You're Still the One
Dallas Cattle Baron's Ball celebrates 50 years with iconic gala starring Shania Twain
The word “Iconic” proved the perfect theme for the 50th anniversary Cattle Baron’s Ball. From record-breaking auction items to headliner Shania Twain, the 2023 edition of Dallas' ultimate Western-glam party was one for the ages.
More than 3,400 patrons packed the grounds of Southfork Ranch on October 14 for the big bash benefiting American Cancer Society. Co-chairs Isabell Novakov Higginbotham and Andrea Cheek guided a committee of more than 100 hard-working baronesses (clad in gold boots for CBB's golden anniversary) and countless more volunteers to pull together the sold-out, epic event.
Attendees donning all the rhinestones, sequins, feathers, fringe, and leather in DFW filed out of party buses, limos, and ride-shares. Saddled-up cowgirls and smiling, waving Kilgore Rangerettes welcomed them to the famous grounds of the TV show Dallas, site of the first Cattle Baron’s Ball in 1974.
An exclusive VIP party, presented by Anne Davidson inside the Southfork Ranch Event and Conference Center, got the evening off to a rollicking start. Mistress of ceremonies, NBC 5's Deborah Ferguson, gave a hearty welcome and introduced Texas country-rock giant Randy Rogers Band to the stage.
Early arrivals got the first chance to sip the night's signature “Iconic” cocktail, featuring Grey Goose Essences Watermelon Basil, St. Germain Elderflower Liqueur, and Topo Chico; and to nibble hors d’oeuvres like applewood bacon-wrapped apricots, bacon-wrapped quail, and smoked ancho pulled work with sweet apple chips and sweet potatoes.
At 7 pm, the masses arrived and the ball officially began. It was a picture-perfect fall evening to take a Ferris wheel ride at sunset, ride the mechanical bull, or mug for cute photos and videos at several different booths outside.
The cowbell ringers got a workout during the live auction.Photo by Ashley Gongora
Most of the action took place inside the Conference Center, where each room was abuzz with activity. The main event was the massive silent auction. Bidders browsed and bid via smartphones for hundreds items from local retailers, restaurants, exquisite jewelry and fashion, trips, home decor, sports and music memorabilia, and more.
The casino room was unusually busy. Not only were folks trying their luck at the gaming tables, but the room was home to some of the best cocktails of the night: fan-favorite espresso martinis featuring White Rhino coffee, and seasonally appropriate apple cider old fashioneds with Angel’s Envy Bourbon.
Inside the dining hall, Vestals Catering served up a "Flavors of Texas" buffet as big as the Lone Star State: prime beef brisket, smoked chicken thighs, cheese enchiladas, Mexican corn, mac & cheese, cole slaw, vegetables, and rolls and corn bread with Dallas honey butter.
A parade of cowgirl bell-ringing baronesses signaled it was time for the live auction to begin. This year's jaw-dropping prize packages and fantasy trips included an Orlando getaway with use of an entire JSX plane (sold for $37,500); a Libertine fashion experience (endorsed onstage by co-chair Higginbotham, sporting a custom Libertine Cattle Baron's 50th jacket; the package sold for $50,000); and an "Ultimate Tailgate" with Troy Aikman and chef Kent Rathbun (sold for $100,000).
Chef Dean Fearing spurs on the crowd to bid for a chefs' dinner.Photo by Ashley Gongora
Each year, one of the most coveted auction items is a wine dinner prepared by some of Dallas' finest chefs — including Kent Rathbun, Dean Fearing, Nick Barclay, and Richard Chamberlain. In a poignant moment, Fearing told the crowd of his son’s recent battle with leukemia. After wild cheers and applause at the news that he's now cancer-free, two dinners were sold for $135,000 each, bringing in a record-breaking total of $270,000.
For the first time, a Cattle Baron’s “paddle raise ambassador” took the stage to help inspire direct giving. Ava Danuser, 17, of Highland Park, battled with a rare form of bone and tissue cancer called Ewing Sarcoma. After an emotional video, she emerged onstage and waved as patrons gave from $1,000 to $100,000. If the total (including matching funds) reached $1 million, a special fund would be named in her honor. The goal was reached.
Finally it was time to head into a sprawling tent for headlinerShania Twain. Making their way across the grounds, patrons picked up “concert snacks” including Frito pie in bags, popcorn, and “Texas trash” snack mix.
“I wore my party dress tonight,” said Twain, fitting right in with the CBB crowd, in her silver sequin minidress and black platform boots.
Shania Twain swept through her biggest hits.Photo by Ashley Gongora
VIP patrons packed the standing-room area beneath the stage to fill their social media feeds with close-up pictures and videos. (A last-minute and unevenly enforced security measure, however, prohibited credentialed press photographers from shooting photos near the stage - a bummer for this story presentation.)
Fresh off a sold-out show at Fort Worth’s Dickies Arena on her “Queen of Me” tour the night before, Twain swept through the biggest hits of her decades-long career without missing a beat. She had the crowd singing along in three-part harmony on “Honey I’m Home;” joining in on the chorus of her new song “Giddy Up!;” and yelling that famous line, "Okay, so you're Brad Pitt" on "That Don't Impress Me Much."
Remarkably, Twain was the first female entertainer ever to headline Cattle Baron’s Ball. She ended the night, appropriately, with “Man! I Feel Like a Woman!,” and cannons of turquoise confetti shot over the crowd.
Those who wanted to catch early Ubers home ended the night there, while those who wanted to make a late night of it gathered back inside on the dance floor beneath the Live Auction stage, where Jordan Khan's Taylor Pace Orchestra band revved up the after-party until 2 am.
Sierra Jones poses with the famous Ewing Cadillac in front of a Neiman Marcus vintage CBB fashion presentation.Photo by Ashley Gongora
Among the thousands spotted in the crowd, enjoying the night, were Megan Clark, Catherine Woodall, Jane Humphrey, Vodi Meagher, Tyler Catlett, Damian Wingate, Stephanie Fischer-Wingate, John McCarley, Judith Garcia-Curzio, Alexis Bourn-Lipsett, Ben Lipsett, Abby Muggerud, Ashton Ulrich, Shevawn Barder, Olivia Barder, Bree Dahl, Rachel Haefliger, Micheal Marsh, Chae Marsh, Hillary Hancock, Claire Phillips, Logan Vanderslice, Allie Woldert, Jean-Charles Alvarez, Jessica Jesse, Peggy Panosh, Susan Alvarez, Peter Bowers, Traci Mcguiness, Mary Ellen Young, Janis Crayvens, Katie Kennemer, Alissa Wikert, Mandy Blount, Ese Azenabor, Nipa Nobel, Katy Brooks, Kameron Westcott, Martha Greenberg, Lauren Stewart, Sharon Lee-Clark, Sierra Jones, Ilana Levy, Tina Rich, Kim Resnick, Tanya Davis, Cinthia Everett, Annie Fernández, Courtney Derderian, Jamie Charles, Jacque Wynne, Catherine Fullam, Corky Nix, Jonika Nix, Katherine Wynne, Doug Box, Paris Lovelady, Sierra Hughes, Micheal Simpson, Alley Murchison, Beth Albright, Salvator La Mastera, Austin Phillips, Steven Safra, and Alex Hicks.
Cattle Baron’s Ball is the premier fundraiser for the American Cancer Society in North Texas, and has raised more than $93 million since its inception in 1974. The 2022 event alone raised $4,170,617.
The ball is the largest single-night fundraising event for cancer research in the world.