Long Live The Cattle Baron’s Ball 2009

Posted on | October 4, 2009

Didn’t make it to Cattle Baron’s? Not to worry, I’ll give you enough background you’ll be able to reference it as though you were there, and likely no one will know the difference. Amidst mud, mayhem and money the 2009 Cattle Baron’s Ball will certainly go down as one of the most talked about and memorable charity events of all time.

Even with the exciting challenges of the night I give it a Top 5 best charity events (in my lifetime, to date) slot. Not because of the grandeur and not because of the production of it but because it was a lot of fun and to be honest, I am all about the “experience.” I myself am a bit of a perfectionist (understatement of the decade) and having hosted or sat on the host committee for dozens of charity events I understand the countless hours and dollars that go into an event of that size. I also know that some of the best nights of my life have been unplanned. The events of last night didn’t roll out as planned, to say the least. But you know what, in the end it was a great party and having everyone crowded (stranded) in the Andrews tent made it a more intimate affair and certainly made finding your friends easier.

CBB Ball Program

Cattle Baron’s Ranch

My new, silly, made up song…to the tune of Chris Ledoux’s “Cadillac Ranch”

Now we call it the Cattle Baron’s Ranch

They parked the cars in the flooded dirt patch

There’s a bar in the tent and the place is still packed

Because everyone’s stranded at Cattle Baron’s Ranch


Thirty-five years ago Patti Hunt and Jacque Wynne hosted the inaugural Cattle Baron’s Ball at Kaufman’s Star Brand Ranch. Their concept of bringing philanthropists together for a great cause, while throwing traditional “Ball” dress code out the window in favor of western wear, was quite a hit. They brought in Johnny Cash to entertain their guests and raised an incredible $56,000. The event has become the most successful single night event for the American Cancer Society, worldwide, raising nearly $40 million for the charity.

Last night, in honor of the thirty-five year anniversary, Ball Chairman Katherine Wynne LaLonde brought the unmatched event back to Star Brand Ranch and we will all remember the 2009 Cattle Baron’s Ball for years to come. By the way, I love the theme…the “Honor of Cowboys,” oh they had no idea.

So the timeline of the day was something like this…


Sometime mid-morning I realized the potential for rain and made an assessment that my planned wardrobe choice was going to have to be changed. After settling on a denim dress and knee high boots (which can in handy while wading thru mud up to my mid-calf) I indecisively threw two pashminas and two handbags in the car with some towels and plastic bags. I’m not sure what I was expecting, except that I didn’t know what to expect. And there could have been nothing more true of the evening. Upon arriving at the ranch I decided to take the larger bag, with the handle, add a pashmina and an umbrella, give the other pashmina to my guest and head in to what would be quite a night.



We arrived at Star Brand Ranch at about 6:30PM to almost no line of cars, though I hear later in the night the back-up to get in was close to an hour. Walking up to the ranch house, where the VIP party was being held, I spotted clusters of CBB committee members taking cover on the porch and looking out to see what they could see. We squeezed thru the crowds at the house and found some familiar faces as well as tickets for the unbelievable raffle prizes. Everyone stood around chatting, speculating if the drizzle would stop and the weather would clear up for the big event. About an hour later we hunkered down under a shared umbrella and laughingly made our way across the slightly muddy field.


We all owe a big thank you to beer baron, Barry Andrews and the rest of the good folks over at Andrews Distributing for sponsoring the Andrews tent and all the drinks that were inside. To be honest those two things alone just about saved the day. A makeshift stage had been quickly erected sometime late in the day to accommodate the evening’s performances and food stations and bars were brought in out of the elements. The tent was the place to be from the start and when Julianne Hough took the stage and heaven’s floodgates opened up outside it was essentially the only place to be the rest of the night. Julianne Hough could not have been more of a trooper.


Julianne Hough 2

Her performance was interrupted about ten times as the power waned in and out but she continued to entertain even as water began to seep in thru the seams in the roof of the tent. I have to say my biggest concern for the night was that the tent would collapse as by this point people had begun holding umbrellas inside. Is that bad luck if you have an open umbrella inside a tent?


