A mirror ball trophy, a crowd of almost 500 people and $11,000 raised for local charities came together for the fifth annual Dancing with the Hermiston Stars on Saturday night, and at the end of the evening, it was Oregon State Rep. Greg Smith that got the most votes.
Smith says he didn’t expect to win but that it was “an absolute blast.”
“I had no idea I even could win. I have two left feet,” he said with a laugh afterwords. “Congratulations to our Arts Council for all their hard work and congratulations to the charities, who are the real winners tonight.”
A production of the Desert Arts Council, Dancing with the Stars brings six local celebrities – for 2017, Greg Smith, LuAnn Davison, Spike Piersol, Eva Swain, Bill Elfering and Clara Beas-Fitzgerald – together to dance with professionals from the Utah Ballroom Dance Troupe. The stars practice for a week with the professionals then perform the dances to try and earn audience votes and money for charity. Every dollar donated to the charity counted as a vote for the star, and the winner is decided based on a combination of votes from the audience, donation amounts – and scores from the judges.
“I had fun,” Judge Phil Hamm said during the intermission of the program. “I still can’t believe they asked me back.”
The judges for 2017 were Hamm, Hermiston Police Officer and former contestant Erica Sandoval and the winner of the first season, TJ Hansell. The judges made it a tight race for the contestants with four of the six scoring within two points of each other.
Smith and his professional partner, Trina Morago, danced the paso doble to the Kongos’ “Come with Me Now,” earning an enthusiastic response from the judges, especially Hansell, who also danced a paso doble when he competed.
“I’ve got to say that was phenomenal,” Hansell told Smith during the judging. “You did a really good job for that – and for that, I am giving you a 10.”
Despite his win, Smith said his first response when asked if he would participate was shock.
“My first reaction when I was asked to dance with the Hermiston stars was, ‘Oh, my goodness. You have got to be kidding,’ ” he said.
Smith, known for his support of Hermiston wrestling, says it’s no question which is harder.
“There’s no comparison. Wrestling is so much easier than dancing,” he said on stage, earning a laugh from the audience. “This has been hard.”
The audience at Hermiston High School’s fine arts auditorium was almost full. Larry Fetter, who helped organize the event as a board member for Desert Arts Council, said the crowd was “excellent” considering the weather conditions and it almost sold out – at a capacity of 500 people.
“It’s a big crowd,” Fetter said. “Every charity is a winner because all the money collected goes toward there – it’s not a winner-take-all situation. People rally come out for this. They want to support their charities. Hermiston has always been good for that.”
Desert Arts Council President Mary Corp said the event raised more than $11,000 this year, making it the second-highest of the five seasons.
“It was awesome. We had a great evening,” Corp said. “I was so pleased to see so many people brave the roads and come on out. It really shows the enthusiasm the people of Hermiston have. It really turned out awesome.”