With their trademark interlocking "CC"s horseshoes on their silver hatbands and exhibiting their usual flourish of stylish western wear, the Champagne Cowgirls once again landed in the top ranks of buyers at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo Junior Market Steer Auction on Saturday.
For the third time they pooled enough of funds (all private, no corporate) to buy the Reserve Grand Champion steer at Reliant Center for a cool $210,000. This was the third time that the tightly-knit Cowgirls had bought the reserve champion. In 2012 they were high bidders on the grand champion and had their eye on that trophy again.
This year, however, they were out-gunned by the Ed Lester/Chris Bruegger group, which made the $400,000 winning bid for the grand champion after the Cowgirls had made their final bid of $385,000.
The ladies in the fancy suedes and tons of silver and turquoise jewlery had enough change in their deep pockets, after picking up the reserve grand champion, to come in as top bidders for four more steers. They were helped along in the finances by pals Carol and Mike Linn, DeeDee and Wallis Marsh, the Kim and Dan Tutcher family and Kelli Weinzierl. And there were the Cowgirls' husbands — known as the Corkscrews — who also padded their buying power.
The Champagne Cowgirls was formed six years ago when the rodeo's Steer Committee decided it needed more female involvement. Committee member Michael Francisco and his wife, Ellie Francisco, developed the concept that originated with 10 Cowgirls.
"We decided to buy only in the steer auction," Ellie Francisco explained via email. "We wanted them to have some lady power and to support the work required by the kids that show. The dedication dealing with raising the steers is a work ethic we want to support."
The highly-social and philanthropically-involved buying team is limited to 20 members with a current membership of 18. "We get together throughout the year and meet to discuss strategy," Francisco adds. "We are all good friends and support each other in our other community endeavors."
In addition to those already mentioned, membership includes Denise Monteleone, Susan Krohn, Denise Bush Bahr, Darlene Bisso, Donna Bruni, Lesha Elsenbrook, Kelley Lubanko, Bobbie Nau, Beth Madison, Shelley Reeves, Kristina Somerville, Elizabeth Stein and Gaye Lynn Zarrow.