailers, clubs, restaurants, and hotels inside the Moody Foundation Silent Auction Room. Throughout the night, guests could buy raffle tickets and cross their fingers they'd go home with a new luxury car from Park Place and more.
As usual, the hottest cash was saved for the live auction. A brass band and parade of cowbell-ringers signaled it was time to bid fast and furiously on the fabulous prize packages curated by auction chairs Marjon Henderson and Andrea Nayfa and their committee. Fantasy trips — including a spa stays, golf excursion, a safari, and an experience at the CMA Awards — fetched $40,000-$50,000 each.
For three decades, the most coveted item of all has been a private dinner party for 20 prepared by some of Dallas' finest chefs. Chefs Kent Rathbun, Dean Fearing, Nick Barclay, David Holben, and Richard Chamberlain announced the dinner from stage, and after rousing cheers and applause, two packages were sold for an astounding $100,000.
Then, on the Andrews Distributing Main Stage under the big tent, headliner Dierks Bentley rolled through hit after hit from his long career, including crowd-favorites "Lot of Leavin' Left to Do," "Somewhere on a Beach," "What Was I Thinkin'," and "Living." During his current hit "Beers on Me," he actually tossed cans of beer to some lucky concertgoers near the stage.
The party didn't stop once the last notes were played under the tent. Some folks gathered around an outdoor fire pit to enjoy sweet bites of fresh baked apple cobbler tarts, chocolate s'mores bread pudding, and homemade oatmeal cream pies. There was no Ferris wheel this year, but a mechanical bull for anyone who dared.
Back inside, Emerald City All-Stars filled the dance floor for an after-party until 2 am, and night owls could nosh sausage-egg biscuits and breakfast tacos — or tuck them inside a purse to-go.
When partiers finally retrieved their cars from valet or jumped in their Ubers, they didn't leave empty handed. In place of the old cooler bags stuffed with a million little branded things, canvas totes containing wooden lazy Susans and wine openers, courtesy of Choctaw Casino & Resort, were handed to everyone. The Juice Bar made sure no one left without a couple of vitamin B12 juice shots for morning rehydration.
Spotted having a great time throughout the night were Erica Brown, Kate Boatright, Laura Price, Ellie Campion, Danaree Allgood, Megan Flanagan, Sharon Lee Clark, Joanna Clarke, Kelley Ledford, Sarah Groves, Kelley Schadt, Meghann Strickland, Kathleen Kirby, Scott Kirby, Elizabeth Gallegos, Rodolfo Gallegos, Missy Morris, Simóne Morris, Crystal Wimbrey, Mahisha Dellingerm, Amy Mukula Hampton, and Chelle Wilson.
Cattle Baron’s Ball is the premier fundraiser for the American Cancer Society in North Texas, and has raised more than $85 million since its inception in 1974. Numbers from this year's Cattle Baron's Ball are now being tallied, and the chairs will announce the dollar amount raised at a check presentation. The ball is the largest single-night fundraising event for cancer research in the world.