It was the biggest pasture party Southwest Nebraska has ever seen as more than 4,000 people took part to “Round Up A Cure for Cancer” at the 2019 Nebraska Cattlemen’s Ball June 7-8.

Hosting the festivities were Derek and Allison Sandman of rural Wauneta, Neb., and Wayne and Chris Krausnick of Imperial, Neb. The ball was headquartered on the Krausnick Ranch on the Frenchman River just west of Wauneta, Neb.

Wayne explained that his grandparents bought the property the ball was held on in 1938.

“When I came back from college, I began purchasing this piece and was able to make all but the last payment to my grandfather,” he said, his voice cracking. “I made that last one to my grandmother, who is 100 years young and with us tonight.”

The Krausnicks are natives of Chase County, Nebraska. They have two sons, Jesse and Wyatt, and a niece, Brooke, at home. Ranching for 21 years, the family has a cow-calf operation and Wayne noted they love to calve on the river bottom. They have a custom haying operation and are involved in a custom feeding operation in a small feedlot northwest of Imperial. Three years ago, they bought their own feed yard two miles west of Imperial.

The Sandmans live outside Wauneta in the Frenchman River Valley. They own and operate Sandman Grow Yard, LLC, a cattle backgrounding feedlot and farm primarily dryland corn and wheat. Their children are Haylee, Alexa and Noah.

Tons of preparation and more than 1,000 volunteers are needed to put on each ball. Sometimes you also need some help from your friends. When the Sandmans were approached just over two years ago to host, they realized they wouldn’t have the space at their operation for the tents and activities that go into a ball. So they called on the Krausnicks to see if they would be willing to have the “pasture party” on their property just off Highway 6.

“There were times I wished I wouldn’t have taken that call,” joked Wayne on Saturday night, adding they wouldn’t have traded the experience for anything.

The weekend included all types of activities, ranging from a golf tournament and the 5K Rawhide Run to a ranch rodeo and educational sessions at the beef tent. At the history tent, local historical societies and History Nebraska teamed up to share information on the Western Cattle Trail, which had routes running through Hitchcock, Hayes, Chase and Perkins counties, and eventually west into Dundy County. The goal for the drovers was to get their cattle to Ogallala, point of the nearest major railhead in the 1870s and 1880s.

However, the main goal was to raise funds to fight cancer. Between four live auctions, a silent auction and countless donations, 90 percent of the money raised from the ball will go to the Fred and Pamela Buffett Cancer Center in Omaha to support cancer research. The remaining 10 percent will stay in the four-county area that surrounds the 2019 ball site.

Dr. Kenneth Cowan, who is director of the Buffett Center, praised Nebraskans for having the vision and drive to put on the ball, a premier event unlike any other cancer fundraiser in the country.

“When the Buffett Center opened two years ago, we were determined to be the world’s finest cancer center,” he said. “Patients can see all those involved in their treatment under one roof. It is part of the network of 70 nationally designated cancer centers in the United States. Even better was the building was paid off even before they broke ground for it five years ago.”

Since its inception in 1998, the Nebraska Cattlemen’s Ball has raised $13 million. Cowan, who will step down as director of the Center the end of this month, noted that since he arrived in 1999 to head the Center, they have added 200 new faculty and received $55 million annually to support research.

“There is hope,” Cowan said. “As of today in the United States, there are 17 million cancer survivors. When I came to Nebraska in 1999, there were 10 million Americans alive after battling cancer. In 10 years, estimates are there will be 23 million cancer survivors. Our job is to get rid of the cancer gun once and for all.”

Barb Bierman Batie can be reached at editorial@midwestmessenger.com.