DBB Umbrellas in the tent

Hough and her band danced, sang without microphones and did instrumental solos to keep the crowd entertained as the tech crew addressed problem 2 million and three of the night.


Julianne Hough 3

Another fun attraction in the tent was the mechanical bull. Now I’ve seen people do some pretty stupid stuff on mechanical bulls, namely get on them, but hands down the award goes to the two girls who jumped on the bull together in skirt and didn’t jump off until the girl on the back’s skirt was up around her waist. My professional style advice: do not wear a skirt, or dress, while riding a bull…mechanical or otherwise.


Andrews Tent Crowd



At the conclusion of Julianna Hough’s performance, with the torrential rain flowing outside the organizers quickly made the (very wise) call to hold the Live Auction in the Andrews Tent. There are typically four things that drive prices at an auction: great items, a great cause, deep pockets and alcohol. Well as auctions go I’d say last night’s was a doozey. Some things went undervalued, some things went overvalued but the items were all amazing, the cause was a worthy one, the pockets were deep and like I said thank you Andrews Distributing for stocking the bars. The high ticket, and most heavily bid on item, of the night went to Amy Turner with her purchase of the 2010 Porsche Panamera S Package for $121,00. The luckiest guy of the night was the one who walked away with Harold and Annette Simmons’ 1985 Stutz IV-Porte (with a replacement value of approximately $385,000) for just $25,000. Look out eBay Motors. My favorite was the guy bidding on the Cowboys & Cards celebrity no limit poker game who bid himself up from $16,000 to $30,000 to $50,000 and bought it for $75,000 in a matter of minutes. When you pay $75,000 to get in the game, what do you lose when you get there?




Near the end of the live auction I received the following text message.

Text message


Now admittedly I am a bit of a worrier but even I thought this message might have been overblown in translation. That being said it was enough to get me to leave my spot, front and center of the stage and take a look outside. It appeared the torrential rain had subsided and left behind, a pond. While gingerly trying to exit the tent I was nearly run down by the Montgomery Gentry entourage trying to beeline for the stage. How their vehicle made it back there, who knows?


Montgomery Gentry Entourage

Initially my intent was to walk up front, check out the situation and head back to the party. I soon found myself very committed to the walk and not a great option for return. What does this mean? It means I stepped out of the tent into ten inches of muddy slush and thank goodness stayed upright. But with mud sopping thru my boots I didn’t think going back to the party was in the future. We walked steadily and carefully to the edge of the event space (where the valet should have been) to find a huge puddle of…you guessed it, water.


The site outside the tent

Dead ahead of us was a limousine sunk in the mud. One of my favorite lines of the night was when the guy in front of me at this point demands of a girl sitting on a golf “Where are the valets? I need my car. Where is the staff? They are supposed to be here.” My guest and I grew up in Southern California, so we are by no means experts in ranching or mud but we both looked at each other with wide eyes, surveyed the scene, looked at the guy, looked back at each other and laughed. Seriously we are calf deep in water, standing in front of a twenty-foot puddle on the other side of which is a sunken limousine. It doesn’t take a rocket-scientist to draw a logical conclusion here. “Things are not business as usual.” I think this is when I got the giggles, which didn’t go away all night.


Limo in mud


A quick assessment showed, no one was in charge, no one was going to magically “fix” the problem. Everyone on staff and countless guests, Sheriff’s and local ranchers were helping but it was essentially every man or woman for themselves. The entire ranch had been flooded and around a thousand cars were stuck in the mud, including nearly 100 limos, vans and buses. People were trying everything to get their cars out. Within one minute of reaching the parking lot I witnessed the aforementioned drowned limo, watched a huge truck chain up a Lincoln sedan only to rip off the bumper, five guys pushing a Mercedes across the mud, both an Escalade and an Inifiniti QX spinning their wheels in an attempt to bury themselves and another team of guys pushing an entirely different Escalade out of a self-made ditch. Once again I have zero experience in this area but I wisely calculated that unless my car was on the pavement out front it wasn’t going anywhere soon.


