Dancing set for library fundraiser in Atascadero

Tribune photo by David Middlecamp

Jim Lewis has learned more dance moves this year than he can remember.

“I’ve never danced,” the Atascadero assistant city manager said. “I’m Mr. Left Foot. The last time was probably swaying in a circle at the prom.”

That’s all different now. He’s spent months practicing to perform the swing-inspired Lindy Hop with his wife for the Atascadero-Martin Polin Regional Library sold-out fundraiser at Pavilion on the Lake on Saturday night.

Lewis is one of 10 North County community leaders who will perform a variety of choreographed dances in costume with their partners in an event inspired by the television show “Dancing with the Stars.”

The performers have already begun collecting votes, which turn into donations for the Atascadero library’s effort to raise its $3 million share for a long-desired expansion.

How much money each collects will remain secret until Saturday, organizers said.

The Friends of the Atascadero Library’s $6 million expansion project would double the library’s size, boost space for public meetings, youth programs and a computer lab, and add several parking spaces.

City and county officials are looking into moving the library from its current home on Morro Road to downtown. They’re looking at a 20,000-square-foot office building on Capistrano Avenue that’s been empty for two years.

The Friends of the Atascadero Library has been fundraising since 1988. City contributions have built to an additional $200,000 over the years, which takes the group to about $1,070,000 in its $3 million goal, Friends President Grenda Ernst said.

County supervisors have committed an additional $3 million in matching funds, Ernst said, and plan to evaluate the Friends’ fundraising progress in summer 2011.

Dancing for a cause

The dancing pair that raises the most money will win the competition, and yet camaraderie has prevailed over the weeks, Lewis said.

“I have buckets all around the community and so do others, and we put our buckets next to each other sometimes,” Lewis said. “It’s been fun and a very playful competitive spirit.”

He’s also been excited to learn more about the talents of his wife, a theater performer.

Still, participants agree the library is the real winner in the end.

Joanne Main, participant and chief executive officer of the Atascadero Chamber of Commerce, raised her children in the area and says the library is a staple for locals.

The experience has also impacted her personally, she said, by exposing her to something so different — the Rumba.

“This is way outside my box, actually,” she said with a laugh. Her partner is Miguel Figueroa of Paso Robles. He and other partners volunteered to share their dance skills.

County Supervisor Jim Patterson was recruited to tap dance, something he hadn’t done in 50 years. He plans to use the Randy Newman “You’ve Got a Friend in Me” song from the film “Toy Story.” He did tap for a brief period in his youth, he said.

“It’s not like riding a bicycle,” he said. “But it’s all in good fun.”