The fateful call came in the fall of 2018 when I was visiting my mom in Orlando. The caller ID indicated it was from a friend in Michigan It was Andrea with an audacious ask: Would I would be willing to partner with her in the upcoming Muskegon Dancing with the Local Stars fundraiser? I was familiar with DWTLS, since I had gone the year before to watch my friend Marty and about 50 people from Muskegon raise over $100,000 for food pantries by joyfully and embarrassingly dancing in front of a large crowd in a hotel ballroom downtown.
Here’s what went through my head: “I don’t really dance. I just turned 50. A lot of people will be watching. Gulp.” But I also conjured cheerful memories of my dad, at weddings or formal events, squiring my mom out on the dance floor and moving gracefully to the music. My dad had died a few years before and, now sitting in my mom’s condo, I couldn’t help but say, “Of course!”
This meant hours and hours of rehearsal for me. In keeping with an homage to my dad, we chose four iconic dance scenes from films – “West Side Story” (my parents’ first date), “Singing in the Rain,” “Scent of a Woman” and “The Full Monty.” Fortunately for me, Andrea is an excellent dancer and a patient teacher. We even enlisted dancing instructors from Grand Rapids to help us with the Tango for the “Scent of a Woman” number. As the February performance date approached, the practice tempo increased, and I grew more and more nervous.
In the weeks prior to the performance, we were introduced to all of the dancing teams. What a cast of characters! We practiced the large ensemble dance number together and laughed at our mutual ineptitude and clumsy left feet. Over the next week, we danced together, cheered for each other, picked each other up when we fell and entertained an audience of over 1,000 while raising over $100,000 to feed Muskegon. I can still hear my friend Brian yelling during my final faux striptease to “You Can Leave Your Hat On.” He screamed, “Take it off, Bobby!” It was a bit of magic.
The next year, a group of the goofiest alumni from the DWTLS 2019 class reunited under the “supervision” of Mary Switzer. We dressed up in green Alien costumes, dubbed ourselves “The Lost Boys of Area Fifty Fun,” and provided half-time entertainment during the intermissions of DWTLS 2020. Like many things, DWTLS for 2021 was staged online because of COVID. The “Boys” got together again and made a video in support of the event, but it felt a little hollow, to be honest.
Happily, Dancing With the Local Stars is back for 2022, and is moving to the new, larger venue of the Muskegon Convention Center. When it was announced in the fall, I was delighted to offer the support of Embark Financial Partners as the title sponsor for the event. DWTLS, put on annually by The Women’s Division of the Chamber of Commerce, not only is a great fundraiser, it is a time for the community to gather together in the midst of Michigan’s bleak winter and to celebrate. There are rumors that “The Lost Boys of Area Fifty Fun” might be dusting off their dancing shoes and looking for mischief to manage. If you are in the area, we hope you can attend. We will be sure to post any “Boys” sightings and let you know how much the event raised to fight hunger in Muskegon.
Bob “Bobby” Garretson
Check out the Dancing with the Local Stars website here: https://womensdivision.org/dancing-with-the-local-stars
More updates available on their Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/mkgwdcc