like a rhinestone rodeo
“Me, patient? Hell, I’ve been complaining all damn night,” joked Midland lead singer Mark Wystrach when we thanked him for hanging out at a meet-and-greet at the recent, and massive, 2023 American Cancer Society Cattle Baron’s Ball.
Wystrach, the tall, strikingly handsome singer and actor — who we last saw playing Cotton Holdings bonkers Rodeo Cookoff tent in 2022 — set the tone for the annual event at 713 Music Hall with his good-natured ribbing. After all, he and his famed country band were the headliners for the annual Cattle Baron’s Ball, which made a big move downtown and followed up with a $1.5 million night raised for the American Cancer Society.
Having a major-league act is just part of what makes the all-hat, all-cattle fundraiser such a rousing success: Consider the May 2022 event that featured headlines Lady A at Minute Maid Park, raising $2.5 million. The big-as-Texas bash goes big.
And so did the crowd. More than 900 supporters packed 713 Music Hall, most decked out in sparkling, glittery cowboy attire for the “Rhinestone Rodeo” theme. Event co-chairs Jacquie Baly — a history-making chair, as we previously reported — and longtime supporter Lara Bell were appropriately dolled up as they greeted guests, while opener Pat Green rocked the stage. (The cell phones came out en masse for his signature closer, “Wave on Wave.” )
Part gala, part VIP rodeo experience, the event featured Texas-style fare from Cotton Culinary, actual pig races (a crowd favorite), Wine, Whiskey and Spirits Pull, and a special Insolito Tequila cocktail, and casino tables to bring a little Vegas to the cowboy theme. Hot raffle items included a chance to win a radiant diamond tennis bracelet.
As guests departed for the night grabbing swag bags full of goodies, late night bites of breakfast tacos and chicken biscuits were handed out. Later, KHOU Channel 11 anchors and emcees Len Cannon and Mia Gradney recognized the tireless, 85-member volunteer committee and Community Honorees Judi McGee, Elsie Eckert, Dr. Scott Basinger, and Sidney Faust for their founding and continued success of the “Salute to Champions” Luncheon that benefits Texas Children’s Cancer and Hematology Center.
Also garnering applause were Healthcare Honoree Dr. Susan Blaney, director of Texas Children’s Cancer and Hematology Center, and Corporate Honoree, CEOs Against Cancer Greater Houston Chapter, a powerful group of corporate executives committed to saving lives from cancer.
Though the night was a celebration, noted Houston businesswoman Leisa Holland-Nelson Bowman reminded guests of the reality of the cruel scourge of cancer. The chairman of the American Cancer Society Houston Area Board of Directors and longtime cancer awareness advocate tragically and recently lost her husband, Bob Bowman, to cancer. But rather than ask for sympathy, the bravely grieving, always energetic Leisa offered hope.
“The continued support that we receive thru this event will enable us to give the research programs the funding needed to find a cure for all cancers,” she told the riveted audience. “That is a goal I have — and so did my late husband, Bob.”
To Holland-Nelson Bowman’s point, all proceeds from the $1.5 million event help fund critical American Cancer Society programs, including continued funding for Houston-based cancer researchers; free transportation and lodging services for those undergoing cancer treatment; and access to a trained cancer information specialist day or night.
An added infusion: For every dollar raised, $4 returns to Houston-area and Medical Center operations to support active research and programs to one day eradicate cancer.
“Houston Cattle Baron’s Ball surpassed every expectation,” Baly tells CultureMap. “We surpassed our financial goal and raised $1.5 million to be used in our community and locally in our city for cancer research and prevention. Every dollar we raised for American Cancer Society will match with four additional dollars, all going towards research and Hope Lodge, which is used for housing those who travel to Houston for cancer treatment. I am beyond thrilled with our event, and after working an entire year in preparation, I am ecstatic with the results.”
For co-chair Bell, the mission is also personal; she lost her beloved mother to brain cancer in 2017. “In 2001, I co-chaired the StarLight Gala for American Cancer Society so my involvement with ACS goes back decades,” she tells us. “Cancer touches everybody. I love that ACS keeps so much money right here and Houston and I truly believe that if cancer is ever eradicated, ACS will be a big part of it.”
Chic cowboys and cowgirls in the crowd included: Jenny Todd, senior executive director for the American Cancer Society; Matt Todd; Marilu Garza; Jeff Fehlis, ACS South Region executive vice president, Christine and Steve Johnson, Tammie and Dr. Charles Johnson, Audrey and David Gow, Michael Blaney, Melissa Juneau, Lauren Gray, Tiffany Halik, Krista Shamaly, Leila Perrin, Alicia Jansen, Debbie Festari, Donna and Norman Lewis, Bill Baldwin, Fady Armanious, Judi and TJ Johnson, JoAnn Petersen, Melissa and Keith Landsness, Janette and Jeff Marx, Roberta and Lee Schwartz, Melissa and Bob Duran, Jennifer and Chad Pinkerton, Jennifer and Steve Beasley, Robin and Danny Klaes, Tany, Kit and Chaz Klaes, Lexi and Mike Marek, Disney Harris, Stacy and Jason Johnson, Teressa Foglia, Winell and Doug Herron, Gregg Reyes, Jill Watson, Karen and Peter Remington, Patti and Don Murphy, Beth Wolff, Cynthia Wolff, Jennie Simmons, Heidi Rockecharlie, Jane and Kenneth Beasley, and Angela Hernandez.