Do you remember those old Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland movies? The ones where the teens want to do something for a good cause but they don’t have any money? That’s about the time someone says, “I know, let’s put on a show.” The next thing you know there are singers and dancers, elaborate sets and even a big band.
That’s how I see Atascadero’s Dancing With Our Stars.
Friends of the Atascadero Library were faced with raising a couple million bucks to match county funds to build a modern library on what turned out to be the perfect site close to City Hall. The local version of the popular TV show was the brainchild of Eileen O’Grady, who was on the board of the library support group. She got the idea after hearing how successful it was in Kansas City.
Friends of the Library found eight to 12 community members and paired them up with professional choreographers. The first show in 2010 raised $25,000. Former Assistant City Manager Jim Lewis and his wife, Debi, were dance champions of that inaugural event.
In the second year, the event raised $50,000, with fire Capt. Bill White and Sharon Davis the winners.
The shows, always in March, sell out far in advance of the performance. Several times, I’ve found myself standing in front of the library early in the morning on the day tickets go on sale to make sure I had a seat. As someone who has reported on Atascadero for the past 40 years, I know of no other local event that sells out merely hours after the tickets go on sale.
Even expanding the event to two performances, the shows have sold out. Last year, the first person in line got there at 5:45 a.m.
The gross on subsequent shows has been close to $100,000 each of the last several years. Expenses are typically about 25 percent.
In 2012, Jeannie Malik took over the reins, and in 2013, she invited local dancer, choreographer and director Frank Sanchez to be the show’s artistic director.
“His professional direction and dedication has brought this event to a whole new level,” Malik told me recently.
After raising more than $2 million, the library was eventually completed and is in heavy use today. The winning dancer was always the one who raised the most money, all of which went to Friends of the Library.
But this year, they are doing something new for the 2017 shows. Friends of the Library is letting six nonprofit groups participate. Each group, however, keeps the money it raises in support of its dancer. Friends of the Library will keep money from the silent auction and corporate donors.
It is obviously an event that just keeps on giving.
The 2017 show will offer three performances, staged March 23, 24 and 25. Under the direction of Sanchez, the event (already in rehearsal) is called “Show Stoppers.”
Tickets go on sale online Jan. 16. For more information, visit www.atascaderodwos.org.
Lon Allan’s column is special to The Tribune. He has lived in Atascadero for nearly five decades and his column appears here every week. Reach Allan at 805-466-8529 or firstname.lastname@example.org.