Dancing with the Local Stars wows sold-out crowds with performances that raise money for local food pantries & programs

Team The Dancing Queens performs during Dancing with the Local Stars’ opening night on Thursday. Photo by Anna Gustafson

Muskegon’s stars are shining brightly this week.

The Muskegon Women’s Division Chamber of Commerce’s 12th annual Dancing with the Local Stars kicked off at the Delta Hotels by Marriott in downtown Muskegon on Thursday, Feb. 27, and this year’s sold-out performances feature the event’s largest-ever cast of professional dancers and “community stars”—all of whom are battling hunger in our community.

Each year, the three-day competition—a whirlwind of professional-level dancing, intricate costumes, music, and food—raises money for food pantries and food programs throughout Muskegon, lower Oceana, and upper Ottawa counties. Since it began 12 years ago, Dancing with the Local Stars has raised a little more than $1 million to battle food insecurity.  Last year, the dance extravaganza generated $135,101 in donations, which marked the event raising a total of $1,058,000 since its inception.

“People tend to give through the holidays, but they forget after that there’s still a need and a lot of the food pantries are empty,” said Marilyn Forton, the president of the Muskegon Women’s Division Chamber of Commerce and one of the co-chairs of the Dancing with the Local Stars committee. “This event puts so much back into the community. It allows the pantries to stock their shelves. There’s such a need, and there’s so much hunger.”

Team Steppin’ Feather Rockers performs Thursday night. Photo by Anna Gustafson

About 25,190 people are food insecure in Muskegon, according to Feeding America, a national hunger relief organization. That means close to 15 percent of the county is grappling with hunger.

“This is an opportunity to refill the pantries at a time when the rest of the community may not be thinking about that need,” said Erin Kuhn, the executive director of the West Michigan Shoreline Regional Development Commission and a community star who performed with her husband, Chris Kuhn, in this year’s dancing extravaganza.

Both Erin and Chris Kuhn said Dancing with the Local Stars has been an experience they won’t forget.

“It’s been absolutely amazing to dance as husband and wife,” Erin Kuhn said. “It’s something we’ll always remember.”

Team Steppin’ Feather Rockers performs. Photo by Anna Gustafson

About 400 people are expected to pack each of this year’s four performances, which will wrap up Saturday, Feb. 29 and sold out in a matter of minutes when tickets went on sale earlier this year. Featuring 42 community stars and 11 professional dancers, the participants are a diverse group of individuals from throughout the area, including teachers, business owners, doctors, and nonprofit leaders, among many others.

Following this year’s theme of “Movie Night,” dancers spun around the dance floor to cinematic tunes and in Hollywood-worthy costumes—everything from “Mary Poppins” attire to Marvel superhero clothing.

“This is our 12th year, and we’re still going strong,” Dancing with the Local Stars Co-Chairwoman Mary Kendall Kendall, who spearheaded the first Dancing with the Local Stars and has helped to oversee it ever since, said in a previous interview. “I’m feeling really proud of what this has brought to Muskegon.”

Team Sisters Johnson 2020 performs Thursday evening. Photo by Anna Gustafson

“People will ask me, ‘Are you ever going to run out of stars?’” Kendall continued. “And I say, ‘Heck no. This community is filled with stars. We have teachers and lawyers and heads of nonprofits and business owners. These are all stars.’”

This year’s community stars are: 

