Between stormy days in late September, clouds parted and organizers of Cowtown Ball got a picture-perfect sunset to frame the 25th edition of the signature American Cancer Society fundraiser.
This year's event, co-chaired by Elizabeth Humble and Wendy Wright with Molly and Rusty Reid serving as honorary chairs, moved to Whiskey Ranch, the sprawling new Fort Worth home of Firestone & Robertson Distillery.
Before the main event, select patrons mingled and sipped cocktails at a VIP party inside the Still House while musician Andrew Sullivan serenaded. Then 450 guests — including Loretta Marable, Jennifer Fornes, Kim Johnson, McClain Cavender, Courtney Hailey, John Pritchett, Tim Howarth, Clint Sanders, Tegjula Hilburn, and Diann Smith — enjoyed drinks and hors d'oeuvres al fresco.
Dressed in their best boots and cowboy chic, attendees gathered around the most popular spot of the event — the pig race track — to place their bets (all for charity, of course) and cheer on their favorite piglet sprinters.
Bidding on fabulous silent auction items started the moment folks walked through the registration tent. Using an app on their smart phones, shoppers bid and refreshed as phones buzzed with "outbid" alerts all evening. Popular items up for grabs included local artwork, artisan jewelry, sports tickets, weekend getaways, spa visits, holiday decor, and even shopping and errand-running from a personal concierge.
When the dinner bell rang, guests found their tables on the lawn overlooking the downtown skyline and lined up for a buffet of favorites from Reata. Plates filled with field greens salad, cheesy grits, pecan biscuits, grilled chicken, and the restaurant's signature tenderloin tamales. Banana pudding, dessert tamales, and apple crisp provided sweet endings to the meal.
Emcee Madison Sawyer of CBS 11 welcomed attendees and recognized co-chairs Humble and Wright, who thanked patrons and told the crowd how cancer had affected their lives personally. Then the auctioneer took over, commencing fast and furious bidding for big-ticket items. Among the hottest were a trip to the Florida Keys ($10,000); box seats to next year's Fort Worth Stock Show and Rodeo, plus cowboy boots, hats, and belt buckles ($6,000); and a group VIP meet-and-greet with the evening's entertainment, country band Diamond Rio ($3,500).
After the sun had set, the lights went up on stage and Diamond Rio performed a lengthy set of their many hit songs — "One More Day," "Meet in the Middle," "Norma Jean Riley," "Love a Little Stronger," and more. Time seemed to stand still, as the the band that hit its heydey in the 1990s and early 2000s came out as strong and energetic as ever. Couples two-stepped on the grass below the stage and cellphones shot Instagram-worthy photos and videos.
Total funds raised from the silver anniversary event are still being tallied and will be revealed soon. Fortunately, the rain stayed away all night, making it a beautiful night for a beautiful cause.