03/02/12 — Racing for a trophy

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Racing for a trophy

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on March 2, 2012 1:55 PM

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Stephanie Ross, left, a contestant in Dancing Stars of Wayne County, and partner Marty Barbour rehearse at Top Hat Studios for the upcoming event, to be held March 24 at the Family Y. Twenty-five couples are competing in this year's fundraiser, which benefits education efforts in the county.

With just three weeks remaining before the second annual Dancing Stars of Wayne County, the competition is heating up as the 25 contestants add rehearsal times and solicit online votes.

But those set to participate in the March 24 event are doing more than learning moves and dance steps as they vie for the championship.

Kathy Jones, director information technology at Wayne Community College, actually has a campaign manager lobbying at the college for votes on her behalf.

And posters of contestants are popping up in area store windows all around town.

Tom Bradshaw even joined the Top Hat dancers to perform in a recent bridal fashion show at Belk.

Debbie Grady, the organizer of the fundraiser, said the extra effort is creating a tight race.

"Geoff Hulse and (instructor) Lori DuBose have been in the lead ... since voting began," she said. "However, Alan Lumpkin and (instructor) JoAnne Barbour (are) right behind them."

Tallies are updated regularly online and can be viewed at www.thedancingstars.org or www.wayneeducationnetwork.org.

As of today, Hulse is in the lead, with $1,175 raised, followed by George Worrell with $1,160 and Lumpkin with $1,110.

But Mrs. Jones, who has raised $690 to date and Sandra McCullen, who has brought in $610, are not far behind.

Tickets for the event are still on sale for $50 each and will be available until March 5, Ms. Grady said. They can be purchased from contestants as well as the Chamber of Commerce. DVDs of the evening's performance are also being sold for $25 each.

Whitney Jansta, community services coordinator at Partnership for Children of Wayne County, has some dance experience, but "never ballroom," she said.

But she is looking forward to showing off her mambo moves with partner Bubba Williams -- the duo will perform to Dean Martin's "Mambo Italiano," the song "you always hear in the Olive Garden commercials," she said.

"It's going really good," she said. "We just learned (the) entire routine, so that's really exciting."

The two practice about four times a week, she said, and overall, the experience of working with the instructors -- and participating in a bit of friendly rivalry among the contestants -- has been fun.

But what she's most looking forward to is the possibility of having her husband of five years, John, in the audience.

"(He) is deployed with the Chiefs (in Afghanistan), so I'm hoping that he will be home in time," she said.

Leonard Person has already been a competitive record-holder, climbing trees and poles for 35 years. He even set a state record, which was broken a few years ago "by a younger guy."

He also came in second place when he represented Tri-County in a womanless beauty pageant.

So he's more than willing to go the distance for a worthwhile charity, he said.

Fortunately, this time out he gets to dress in men's clothing for his swing dance routine with partner Jenny Leigh Grady.

"I'm going to be representing Elvis Presley in this dance," Person said.

On average, he has rehearsed once a week, occasionally scheduling additional sessions to ready for the competition.

"I'm about like everybody. I'm anxious. I want to practice to fine-tune it," he said. "As it gets closer, I'm going to start practicing two or three times a week.

"I'm having a blast. I have never done ballroom dancing. Since I have got in there, I'm learning other dances like the waltz and cha cha."

Stephanie Ross, vice president business development with D.S. Simmons, will be doing a swing dance with Marty Barbour.

"I'm having a ball doing it," she said. "Of course, the weeks are counting down quickly. We're trying to fine-tune our routine. We have been practicing about three nights a week."

She admits she was a novice from the outset.

"I have no background whatsoever," she said. "I do like to dance, I like to listen to music but that by no means prepares you for this.

"It's been fun. I have been meeting a lot of new people that I didn't know before."