East Texans Turn Out For Annual Cattle Barons Gala Event
By BETTY WATERS
The Bellamy Brothers and Eli Young Band entertained guests with a mix of genres at the Tyler Cattle Barons' Gala, an event that has become a tradition also marked by silent and live auctions, a gaming area, drawings, delicious cuisine and other attractions.
The huge party, one of the biggest of the year in East Texas for guests decked out in boots and other cowboy attire, unfolded for the 25th time on Saturday at the Wilson Ranch near Arp.
"It's lived up to its reputation," said Nik Kronebusth, who with eight others from Minnesota planned their vacation around the gala and drove several hours to attend with friends from the Tyler area.
"I lost a brother to cancer, so we are huge supporters of the program," he said.
More than a party and a social, the gala raised funds to benefit the American Cancer Society, a nationwide community-based, nonprofit voluntary health organization dedicated to eliminating cancer, saving lives and diminishing suffering from cancer through research, education, advocacy and service.
Since its inception, the gala has raised more than $8.7 million for cancer research, said Heather Pickett, one of three chairwomen.
Local volunteers come together every year to organize and stage the gala. This year's crowd was expected to swell to around 1,600 as the evening wore on.
"We have an incredible crowd, the weather is beautiful. The air conditioning is pumping so it's nice and cool in there (tents). It's a great night (for) raising money for cancer research," Ms. Pickett said.
Another chairwoman, Chalese Denson, said, "We have fabulous entertainment. The Bellamy Brothers have been great and the Eli Young Band put on a phenomenal show. We're out here on a beautiful ranch and we're hoping everyone enjoys the 25th anniversary (of the gala)."
As Lani Reeves milled among the crowd, she said the gala was "wonderful and it's a wonderful cause. They did a great job this year.
This year's theme was "Lone Star Legacy" and featured the elegant yet classic Texas cuisine of chef and caterer Don Strange.
The diverse gala menu at a variety of stations offered a Hill Country Sausage Market, Salad Station, Panhandle Plates, Bison and Beef Chili Station, Masher Bar, Nacho Station, Piney Woods Pick-up Sweets, Big Ben Breakfast, Caddo Coffee Mounds and Gulf Coast Cocktail-Specialty Drinks.
"The food is always great and the music is real good," said John Taylor. "The food is fabulous," agreed Norma Taylor. "I think it's great that we're all out here to support cancer (research) and to try to help the victims."
Air conditioned auction and casino tents on the midway featured a mechanical bull, games and drawings for jewelry and a new pickup truck.
The entertainment was "especially great this year," said Pat Branham, who has attended four years. "Every year, (the gala) gets better. They have some excellent things this year for the auction. This is a big night for the American Cancer Society."
Describing the gala as nice, Kristi Payne also said the entertainment was "really good."
The legendary Bellamy Brothers, still going strong after 35 years in country music, demonstrated why they have enjoyed success and longevity in both the country and pop music fields, attracting domestic and international fans.
Starting with the crossover hit "Let Your Love Flow" in the 1970s, the Bellamy Brothers have released more than 50 albums.
The Eli Young Band, four musicians who met during their college days, provided additional entertainment. The group, which made its debut in 2000, received its first platinum record for "Crazy Girl."
There were more vendors and more people too at this year's gala and the food was great, said Holly Glenn, saying that everyone has been touched by cancer in some way either with friends or family.
Brian Hatchett called the gala "fantastic." He said, "I've been to ones in Longview and Tyler and this is by far the best one. There's more involvement and lot to do out there."
Libero Kinnear manned a pig racing show. In the race, he said, were little eight-week-old market hogs and Vietnamese pot bellies, while the half-time show featured a pot bellied pig swimming in a tank.
Many gala-goers drifted to a casino, some posed for their picture taken with a Wells Fargo stage coach and others entered chance drawings.
The partying was expected to last past midnight.