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Barton dance stars coming to DVD
new slt dancing
Dr. Carl Heilman, left, and Jan Westfall dressed as hippies for their two-minute performance in Tuesdays Dancing with the Barton Stars. Asked if the bright red wig was her natural color, Westfall quipped, For those who knew me back in the 70s, this is it. - photo by Susan Thacker/Great Bend Tribune


After Tuesday’s "Dancing with the Barton Stars," where local celebrities raised over $23,000 for Barton Community College’s fine arts programs, the audience was ready for more.

"We need more fun events like that," a woman said of the fundraiser, which was inspired by the ABC television program "Dancing with the Stars." "Do you think they’ll do it again?"

The professionally executed show, which took weeks of preparation and included an optional VIP dinner, was intended as a one-time event, said Darnell Holopirek, Barton’s executive director of Institutional Advancement. (That’s the department that works with the BCC Foundation to assist potential donors.) However, the college is planning to release a DVD of the entire show, and is taking pre-orders now.

The DVD captures the five teams who danced for the prize, including Barton President Dr. Carl Heilman, wearing a long black wig and a tie-dyed T-shirt as he boogied to KC and the Sunshine Band with dance partner Jan Westfall, who was also wigged and dressed in hippie fringe.

Eagle Radio’s Steve Webster, "the voice of the Barton Cougars," and Rachel Mawhirter, marketing coordinator at the Great Bend Chamber of Commerce, wore ’50s clothing as they danced to a tune from "Grease." Mawhirter, who is five months pregnant, said she was dancing with two partners. Webster pleaded for votes, saying, "I think we need bipartisanship. (Mark) Mingenback is killing me."

Mingenback, president of the Central Kansas Medical Center Foundation, and dance partner Lynda Jamison from Sunflower Bank did win the contest by raising the most money. They were the most formally attired dance couple, and their music spanned several decades.

A day after being sworn in again to the Great Bend City Council, Allene Owen was on stage in a bright red wig, doing the hand jive with Barton math instructor Jo Harrington. "We had a great time doing this," said Owen, dancing with a brace on her arm. During weeks of lessons with local dance instructors, who donated their time to each team, Owen made sure to collect votes at $1 each wherever she went, and often sported a sign to pin donations on.

Great Bend High School drama instructor Dan Heath hammed it up with his partner, GBHS teacher’s aide Melanie Calcara. He was dressed as a nerd reading a book on a park bench, but started dancing to "Super Freak" when Calcara showed up in spandex and wearing a green feather boa. Heath, who claims he dances in the shower, listed the highlights of their performance to explain why audience members should vote for him: "Air guitar, and sexy crazy chicks."

Along with the dances, there were performances by Miss Kansas 2010 Lauren Werhan and several Barton students in fine arts programs. And there were behind-the-scenes videos, produced by Barton’s Julie Munden, showing dancers learning their moves and pleading for votes (donations).

Holopirek’s daughter, KAKE TV news anchor Jemelle Holopirek with "Good Morning Kansas," traveled to Hollywood to visit the real "Dancing with the Stars," and that video of her segment for KAKE was also shown Tuesday night, ending with a local bit on Barton’s event.

The entire show will be on the DVD, which will also make money for fine arts at the college, Darnell Holopirek said.

DVD orders, with checks for $20 per disc, made payable to the BCC Foundation, may be mailed to the Barton Foundation Office, 245 NE 30 Road, Great Bend, KS 67530, or people can go online for credit card orders (or to print an order form) at "There is a ‘donate’ button on the same (web) page," Holopirek said. The DVDs won’t be available until the end of May or early June, however.

The Foundation is seeking donations toward the reboot of Barton’s 40-year-old Fine Arts Auditorium, and it also wants money for scholarships for students in fine arts classes. Holopirek acknowledged the auditorium looked great Tuesday as dancers took to the stage, but said much of the sound and lighting equipment — and even the dance floor — had been borrowed or rented for the evening.

While it could cost up to half a million dollars to bring the auditorium into the 21st Century, Holopirek and Dr. Richard Abel, the dean of academics, said Tuesday’s turnout showed the community appreciates the facility and supports what the college is doing. Next month they’ll be taking that message to other communities in Barton’s seven-county service area.

"We had over 600 people there," Abel said. Future improvements to the auditorium include modern sound and lighting, and removing some of the 800 seats to create lighted aisles.