Champagne Cowgirls Shelley Reeves, Ellie Francisco, and Bobbie Nau celebrate the team's purchase of the 2019 Reserve Grand Champion
DeeDee Marsh, Kelli Weinzierl, Hallie Vanderhider, Gaye Lynn Zarrow, Kim Tutcher and one of the young exhibitors from 2017.
Alan & Elizabeth Stein
Michael Francisco, known as the Wrangler, while herding the Champagne Cowgirls, pictured here at the 2019 auction.
Frank & Stephanie Tsuru at the 2019 steer auction
The Champagne Cowgirls raising their hands and their bid to buy Buying Grand Champion Steer in 2016
The Champagne Cowgirls showing off their team jackets in 2018.
Kim & Dan Tutcher at the 2019 steer auction breakfast
Mike Linn, Susan Sarofim, Ellie Francisco, Kelley Lubanko, Michael Francisco
Tom & Lesha Elsenbrook at the 2018 steer auction breakfast
John & Kelli Weinzierl at the steer auction breakfast in 2016
Denise Bush Bahr & Phillip Bahr at the 2016 Rodeo Houston steer auction.
The Champagne Cowgirls and a few of their wranglers with Jett Hale, whose Reserve Grand Champion steer the ladies purchased in 2018.
DeeDee & Wallis Marsh at the 2019 steer auction breakfast
Michael & Ellie Francisco at the 2019 steer auction
While COVID-19 shut down the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, it failed to dampen the enthusiasm of the high-style Champagne Cowgirls, who once again stepped up to the auction plate and purchased the 2020 Grand Champion Steer. But not in their jewel-studded denim jackets, as was their wont, and not on Saturday in the NRG sales arena as has been planned before the virus.
The ladies were ready via text and email when the auction kicked off online at 10 am Friday. With their pocketbooks primed and largesse on their minds, they collectively made the winning bid of $460,000 on Saturday evening.
The last time that the Champagne Cowgirls took home bragging rights as high bidder on the Grand Champion Steer was 2016 with their $375,000 bid. In the interim, the group has bought the Reserve Grand Champion and other lots.
“It definitely was not the same as being at the auction meeting the young people showing their animals, talking to them and their families, wearing our black hats and silver cowgirl hatbands, and stomping our yardsticks,” said Ellie Francisco, who was bidding for the group. “But at the end of the day, we were able to accomplish our goal to support these hard-working kids.”
Since their first participation in the Junior Market Steer Auction, the Champagne Cowgirls have contributed more than $4 million for educational support in Texas. That money is personal, not corporate, and if all paid equally for the 2020 champion, the cost would have averaged $23,000 each.
As Francisco noted, “The Champagne Cowgirls are a group of 20 women who have joined forces and resources to support Texas education by buying livestock in the Junior Livestock Auctions at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo. Our spouses, known as the Corkscrews, also support us.”
The Champagne Cowgirls stepped in more determined than ever this year to assist the youngsters who, due to the virus, were not able to show their animals.
“These kids and their families have put their hearts, time, efforts, and money to raise their livestock,” Francisco said. “It was devastating to all of them.”
The Champagne Cowgirls regularly make a visual statement at the auction in their black hats with silver bands, their very stylish matching denims ,and reams of turquoise jewelry.
The Champagne Cowgirls sorority over the years has included Lesha Elsenbrook, Bobbie Nau, Carol Linn, DeeDee Marsh, Kelli Weinzierl, Kim Tutcher, Danielle Ellis, Elizabeth Stein, Shelley Reeves, Kelley Lubanko, Darlene Bisso, Gaye Lynn Zarrow, Beth Madison, Susan Sarofim, Stephanie Tsuru, Kristina Somerville, Denise Monteleone, Denise Bahr, and Hallie Vanderhider.