04/15/12 — Dancing Stars announces final People's Choice winner

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Dancing Stars announces final People's Choice winner

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on April 15, 2012 1:50 AM

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Leonard Person, right, a crew foreman at Tri-County EMC, performs a swing dance to Elvis Presley's "Viva Las Vegas" with partner Jenny Leigh Grady during the recent "Dancing Stars of Wayne County" event, held March 24 at Family YMCA. Person was voted most improved by the instructors, but an accounting error prevented his being announced as winner of the People's Choice Award for garnering the most votes the night of the event.

Another winner has been announced for Dancing Stars of Wayne County, as donations continue to trickle in for the March 24 education fundraiser.

Dancers and instructors, as well as the cast and crew for the second annual gala event gathered recently to celebrate the evening's success.

A surprise announcement was made that one of the dancers had actually earned his place among the award recipients, for getting the most votes the night of the performance, said Dr. Debbie Grady, one of the organizers.

"There was a small accounting error and one award was overlooked and he was not recognized at the event for the award that night," she said.

The People's Choice award, for receiving the most votes during the actual event, was presented to Leonard Person, Right of Way crew foreman at Tri-County EMC. He and his partner, Jenny Leigh Grady, performed a swing danceto Elvis Presley's "Viva Las Vegas."

The People's Choice award is totally voter-driven, Debbie Grady said, with two versions given -- for online votes and solely for the night of the event. The online version had gone to Alan Lumpkin, assistant tax administrator with Wayne Tax Office.

Tri-County had been especially supportive, she said, first as an event sponsor both years and then for Person by casting more than 500 votes for him that evening.

"We also got a contribution from the head guy personally, so I think it was about $5,500 altogether from Tri-County," added Dr. Ed Wilson, chairman of Wayne Education Network.

Person also received the most improved dancer trophy at the event, an award voted on by the instructors.

"I want to continue to learn to dance and compete in next year's event as a Top Hat Studio dancer paired with a new star," he said. "It was such fun and such a worthy cause."

Wilson credited Person with going above and beyond, helping to make the event, held this year at the Family Y, more festive as the gymnasium was transformed into a ballroom.

"In addition to raising the most money that night, that guy (Person) spent a lot of hours on that cherry picker," Wilson said. "He was in that cherry picker hanging stuff from the top of the gym down to the floor."

Twenty-three participants performed in this year's event.

Dr. Sandra McCullen, associate superintendent for curriculum and instruction with Wayne County Public Schools, was named grand winner.

Dr. Charles Zwerling, founder and chairman of the board of the Heritage Foundation and co-producer of the event with his wife, Melissa Zwerling, hosted the cast wrap party at their downtown business, Top Hat Dance Studio.

Scholarships were also handed out to students who participated on the program, either as a dancer or singer. These included Jenny Leigh Grady; Allen Grimes; Mackenzie Malham, the reigning Miss Goldsboro Outstanding Teen; the reigning Miss Goldsboro, Blair Mozingo; and the current Miss North Carolina, Hailey Best.

Funds raised from the event will benefit various education projects throughout the year, including teacher scholarships and classroom grants, the Junior Leadership program and seventh-grade career fair.

Wilson said they will probably have a better idea of the exact amount cleared from the event in a few weeks.

"We know about what our estimated gross is, about $112,000," he said. "That is about $20,000 up from last year.

"I think we still have as far as our expenses -- our expenses are up -- I don't know how we're going to end up exactly but obviously that is from advertising, ticket sales and votes."

No matter the final tally, though, Wilson said it was an "incredible event."

"We had great dancers and all that," he said. "We're going to do a complete analysis and obviously look at all venues and see what we'll do in the future. But the Family Y was wonderful and we had a lot of volunteer help."

Mrs. Grady also praised area businesses and sponsors who backed the effort.

"This event would not be so successful without the support of the business sponsors and the dedication of the stars and Top Hat dancers and instructors," she said. "It takes a great deal of time and effort on the part of all the stars, dancers and instructors, as well as volunteers to make such a production run smoothly."