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Vienese waltz performance of the Lathrop High School Ballroom Dance Team at the 40 Below Ball in Fairbanks, Alaska

You all know Dancing with the Stars. It’s a great concept to adopt as a fundraiser for a high school ballroom dance team when the audience can buy votes. This post tells a real Alaska story about such an event at the Tanana Valley Fair.


  1. Dancing with the Stars at the Tanana Valley Fair
  2. The Jury
  3. The Alaskans
  4. The Alaska Stage
  5. Highlights of the Afternoon Show
  6. Back Stage Trailer Chat
  7. The Winner of the Dance Competition at the Tanana Valley Fair
  8. Acknowledgements


Dancing with the Fairbanks Stars

At the annual fair in Fairbanks, Dancing with the Fairbanks Stars is one of the cultural highlights. This venue is a fundraiser for the Lathrop High School Ballroom Dance Team. Someone had nominated me as one of the stars – as a fashion blogger – and I accepted the challenge to be on Dancing with the Fairbanks Stars. Nice ballroom gowns, which girl can resist?


winning third prize at Dancing with the Fairbanks Stars
Adman Dewey and me in our dance attire posing with the trophy at the Tanana Valley Fairground


The Stars and Professionals

Like in Dancing with the Stars a “professional”, i.e. one of the team members or alumni, dances with the stars. There were eight contestants in the competition, Blake Rosenberger, Colleen Redman, Samantha Alexander, Will Schendel, Spencer Alexander, Sheridan Heinrichs, Ryan Grimes, and me. The “professionals” were Katherine Mayo, Sam Pope, Alfredo Quiroga, Hope Hughes, Susie Spiers, Derrick Helms, Daa Lewis and Adam Dewey.

Dancing with the Fairbanks Stars twirling
Demonstrating the movement of the ballroom dance gown at the dress rehearsal on the evening before the event at Ryan Middle School

The Jury

Like on TV, there was a jury of three, Marie Roberts (US National & British Open Latin Formation Champion), Melody Harrison (Brigham Young University Ballroom Dance Company team member for two years), and Jerry Blemke (Southern California Latin Dance and hustle champion). The latter seemed to be the Leonard of the show.

Group photo of some of the members of Dancing with the Fairbanks Stars competitors when starting to practice for the event


getting the skirt airborne Dancing with the Fairbanks Stars
Back view of demonstration of the movement of the dance dress at dress rehearsal on the evening before the show



The Alaskans

Like on TV, the audience also had a vote. Since it was a fundraiser, they could buy as many votes they wanted for one dollar each.

Warmup for Dancing with the Fairbanks Stars
Warming up for the afternoon show on the fairground with the event tent in the background. Unfortunately the light conditions were too bad for photos or videos. We had planned on videotaping the dance, and left the camera at home. Big mistake!



The Alaska Stage

There was an afternoon competition and an evening competition. The stage in both cases was clean Alaska style meaning some construction lumber was nailed together to make a stage. The stage in the afternoon show was about 3 yards by 5 yards (2.74 m x 4.57 m), if at all and about 1.2 yards (1 m) above the ground. The one in the evening was about 5 yards x 8 yards (4.57 m x 7.31 m) 1 ft (30 cm) about the ground.

dance gown Dancing with the Fairbanks Stars
Going thru the routine in my thoughts wearing the gown with a coverup



Highlight of the Afternoon Show

Like on TV, dancers were interviewed by Rocky Barnette. He has an afternoon radio show on Magic 101.1. He was wearing Fairbanks Formal dress code, a clean shirt, jeans and shoes.

When interviewed about his dance, Alexander Spencer, a car dealer who danced with Susie Spiers, offered the judges a free car when they would place him first. Marie pulled a 10 for a joke sort of. He then felt encouraged to offer to donate $500 for every car he would sell that Saturday if the buyer would mention him dancing in this competition and stating that he is the most awesome dancer they every saw. He competed against his own wife of 21 years, Samantha Alexander.


over 50 years old woman in dance attire at Dancing with the Fairbanks Stars
Waiting at the Tanana Valley Fairground for the start of the show. I am wearing a light cover-up in the same fabric as the skirt of the dress



Trailer Chat

After the afternoon competition, we ladies went into a small trailer to change as there are no dressing rooms. The trailer belongs to Michelle Pope and her husband, who are sort of soccer parents to their two dancing sons. “They didn’t say how they will weight the audience votes with those of the judges” I said meaning it more as a question to Colleen. She had already danced in the competition a couple of years ago. “Nicole, you can’t win against a car dealer” Sheridan responded instead of her. “We don’t have the money.” “You are right, it doesn’t matter how they do the weighting.” I nodded.


The Winner of the Dance Competition at the Tanana Valley Fair

In the evening, Rocky Barnette picked someone randomly out of the audience to explain how the voting goes. He asked the guy for his name and for whom he will sheer. He said “for my grandma.” Colleen waved with her hands. Since there was no room for the competitors behind the stage, she like all other competitors was sitting in the first row of the audience.

In the after dance interview, the car dealer now extended his offer to the weekend. And again, he offered the free cars to the judges. He was eager to win the competition and to defeat his wife. “I rather write a check of $500 to the Lathrop Ballroom Dance Team as a donation and buy a good car” I heard someone saying behind me in the audience.

After all dancers had competed, the Lathrop High School Ballroom Dance Team gave some presentations while the audience’s votes were counted.

All contestants were called onto the stage to announce the winners. Guess what? Colleen the grandma in her 70s was the audience’s favorite. She came in first place. She defeated the car dealer by just $6. His reaction was

“Damned, I should have added another $20!”

I would have loved to see the face of his wife! Adam and I came in third with our Viennese waltz which was very hard to dance on such small stages. Not to mention that it is one of the hardest ballroom dances there is.


winning third prize at the Dancing with the Fairbanks Stars
Happy faces after winning third place with our Viennese waltz routine




A big thank you goes to my husband for making movies of our dance training and providing constructive advice on my dancing, to the Fairbanks’ audience for voting and cheering for me, to the person who nominated me, to Adam for teaching me the routine, to the Popes, Adams and all the other volunteers who helped to pull this event off, to the judges and Rocky Barnette for donating their time, and to Stefani Borrego, the director of the team to invite me to dance in this fundraiser.


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Photos: G. Kramm

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