  • Trisha Allen, Pharmacist at Mercy Health Pharmacy
  • Dr. Tabatha Barber, DO, FACOOG, NCMP, Functional Medicine for Women at PrivaMD Physicians 
  • Kim Bassett, Lead Meeting Planner at Amway Corporation
  • Christy Belanger, Fifth Grade Teacher at Ross Park Elementary School
  • Erin Blais, Owner & Operator of Lakeshore Academy of the Arts/Blais Dance Academy
  • Lisa Bluhm, Women’s Christian Health & Life Breakthrough Coach & Fitness Instructor
  • Jill Bonthuis, Executive Director of Pioneer Resources
  • Billie Carey, Registered Nurse at Mercy Health and Zumba Fitness Instructor
  • Clarence Colegrove, Owner of TrenSyd Realty
  • Lindsey Cousineau, Regional Director at CarNow
  • Kristi Eigenauer, Third Grade Teacher at Ross Park Elementary School
  • Kelly Ellis, Fifth Grade Teacher at Ross Park Elementary School
  • Kari Fuller, Director of the Coopersville Area Community Foundation
  • Matt Gongalski, Co-Owner of Rad Dads’ Taco & Tequila Bar
  • Kim Gaver, Young Fives Teacher at Ross Park Elementary School
  • Staci Geiger, Financial Advisor at Raymond James & Associates, Downtown Muskegon
  • Meghan Heritage, Owner of BlueWest Properties
  • Nicole Jimenez-Smith, Cardo Vascular Technician, Mercy Health; Fire Fighter, Muskegon Charter Township
  • Nate Johnson, Reentry & Outreach Director for Fresh Coast Alliance
  • Addy Kinziger, Registered Dietitian; Pastry Chef; College Instructor; Owner, NOVA Super.Natural.Bakery.LLCPastry
  • Erin Kuhn, Executive Director of West Michigan Shoreline Regional Development Commission
  • Tom Langton, PA, Physician’s Assistant at Spectrum Health Geriatrics in Byron Center
  • Dave Lehner, Branch Co-Manager & Loan Officer at Michigan Mortgage
  • Courtney Leibrandt, Owner of Vintage Redefined
  • Angie Linderman, Registered Nurse & Case Manager at Review Works
  • Kendra Martin-Terrell, Agent, Durga Insurance Group, Farm Bureau Insurance
  • Brian McKeown, Owner & Operator of The UPS Store
  • Jill McMahon, Fourth Grade Teacher at Ross Park Elementary School
  • Jim Mines, Owner and Agent at Anchor Group Insurance
  • Heidi Naperala, Founder & CEO of PrivaMD
  • Ogema Larry Romanelli, Ogema of the Little River Band of Ottawa Indians
  • Jonathan Seyferth, Coopersville City Manager
  • Dawn Shank, Medical Social Work at Hospice of Michigan
  • Nancy Susterich, Second Grade Teacher from Ross Park Elementary
  • Melanie Swiftney, Director of Marketing & Communications for the Grand Haven Area Community Foundation & Author
  • Tammy Sylvester, Fifth Grade Teacher from Ross Park Elementary
  • Dr. Andrew Szatkowski, DC, Chiropractor at Fruitport Chiropractic
  • Bob Szymoniak, Superintendent of Fruitport Community Schools
  • Mark Taylor, President of Taylor Office Furniture
  • Lisa Tyler, Communications Director at Senior Resources
  • Mickey Wallace, Executive Director of Kemetic Kings Mentoring
  • Patti Winsemius, Dance Instructor at Cassell Training Center
  • Sue Young, Retired Third Grade Teacher/Substitute at Ross Park Elementary
Team Sweet but Psycho performs Thursday night. Photo by Anna Gustafson

This year’s dance professionals are:

  • Matt Bradfield, Senior Test Engineer at Hilite International, 1-year participant
  • Francine Calandro, Fitness Specialist & Personal Trainer at AgeWell Services at Tanglewood Park, 12-year participant
  • Lisa Jirikovic, Physical Therapist, 12-year participant
  • Patrick Johnson, PT Arts, LLC Consulting Co-Owner & West Michigan Flight Academy President & CEO & Retired Dance Faculty Instructor Grand Rapids Community College, 12-year participant
  • Chris Kuhn, Co-Owner & President of Seal-Tec, 2-year participant
  • Scott Mehlberg, Applications Engineer at Burke E. Porter Machine Company, 1-year participant
  • Sandy Nolan, Owner & Independent Contractor of Sandy Nolan Kitchen & Bath Design, 2-year participant
  • Hon. Brenda E. Sprader, Muskegon County Probate Judge & Professional Dancer & Instructor, 12-year participant
  • Carly Switzer, Diagnostic Medical Sonographer at Spectrum Health Butterworth & Blodgett Hospitals, 7-year participant
  • Mary Switzer, THE GYM Owner & Trainer, 11-year participant
  • Andrea VanBeek, RN Case Manager/Preceptor at Mary Free Bed at Home, 5-year participant

