‘Stars’ take to the dance floor

Published 11:58 am Tuesday, February 10, 2009

JACKSON — While it was just one couple that was recognized here as the dancing champions, it can be said that the children of Northampton County were the true winners of the night.

A large crowd gathered at the Cultural and Wellness Center on Saturday night to witness some of the county’s “famous” faces vying at a chance of winning the inaugural “Dancing with the Stars” hosted by the Northampton County Education Foundation.

The event raked in $3,600 for the Education Foundation, which supports Northampton County Schools’ projects like the Teacher of the Year competition, 4-H projects, the Northampton East Automotive Team and Teacher Mini-Grants.

“It goes to prove if it’s a good cause and for our children people will show up,” said Foundation Vice Chairman Dr. Al Wenzy to the crowd.

Of the well recognized faces in the dancing line up was Senator Ed Jones with dance partner Robin Phillips of Roanoke Electric Cooperative; Northampton County Clerk of Court Michelle Spruill and Antoine Smith; and Chief Court Counselor Clarence High with his niece, Nicole Boone.

Other dancing couples included Central Elementary School’s Wayne Welch and his wife, Dawn; Northampton County High School-West’s Bettie Ballard and Monte Freeman; retired auto technology teacher Joe Barrett and his wife, Ellen, who works at Georgia Pacific; Willis Hare Elementary School’s Catina Jackson-Hoggard and Floyd Grant; Garysburg Elementary School’s Melvetta Taylor and retired teacher James Bracy; and Julius Webb with the Upward Bound Program and Halifax County School’s teacher Halona Richardson.

The final couple who took the dance floor was Northampton County High School-East’s Coletta Edwards and H.D. Pope, who ultimately won the contest.

All 10 dancing pairs had three minutes to boogie to the song of their choice, which ranged from beach music to R&B to 1970s funk.

Before the winners were announced, Senator Jones told the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald he put on his dancing shoes to help out the school system and interact with the public.

“I hope we have started something here to help out,” he said.

Jones gave credit to his dancing partner for arranging their dance music (a montage of classic hits) and filling in for his wife, who had a prior engagement.

Jones’ partner, Phillips, said they were both there to have fun.

“I had the best partner in the world,” she said.

During intermission, Chowan University dance instructor Peggy Clark and her student, Ronnie Baker, provided entertainment. A former Ballroom dance competitor, Clark gave tips to the pairs during practice held a few days before the big event.

Each couple was voted on by the audience through donating “dollar” votes that alone brought in $2,911. During intermission those votes were calculated, determining the winners.

The couple that came out on top was Edwards and Pope, owner of H.D. Pope Funeral Home in Roanoke Rapids and Rocky Mount. The dancing pair collected $800 in votes for showing off their moves.

“I guess people thought we were very entertaining,” said Edwards after she and Pope were announced as the winners.

Edwards said she was pleased with the total amount raised and shows that “people’s hearts are in the right place.”

Pope noted how educators are involved with numerous parts in a person’s life.

“I really feel that educators are so very underpaid when what they give back is for a lifetime,” he said.

Spruill and her dancing partner, Smith, came in second, raising $500 with their performance.

The event received rave reviews from those who attended.

Board of Education member Lafayette “Lott” Majette secured a second row seat to watch the dancing.

“I think the whole thing is very nice, very entertaining and the funding is very needed,” he said.

Shelby Britton and Lily Ray said they traveled from Conway to see Joe and Ellen Barrett show off their dance steps.

“We enjoyed it,” said Britton about the dancing competition. “This is our first trip to the building (the Cultural and Wellness Center).”

Deborah Carroll of Rocky Mount came to watch the event in support of a few people she knew in the competition, including her sister, second place winner Michelle Spruill.

“I’m so elated to see folks out there that I never knew could dance like this,” she said. “It’s just good to see them out here, enjoying themselves and raising money.”

Schools Superintendent Dr. Eric Bracy also took in the competition calling it “a great event for a great cause.”

“They’re all winners tonight,” he said about the contestants. “Dancing with the Stars” was such a success, the Education Foundation announced the competition will be returning next year on the weekend before Valentine’s Day.