The Cattle Baron’s Ball Saddles Up for a Cause

Cowboys aren't known for sitting around, and the American Cancer Society’s annual Cattle Baron’s Ball aims to keep its attendees on its feet. 

The ball, held Sept. 24 at Cobo Center, drew 700 attendees and raised $1 million to support the society’s mission. It featured a strolling supper with local celebrity chefs making their signature item; a live auction; and entertainment. The event, though open to the public, is primarily a corporate fundraiser that draws its support from sponsorships. 

“For us, it’s been attractive because it’s not a black-tie gala,” says Christine Kenny, the society’s senior events manager. “Our executives like coming in jeans and a cowboy hat. They’re excited to dust off their cowboy hats once a year.”

The supper featured dishes from Achatz Handmade Pie Co., Alpine Chocolat Haus, Berkley’s Gourmet Cupcakes & Party Cakes, Inc., Beyond Juice, Brome Burgers and Shakes, Café Sushi, Centerplate, Chapman House, Club Venetian – Banquet and Conference Center, Firebird Tavern, Forte Belanger, Granite City Food and Brewery – Detroit, Kona Grill, Maggiano’s Little Italy – Troy, Mario’s Italian Restaurant, Pink Elephant Cupcakes, Ridley’s Bakery Café, A Serendipity Cakery, Small Plates Detroit, The Melting Pot and Tijuana’s Mexican Kitchen.

“At most gala events, a corporation would buy a table; you might have a cocktail hour and then you’d sit with your guests from your company for two hours,” Kenny says. “What our guests like about ours is they can mingle. A lot of business cultivation takes place in that strolling period.”

The event’s live auction included distinctive items like dinner on the ice at Joe Louis Arena; tickets to the 2016 World Series and the 2017 Grammy Awards; a trip to the Masters Tournament; a guest appearance by Red Wings Coach Jeff Blashill; and a walk-on to the PBS show “A Craftsman’s Legacy.” 

But the event’s most successful element, Kenny says, was the connections it helped attendees make with the society’s mission and the people it serves. When guests arrived, they could write the name of a loved one affected by cancer on a star, and the evening’s entertainers spoke about the society’s cause.

“We brought the event back to focus on the mission,” Kenny says. “We brought that focus into the performances, talked about why we’re here, where the money goes and how it makes an impact. It paid off really well.” 

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