See more photos from Thursday’s opening night below:

Team Dancing Queens at Thursday’s opening night performance. Photo by Anna Gustafson
Team The Trolls performs. Photo by Anna Gustafson
Team Big Top Babes performs. Photo by Anna Gustafson
Team Big Top Babes. Photo by Anna Gustafson
Emcees Tim Lipan and Stacy Shepherd take a selfie with Thursday night’s crowd. Photo by Anna Gustafson
Comedian Ricarlo Winston performs during a break from the dancing Thursday night. Photo by Anna Gustafson
The Lost Boyz of Area Fifty Fun perform Thursday night. Photo by Anna Gustafson
Erin Kuhn and Chris Kuhn perform in the opening number. Photo by Anna Gustafson
Team Great Matsby and the 20’s Dolls during Thursday night’s festivities. Photo by Anna Gustafson
Dancers perform during “The Greatest Showman,” the opening number. Photo by Anna Gustafson
Team Plead the Fifth performs. Photo by Anna Gustafson
Dancers perform to “The Greatest Showman,” which was the opening number. Photo by Anna Gustafson
Erin Kuhn performs as part of Team On The Edge. Photo by Anna Gustafson
Team Marvel Heroes performs. Photo by Anna Gustafson
Team Steppin’ Feather Rockers. Photo by Anna Gustafson
Team Sexy Fran performs. Photo by Anna Gustafson
Team Sweet But Psycho. Photo by Anna Gustafson

Dancers perform during the opening number. Photo by Anna Gustafson

Dancers during the opening number. Photo by Anna Gustafson
Dancers perform during the opening number. Photo by Anna Gustafson
Dancers laugh with one another during opening night. Photo by Anna Gustafson
Team Great Matsby and the 20’s Dolls. Photo by Anna Gustafson
Team Plead the Fifth performs. Photo by Anna Gustafson
Dancers during the opening number. Photo by Anna Gustafson
The Lords of Shores perform during a break from the dancing. Photo by Anna Gustafson
Dancers during the opening number. Photo by Anna Gustafson
Team Sisters Johnson 2020 performs. Photo by Anna Gustafson
Women’s Division Chamber of Commerce President Marilyn Forton at Thursday night’s opening. Photo by Anna Gustafson
Team Sisters Johnson 2020. Photo by Anna Gustafson
Team Marvel Heroes performs. Photo by Anna Gustafson
Team On The Edge. Photo by Anna Gustafson
Team Dancing Queens. Photo by Anna Gustafson
Team Sweet But Psycho wins Critic’s Choice for couple Thursday evening. Photo by Anna Gustafson
Team Sisters Johnson 2020. Photo by Anna Gustafson
Dancers during the opening number. Photo by Anna Gustafson
Team Plead the Fifth wins the Best In Show award Thursday evening. Photo by Anna Gustafson
Team Sexy Fran wins the People’s Choice award Thursday evening. Photo by Anna Gustafson
Chris Kuhn performs during the opening number. Photo by Anna Gustafson
The Lords of Shores perform. Photo by Anna Gustafson
Dancers during opening night. Photo by Anna Gustafson
Team Plead the Fifth. Photo by Anna Gustafson
The Big Top Babes perform. Photo by Anna Gustafson
The Big Top Babes. Photo by Anna Gustafson
Team Marvel Superheroes. Photo by Anna Gustafson
The Big Top Babes perform. Photo by Anna Gustafson
Team Steppin’ Feather Rockers. Photo by Anna Gustafson

Story and photos by Anna Gustafson, the publisher and editor of Muskegon Times. You can connect with her by emailing muskegontimes@gmail.com or on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.

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