Last year, I went to this great event by myself and had a really fun time. This year, my husband Alan went too and after experiencing it — and seeing the dancers’ outfits — he’s ready to buy tickets for next year! And our neighbor, Bart, who joined us, says he’s ready to sign up for dance lessons!
And to think, it’s all for a good cause. In fact, Dancing with the Knoxville Stars raised more than $56,000 for East Tennessee Children’s Hospital this year, a record. Pretty awesome.
Here’s how it works. Seth Linkous of East Tennessee Children’s Hospital recruits some local “celebrity” dancers. Then, much like the TV show on which this competition is modeled, the celebrities are paired with professional dancers from Knoxville’s Academy Ballroom at Western Plaza who give them a series of private dance lessons. Then they compete at the Knoxville Expo Center. There are two prizes: the one for raising the most money — that went to Allison Fulmer, daughter of the former UT football coach, who raised more than $10,000. The other prize goes to the dancer deemed by a panel of judges to be the best. That went to WATE reporter Jamie Lynn Drohan, who knocked ’em dead with her racy outfit — as well as her dance moves. This marks the third year in a row that WATE has taken home the dancing trophy. Last year Tearsa Smith was the grand prize winner. Click here for a report on that! The year before, WATE anchor Lori Tucker claimed the trophy.
This is Seth Linkous. He makes this event happen for Children’s. This year, one of his brainstorms was to order what he calls “stripper shoes” from an on-line source to fill with foliage for the table centerpieces. They looked great!
First up was WBIR meteorologist Mike Witcher (a.k.a. “Waltzing Witcher!) who danced with Rhonda Becker of Academy Ballroom. His only prior dancing experience was winning a Michael Jackson dance-off in college. “If you could only have seen how bad the other guy was!” he said.
We had a great table right next to the dance floor to view all the action.
WATE had a big contingent on hand to cheer on Jamie Lynn Drohan. Among them was this fellow, producer Ben Prijatel, who gathered some attention of his own recently as one of the bachelors in a charity bachelor auction. (Click here for that story.)
Next up was John Elliott, owner of Elliott’s Boots, who danced with professional partner Lisa Turner. He once won a break dancing contest in the 9th grade.
Judge Terry Morrow of the News Sentinel, who himself was a former contestant in Dancing with the Knoxville Stars, was very impressed by Elliott’s performance. “You are so good, you should be dancing in a cage!” Morrow quipped.
Then it was time for Farmer Charlie, the character in the Tennessee Farm Bureau ads. He said his only dance experience was his prom in 1982!
“Don’t cut that one! It’s the aorta!” he said into his cell, staying in character from the TV spots where he offers common sense advice to all sorts of people.
News Sentinel sports writer Michael Griffith was paired with pro Suzanne Devan. Unfortunately for him, former UT football coach Phillip Fulmer was in the audience and it was payback time for all those “grades” Griffith gave Fulmer on the News Sentinel’s post-game “report cards.”
Coach Fulmer finally got to critique Griffith. “For effort I give you a C-minus,” Fulmer laughed. “And for your moves, a D-plus! He writes better than he dances,” Fulmer added.
Allison Fulmer, the coach’s daughter, was up next. The UT grad student said her father was invited to be a participant in the contest, but she took his place because he has “terrible lineman knees.” She actually tied for first place in the first round of judging, but lost to Drohan in a tie-breaker round.
The biggest entrance of the night came from Star 102.1 personality Marc Anthony who drove a loud, smelly motorcycle onto the dance floor with his partner, Emily Loyless, on the back dressed as a “naughty bride!” Yikes!
“How did you get into my closet?” his radio cohort Kim Hansard deadpanned when Anthony took off his jacket to reveal a sparkly yellow shirt.
It was seeing Emily in this outfit that made our table-mate and upstairs neighbor, Bart Mitchell, announce: “I think I’m going to take dance lessons!”
Here are a couple more audience shots. If you haven’t been to this event yet, plan to go next year. You know you need the tax deduction!
Click here for a link to a great blog post about this event by Terry Morrow.
Click here for a video of the winning dance routine by Jamie Lynn Drohan.