Western Nebraska Observer - Observations all along the line - Kimball & the Southern Panhandle First

By Daniel Thompson

Banner County gears up for 2014 Cattlemen's Ball


Image Courtesy of Cattlemen's Ball of Nebraska

The Hoot Owl Ranch in Banner County will serve as the site of the 2014 Cattlemen's Ball.

The annual Cattlemen's Ball of Nebraska will be coming to Banner County in June of 2014.

The ball, which was started in 1997 by a group of beef industry leaders, is held every year throughout different parts of the state serving as a way to raise funds for cancer research at the Fred and Pamela Buffett Cancer Center at the University of Nebraska Medical Center, according to Co-Chairman of the 2014 Cattlemen's Ball Monty Stoddard.

"It started out as a fairly small event with maybe 500 or 600 people in attendance, and it's grown since then. As far as the smaller attendance, obviously at that juncture, not as many funds were raised and send down for cancer research. It's really taken off and blossoming and growing legs of its own in the last couple years," Stoddard said.

According to the organization's website, the donations for the 2013 event hosted in Paxton reached $2.12 million with 4,300 people in attendance.

The 2014 event, to be held June 6, 2014 through June 7, 2014, will be hosted at the Hoot Owl Ranch in Banner County by Kenny and Misty Stauffer, who serve as the ranch managers, and Jeff and Kathy May, the owners of the ranch.

Stoddard states that with the 2014 event, which has the theme of 'Corral A Cure for Cancer', the committee hopes to up the ante and raise $2.5 million for cancer research, continuing the event's steady growth from year to year.

"We've set a lofty goal, because it goes toward a great cause," Stoddard said.

All proceeds from the event will also stay in the state of Nebraska with the lion's share going to the Fred and Pamela Buffett Cancer Center at the University of Nebraska Medical Center, according to Stoddard.

"Ninety percent of the money we raise goes down there, and it all goes to research. It doesn't go to executive salary or anything like that. It all goes into research. That's one thing that's unique about this, 100 percent of what we send down there does go for research and doesn't go to salaries or anything like that," Stoddard said.

The remaining ten percent is spread amongst different medical facilities and organizations in the surrounding area that the event is held in.

"That will be up to us as the co-chairs and the host family. We decide that as we go out and get our donations and so on. We tell those different entities that we're asking for help and/or donations that there is the possibility of some money coming back to them. At that point, they have to fill out a request and ask us ahead of time to get some of that money back," Stoddard said.

The idea behind contacting the different entities in the area is to ensure that the money does not go simply to one facility, but that it can be used to help as many communities as is needed.

"Our hope is that we want to split it up based on the level of help that is provided to us from a volunteer or a monetary standpoint, we want to give back as much as we can to that end. We want to try to pay them back for their assistance in pulling this off," Stoddard said.

Though the title of the event would make local residents think otherwise, the ball is open to all those in the area who would wish to attend, according to Publicity Chairman of the 2014 Cattlemen's Ball Trish Lukassen.

"I think they think you have to be a rancher or have cattle. It's not like that. It's just hosted by that entity. Everybody's welcome to attend it," Lukassen said.

According to Lukassen, the committee has been planning the 2014 event for over a year putting together each individual aspect of the large scale event.

"We started having meetings about a year and a half ago. We meet once a month. It's a huge group of people that volunteer. They're saying they need 600 volunteers to put it on," Lukassen said.

The different aspects of the event will be housed in different tents spread throughout the Hoot Owl Ranch which are donated from a company in Lincoln.

"They've surveyed the area to see how to set it up. They figure there will be about eight big tents. They have a style show. They have a saloon. They have an art show, and they have a wine and cheese tasting with the art show. They have a craft show. They have a general store where you can buy memorabilia. It's just like this little city they built," Lukassen said.

The event, which is run completely on donations, will also feature different modes of entertainment with committee members pooling different artists from throughout the state.

"They come from across the state. So much of this is handed down year to year. We all get the notebook, and each year someone grabs new ones or ones more local to their cause. That's a really collaborative effort from one year to the next," Lukassen said.

Among the artists pooled throughout the state is local resident Amber Wilke who will be heading the craft show and presenting her prairie art at the event.

"She's pretty involved in that kind of stuff and has been involved in a lot of those so she'll do a good job pulling all that in and getting that tent full," Lukassen said.

The event's style show will feature local cancer survivors as models for the clothing of different companies throughout the area.

"They come out and they'll say how many years they've been cancer free or under treatment. That's kind of a cool thing, and it's pretty touching to watch those people," Lukassen said.

Another big draw for the 2014 event is the booking of the country music duo Montgomery Gentry who will be headlining a concert the night of Saturday, June 7, to show their support for the cause.

"Pulling in Montgomery Gentry was a big draw. It's hard to get a big name like that to come out to a little venue in the pasture. They worked with us. They really stepped up to the plate," Lukassen said.

The biggest fundraising aspect of the event will come in the form of auctions that will be held Friday and Saturday with companies throughout the state donating equipment and trips to help reach the $2.5 million goal.

"One company donated a combine last year, and that brought $300,000. That was all donation. There's just everything. There are trips. They just bring astronomical money just because of the cause. The companies that are stepping up and what they're donating is unfathomable. I can't believe it," Lukassen said.

Along with the different forms of entertainment, organizers of the event will also be introducing a beef education portion into the event.

"They're going to have a beef display from the University of Nebraska with different breeds of cattle and that kind of stuff and how it relates to you as a consumer. They'll be a lot of beef education that they really want to focus on this year as well," Lukassen said.

All of the food served at the event will also come from the livestock of the Hoot Owl Ranch.

"All the beef that they're going to serve will be raised on the Hoot Owl Ranch. No ball has ever done that before. They're going to use their own. They're going to have to start fattening and butchering cattle in a few months to get enough meat ready in advance for this thing," Lukassen said.

For Lukassen, though the task of organizing the event is daunting, she believes it shows how well people in Western Nebraska can work together to help the cause.

"It's just a bunch of great people working together and making it happen. These little communities out here can make a difference and raise that kind of money even though we're not from the other end of the state," Lukassen said.

Tickets for the event can be bought online at cattlemensball.com or over the phone at 308-235-2289 and come in two different packages: Trail Boss tickets with include a Friday social, private champagne reception and brunch on Saturday, and preferred seating for the Saturday evening dinner and concert, and Top Hand tickets which provide admission to all events after 11:00 a.m. on Saturday.

Anyone interested in volunteering for the event can also call Kenny Stauffer at 308-641-0429.


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