By: Joanne Davidson
How often does a huge disappointment have a very happy ending? It did at Lulu’s Barkin’ BBQ, when breathing problems forced the scheduled headliner, Willie Nelson, to cancel minutes before the benefit for the Dumb Friends League was to begin.
That the 79-year-old country music legend wasn’t going to be able to sing came as quite a surprise to the 586 guests, the majority of whom heard the news when attorney Fred Bartlit made the announcement in the pause between dinner and the start of a live auction. Bartlit and his wife, Jana, a lifetime trustee of the Dumb Friends League, have hosted the barbecue for each of its 11 years.
“The good news is that all of you are here for the animals,” Bartlit said before turning the microphone over to auctioneers Jim Odle and John Clatworthy, who proceeded to draw in big bids like the $55,000 that will go toward hay and grain for abused and neglected horses at the league’s Harmony Equine Center near Franktown.
In the end, a record $679,000 was raised. “It is truly humbling to see such kindness and support,” said Bob Rohde, the league’s president and CEO.
Altitude apparently was the culprit, exacerbating Nelson’s emphysema. He recovered sufficiently after returning to sea level to resume his tour schedule. Nelson’s daughter, Amy, claimed accounts of her dad’s condition were overblown and that he had not been hospitalized, even though people close to the situation said that he had, and that members of his band were “quite shaken” by it.
Lulu’s Barkin’ BBQ, named in honor of the Bartlits’ Griffon, Lulu, also features a buffet supervised by Texas barbecue king Tom Perini; a silent auction and,this year, dancing to a deejay hastily called in by event planner Kelli Kindel.
Guests included Cathey Finlon, who has recently retired as president of the Denver Art Museum, and her husband, Dick; Barbara Schmitt; Judy Fahrenkrog, Rollie Jordan and Dee Chirafisi of Kentwood City Properties; Wally and Donna Hultin; Joan Garcia; Lanny and Sharon Martin; Karen Woods; Dave McKleveen and Pat “Gabby Gourmet” Miller, who also hosts an annual benefit for the Dumb Friends League; Trygve and Vicki Myhren; Zee Ferrufino and his son, Michael; lobbyist Edie Busam and hubby Mike McArdle, director of the Colorado Department of Labor; Howard and Susan Noble; and rancher Ninia Ritchie, a 2009 inductee into the National Cowgirl Hall of Fame.