By Judith Salkin

The Family YMCA of the Desert’s annual Hoedown at Sundown is one of the most anticipated galas of the Coachella Valley’s social season.

The event, which celebrated its 27th incarnation this year, raises funds for the Y’s youth programs that serve nearly 3,500 kids across the valley with before and after school child care, summer camp and swimming lessons, so necessary for an area where so many backyards have swimming pools.

Tickets to this event don’t cost a small fortune ($135 each), no one wears a tux or ball gown – this is a night for buffalo plaid, boots (well-worn is good!) and jeans – and the food is barbecue – good barbecue. And last Saturday’s (Nov. 1, 2014) event at Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa in Rancho Mirage was pretty near perfect.

From the cocktail hour guests streamed in, greeted by a shot of Cazadores Reposado, an array of more than 200 silent auction items and cowboy games to earn raffle tickets or just paid $20 for 10 tickets to try and win a barbecue grill or one of two getaways.

Guests included Y CEO Rob Ballew (who brought the “good tequila”) and his wife Tracy, board member Sabby Jonathan and his wife, Wendy, Vice President of the Desert Sands Unified School District Board of Directors; emcee of the event, CBS Local 2 meteorologist Patrick Evans; Sally Simonds, who sponsored the event; Steve Little, CEO of Swim to Win Foundation; Mike Moulton, CEO of Christopher’s Clubhouse; and Stephanie Greene, CEO of FG Creative (who served on the event committee) and her husband Dennis Greene; Gary Jeandron and Assemblyman Brian Nestande who stopped by after another campaign stop.

One of the most surprising aspects of the night was the live auction that raised a lot of green for the cause. If you were wondering about the recession, this event proved we’re on our way out of it. The top prize of the night was a $10,000 kitchen or bath remodel, which topped out at $10,500 and like most of the items went for at or near its actual value. The most surprising part of night was a match grant of $20,000 that was not only met by those attending within the first two donations, but raised almost as much from donors who opened their checkbooks in donations of $1000, $500 and $100 donations.

The night ended on the just the right note with guests line dancing and receiving shiny silver dollars dancing. Not a bad way to end the night.