A packed house at the newly-renovated Alhambra Theatre Saturday witnessed a record-breaking night as the 2019 Dancing With Our Stars raised $70,000 for two local nonprofit agencies.
Previous amounts raised through the fundraiser were $65,000 in 2016 and $57,000 in 2017. All proceeds directly benefit the Pennyroyal Arts Council and Sanctuary Inc., which provides services to victims of sexual assault and domestic violence.
"It is just amazing. We're thrilled," said Margaret Prim, Arts Council executive director. "We really felt like at the beginning of the night our celebrities had done such a great job competing beforehand online getting people to vote for them."
Money was raised throughout the summer as community members, families and friends cast their "vote" for their favorite Dancing With Our Stars team leading up to and during the sold-out event. Each dollar donated counted as a vote.
Before the dancing started, Master of Ceremonies Russ Guffey told the crowd $19,000 had been raised online through Crowdrise donations. Adding to the online amount, the audience votes during the competition Saturday night raised a total of $69,589.63.
"Our lead sponsor Frank Giles (Hughart, Beard and Giles Funeral Home) wrote a check on the spot for $500 to get us over the $70,000 mark," Prim said. "It was a very magical, magical moment for both the Arts Council and Sanctuary."
Dancing With Our Stars returned after a two-year hiatus to kick off the 2019-20 Live at the Alhambra Series.
Eight couples were paired with dance experts from Brooke Bailey Dance Addiction + Gymnastics, Bluegrass Dancecats and Bluegrass Cheercats who served as mentors and coaches. The experts, Brooke Bailey Abner, Jaime Henderson, Ali Lancaster, Jordan Bishop and Erin Namie, worked with the couples throughout the summer to prepare for the competition. Couples also practiced for many hours at home.
The practice time paid off for Traci Mason and Greg Perry, who were crowned the 2019 People's Choice winners and overall champions of Dancing With Our Stars after raising the most money. The audience determined the People's Choice champion. Mason and Perry's overall fundraising total was $8,256.
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"We're very, very excited," Mason said of the overall win. "It's two great organizations that people really want to support and I'm not afraid to ask. So everywhere I went, I asked. I had some really big donors come out of the woodwork for us. I was so honored and thankful that they did that for us -- Greg and I -- and helped us support these organizations. The trophy is great, but I'm just so excited we raised this amount of money tonight."
Mason and Perry danced to a medley of songs from "Dirty Dancing."
"We loved the movie," Mason said. "We have had a ball. We've watched the movie three times together practicing."
DWOS judges Alissa Keller, Chris Miller and Terry Lacy gave Mason and Perry a score of 29.
"'Dirty Dancing' is one of my all-time favorite movies, so the references were on point," Miller said about their performance. "Greg, you did a good job when you came out and jumped like Patrick Swayze did. He kind of reminded me a little of Swayze … I saw a lot of the moves of the movie in your routine, which was very cool."
Abner, the professional choreographer for the People's Choice champion, also received an award.
"I just made up the choreography, so they really did all the work at the end of the day," she said. "I'm super proud of all of our teams."
The Online Fan Favorite celebrity couple was Holly and Keith Hampton. The award was presented to the team that received the most votes (dollars donated) on Crowdrise. The Hamptons raised $5,010.
"Thank you, thank you, thank you," Holly said to those who donated. "It's over, so we're done bugging you, but we appreciate every single dollar. Some people gave $5; some people gave $250 and everything in between. We are grateful … your money is going to a great cause. We had people from all over the country giving to Hopkinsville, Kentucky."
The Judges' Choice Award was presented to the team who scored the highest with the judges. Four couples received the top score of 30 during the competition.
"We had some ties, so we had to actually go into some super-secret, backstage tie-breaker process. Really, really in-depth," Guffey told the audience.
The tie-breaker winners were Melanie and Cody Noffsinger, who performed a freestyle, Latin-themed dance during the competition.
"We just wanted to have a lot of energy, keep moving and get the crowd into it," Cody said.
"Everyone was so good. We knew they would have such a hard time picking because everyone stepped outside the box, stepped outside their comfort zone and just killed it," Melanie said. "We're just honored."
Judges' comments on the Noffsingers' performance ranged from "sexy" to "adorable."
"Too much of a good thing can be wonderful," Lacy said. "You whisked the audience away in a whirlwind of swoon-worthy romance."
Other competing couples were Greta and Jim Drury, Renikka and William Owen, Lindsey and Jeff Geraci, Sallie and Doug Colburn, Matt Robinson and Stacy Travis. Matt's wife Noell broke her heel Aug. 20, so Travis filled in.
Prim said the Arts Council's $35,000 from this year's Dancing With Our Stars will help to renovate office spaces at the Alhambra as well as provide programming for the community.
Heather Lancaster, executive director at Sanctuary Inc., said the fundraiser proceeds will fill in any funding gaps for basic necessities like toiletries and bedding for clients, as well as utilities for the facility.
"A lot of people who contributed to Dancing With Our Stars may be locals who know about Sanctuary and are really proud of the work this agency does to help those who are in need," she said. "I think that's really telling of the support we received last weekend … I think it's because they do understand the impact that we have in helping individuals during their time of need."
Prim said Dancing With Our Stars will return next summer. She said to expect an announcement within the next month.
"Stay tuned," she said.
Reach Michele Vowell at 270-887-3242 at firstname.lastname@example.org.
2016 --- $13,000 raised online; $65,000 total
2017 --- $6.000 raised online; $57,000 total
2019 --- $19,000 raised online; $70,000 total