Dancing with the Lexington Stars
During the 1998-99 Rotary year one of the largest undertakings was the introduction of the “Romance and Dance” event. The club had sponsored an annual social picnic for many years but Tom Ashford and his committee of fellow Lexington Rotarians thought they could take the club to a higher level. Long before the year began, Tom had a dream of a social event to include Rotarians and their spouse or partner that would increase the goodwill and fellowship in the club. The thought was that the event would not only be a good time for all, it would also serve as a fundraiser to help our club support local charitable endeavors. Connie Joiner chaired the committee and we decided to have a formal attire dinner dance at the Griffin Gate Marriott Resort on Valentine’s Day in 1999. The night of the dance all the ladies received a red rose and box of chocolates. Jack Pattie, host of the WVLK Morning Show, served as Honorary Host and Master of Ceremonies. Our own Lee Hall was the auctioneer. Several Rotarians and local businesses donated items for the silent and live auction which generated about $12,000 after expenses. The evening ended with a big band playing tunes from the 40’s thru the 70’s. A good time was had by all and the Rotary Annual Fundraiser was born.
The club continued with the theme of Romance & Dance for several years and generated more income from the event for our projects each year. Eventually, the name was changed to Spring Fling. It was during this time the net proceeds were split between our projects and an outside agency with monetary needs. UK Children’s hospital was the first partner under the new format. The Rotary Club of Lexington provided much of the funding to renovate and upgrade the Pediatric Oncology Reception area. The one time dream had become a very successful reality and was having a significant positive impact in our community.
Several new Rotarians joined the Annual Fundraiser Committee in ensuing years and brought with them a renewed energy to build on the hard work and success of their predecessors. With the intent to “shake things up” yet return to the heart of the event, pun intended, the annual fundraiser came to be known as the “Sweetheart Soiree” in 2008. The fundraising success of the event took another upward turn and the panache of the name inspired a lot of ideas. The Board of the club at the time had embarked on an introspective strategic planning process and encouraged the committees to think outside of the old Rotary box. At a brainstorming session after the third “Sweetheart Soiree”, Committee member Michele Ripley fondly recalled an event she had recently attended modeled after the popular ABC TV show, “Dancing with the Stars”. Amongst the many great ideas bandied about, “Dancing with the Lexington Stars” rose to the top.
Gerald Marvel, the committee co-chair at the time along with Amanda Huddleston, asked for a meeting with Hunter Lisle, the owner of the local Arthur Murray Dance Studio, to share the idea. To have a dance contest, we needed to partner with professional dance instructors. After less than 10 minutes, Hunter was gladly on board and fully enthused. Gerald brought the exciting news back to the committee and the search was on for local celebrities and community leaders to participate in “the show”.
With the gracious and well-known Lexingtonians including Sheila Bayes, Sam and Noelle Dick, Lee and Elizabeth Cruze, Jack “Goose” Givens, and Everett and Alicia McCorvey, Mary Lynne Capilouto, Crinda Francke, Andy Shea, and many more filling up the dance competition and the primary beneficiary being Surgery on Sunday (SOS), founded by fellow Rotarian Dr. Andy Moore, the inaugural 2011 edition of Dancing with the Lexington Stars was a smashing success! The instant popularity of the event, the significant contributions of many members of the committee including Meg Jewett and Larry Chiles, and the wonderful work of SOS has made building on the success of previous editions easier year after year. So many people in our club and our community have contributed to this event that we simply can’t list them all within the bounds of this post. Our many current and past sponsors do deserve to be recognized and include James Motor Company, our Presenting Sponsor in 2014 and 2015, The Lexington Surgery Center, UK Healthcare, St. Joseph’s Healthcare/KentuckyOne Health, Alliance Home Medical, Fayette Heating and Air, Baptist Health, Congleton Hacker Lumber, Sturgill Turner Barker and Maloney, PLLC, CarpetOne, Central Bank, Tops Marketing Group, WTVQ ABC 36, BigEcho Creative, and more.
With this fun filled production, our club has successfully expanded the scope of the event well beyond just Rotarians and engaged our entire community. Dancing with the Lexington Stars celebrated its seventh year in 2017 and has become one of the top Lexington social events. With over $600,000 raised in just 7 years, we are already excitedly planning for an eigth edition.
Since its inception, the Rotary Annual Dance/Fundraiser could be described as: Fun with a Purpose. It started as a way to enjoy an evening with our members, along with their significant others, and raise monies for some amazing local organizations. However, The Lexington Rotary Club has definitely surpassed simply having fun for a purpose. We are having A LOT of FUN with A LOT of PURPOSE. Our “annual dance” has become more than just a dance. It has become an experience for all concerned!