Truck pulling lincoln

We trekked a couple hundreds yards thru the deep mud, trying to avoid getting run over in the darkened mayhem only to have the valet give us the disappointing news. My car was in the dirt, and since I was there early (with VIP parking I might add…LOL) it was way out on the other end of the field (past where I had just come from.) Okay, I’ll bite “what’s the process from here?” He showed me a stack of about a hundred tickets and said “these people are ahead of you, they’ve been here over an hour, our guys are doing anything they can to get the cars out but it will be awhile.” Looking around at the crowd of people, some angry, some tired, some frustrated and some just confused, I turned back to the girl with the clipboard (who had given me the location of my car) and asked if I could just get my keys and come back tomorrow. She said yes. Okay cool. And then she added, “the keys are in the car. You can wait for the valet to bring them” (having just witnessed about 50 valets covered head to toe in mud trying desperately to get people’s cars out of the lot, I realized this was not happening) “or you can could go get them yourself.” LOL. Haha. I have found this year God has been teaching me a lesson in flexibility. I could laugh or cry. I just kept laughing, called my friend and said the following “I’ll explain more later but the ranch has flooded, all the cars are stuck, it is mayhem here, please get in the car and head toward Star Brand Ranch, I’ll call you back with details” and then I headed out in search of my car.


CBB VIP Pkg Pass

So Caroline and I trekked back across the field, me in five inch heeled boots (if you want to know how to salvage your boots from Cattle Baron’s click here) and a dress and she in the more practical cowboys boots but the less practical (for muddy ranches) white dress. Upon arriving at the car and seeing the F-250 next to us buried and waiting for a tractor, it was easy to decide to take the keys and run. At the advice of a valet I hastily wrote my name, cell number and “I’ll be back” on the reverse side of my “VIP Parking Pass,” grabbed those towels and plastic bags that I brought, threw my handbag filled with my umbrella, pashmina, cell phone, camera and a bottle of water over my arm and began making my way out to the highway.


Valerie Caroline

After safely making it back across the field to the ranch rode we began the task of avoiding getting run over and trying to make it out to the highway. Halfway down the rode an angelic couple offered us a ride the rest of the way. We hopped out at the service rode to the highway and found two friends who were also waiting for a ride. We were laughing and making jokes when my friend said “how come you aren’t more bothered by this?” I responded, “all things considered, things aren’t so bad.” We have cars (to get stuck in the mud,) we have people who care about us (who will come out to the middle of nowhere at 1AM to pick us up,) we were fortunate to have tickets to attend this incredible event and beyond all that we are alive and well (and cancer free.)



What they started thirty-five years ago, when they founded the Cattle Baron’s Ball, has become a wonderful tradition of bringing together a powerful and vivacious group of people to raise money on behalf of the American Cancer Society, for a cause close to so many. Cancer has touched almost all of us either personally or by taking a family member or close friends. Cancer took my grandfather, my uncle, my mother-in-law and countless friends and family members and last night for me was a celebration of how fortunate we are to be here and to have each other. Thank you to all those involved, from the committee members who put in countless hours planning the event, to the sponsors who contributed millions of dollars to the event, to the valets, Sheriff’s and ranch hands who rescued everyone’s cars (and limos…perspective people, you were in a limo, life’s not that bad) throughout the night and well into today. And a special thanks to the tractor driver who, after working all night, was there this afternoon to rescue my car from its lonely spot in the middle of what I now fondly call The Cattle Baron’s Ranch.




Tractor Night


2 Responses to “Long Live The Cattle Baron’s Ball 2009”

  1. E
    October 6th, 2009 @ 12:35 PM

    The WORST event I have ever been to. They should be embarrassed!!!!!!

  2. Ricky
    October 10th, 2009 @ 4:22 PM

    It doesn’t matter what mother nature thu at them. That raised miliions for cancer research and God bless them for it. Those that complain about something no one could control should be ashamed. Long Live the CCB…