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Dancing with the Freeborn-Mower Stars event is this Saturday

Published 10:15am Friday, May 3, 2013

The seventh annual Dancing With the Freeborn-Mower Stars will be at 7 p.m. Saturday in the Albert Lea High School auditorium.

The event is a fundraiser for the American Red Cross and over the last seven years has raised an average of $30,000 each year.

The money goes to support the work of the Red Cross in disaster relief, blood, health and safety services.

“We continue to do this show for two reasons,” Emergency Services Coordinator Chris Avery said. “The community loves it, and it’s a great fundraiser for us.”

The eight couples in the competition either volunteered or were asked or recommended. Get to know them a little bit here:

Donna Berry

How old are you? 72 years young

What has this experience been like? It has taught me so much, especially how to extend my arms and hands while dancing.

Who is your partner? Dylan Kaercher.

Donna Berry and Dylan Kaercher
Donna Berry and Dylan Kaercher

What is your relationship with him? I didn’t know him previous to this. We became dance partners because we both came into it without a partner. He’s been fun to dance with.

What is your favorite dance? I really don’t have a favorite, I like them all.

What will you be dancing to on Saturday? “Lollipop” by the Cordettes. It’s east coast swing.

What is an interesting fact about you? I’m going to keep these happy dance feet going as long as I can. If you want what you’ve never had, do what you’ve never done. Also remember to dance like nobody’s watching.

Dylan Kaercher

In general, what has this experience been like? It has been so much fun! Getting to meet all the wonderful dancers and coaches, making new friends and learning new dance steps. It can’t get much better than that.

What is your favorite type of dance? Swing or jive, by far.

What is an interesting fact about you? Being the youngest member of the Dancing With the Stars cast, it has been a wild and crazy ride. However, do not think because I am the youngest that I won’t be a threat to the rest of the dancers. Bring it on.

Jody Bakken

How old are you? 36.

What has this experience been like? I have enjoyed learning a new dance that I would normally never do. It has been time consuming with juggling our house remodel and four children, but I have had a lot of fun and our instructors are great.

Jody and Andrew Bakken
Jody and Andrew Bakken

Who is your partner? My husband, Andrew.

What has dancing with your husband been like? For the most part, fun. Sometimes challenging because Andrew had a hard time remembering phrases of the dance.

What is your favorite type of dance? Who doesn’t love a good old time polka dance? My dad is the best at it.

What will you be dancing to on Saturday? The cha-cha.

What is an interesting fact about you? My mom and I share the same birthday, June 23.

Andrew Bakken

How old are you? 37.

In general what has this experience been? Very time consuming and rewarding.

Who is your partner? My wife, Jody.

What has it been like to dance with her? It’s been enjoyable being able to spend time together without children.

What is your favorite type of dance? Country swing.

What is an interesting fact about you? I am also practicing a dance routine with my daughter, Brielle, that we are performing on Sunday at the Just For Kix program. I might have this dancing thing down!

Laura Hillman

How old are you? 25.

In general what has this experience been like? Like anything new, it’s been frustrating at times, but in the end I’ve really enjoyed the whole experience.

Laura Hillman and Ryan Wangen
Laura Hillman and Ryan Wangen

Who is your partner? Ryan Wangen.

How do you know him? He’s my boyfriend.

What has it been like to dance with him? A good learning experience. The whole process has brought us even closer.

What is your favorite type of dance? Anything where there is a lot of movement and is entertaining to watch.

What will you be dancing to on Saturday? West coast swing.

What is an interesting fact about you? I teach first grade at Lakeview Elementary School.

Ryan Wangen

How old are you? 34

In general, what has this experience been like? Positive, but hard. I have learned how much work goes on behind scenes of a dance production. It really is amazing how hard everyone has to work to put on a two-hour performance.

What has it been like to dance with Laura? A complete joy. It was a huge learning curve for both of us, but the journey has been worth all of the hard work.

What is your favorite type of dance? West coast swing. That is the only dance I really know.

What is an interesting fact about you? I am a third-grade teacher at United South Central in Wells.

Afton Wacholz

How old are you? 30.

In general what has this experience been like? This has been very rewarding. Not only have I been able to share this experience with my husband, but we have been able to give back to a wonderful community organization in the Red Cross.

Afton and Phil Wacholz
Afton and Phil Wacholz

Who is your partner? My husband, Phil.

What has it been like to dance with him? I am a very competitive person so this whole experience has been hard work, which can lead to challenging situations. I could not have done this with anyone else, though. Phil has been my leading supporter in all that I do and for him to go through this experience by my side has been a true treat.

What is your favorite type of dance? We have only learned the waltz for this event so I would have to say that would be our favorite. I was a former ballet dancer so it really fits my background.

What will you be dancing to on Saturday? We will be dancing the waltz to “I’d Fall in Love Tonight,” by Anne Murray.

What is an interesting fact about you? Our participation in this event would not be possible if it were not for the support and encouragement of our family. Our biggest fan may not be in the audience watching us on Saturday, but we will be dancing for her. My mom, Nancy Delger, passed away five years ago from a courageous battle with cancer. She shared my passion for dance with me growing up, evening taking the stage with my sister and I in a priceless performance to “Little Old Lady From Pasedena.” This one’s for you mom!

Phil Wacholz

How old are you? 30.

In general, what has this experience been like? Very rewarding. It’s something I’ll always remember and be glad that I participated in.

What has it been like to dance with Afton? Afton is very particular. Her attention to detail has been crucial in polishing our routine.

What is your favorite type of dance? I don’t have a favorite. After this, I’ll try anything.

What is an interesting fact about you? I love to waterski, work around the house and chase our kids between activities.

Angie Lair

How old are you? 33.

In general what has this experience been like? It’s been amazing. We’ve had such a great time at practice together and a lot of laughs with each other. It’s drawn us closer, but it’s harder than I thought.

Who is your partner? My husband of 11 years, Josh.

Angie and Josh Lair
Angie and Josh Lair

What has it been like to dance with him? I’ve learned that he’s got some good dance moves. I don’t know how to explain it, we’ve had a great time dancing together and we’re both on even playing ground when it comes to dancing.

What is your favorite type of dance? I’ve done Zumba before and loved that.

What are you dancing to on Saturday? We’re dancing the rumba to “Save the Last Dance” by Michael Buble.

What is an interesting fact about you? During this whole process my grandma has been getting blood transfusions every two weeks so timing is everything that we’re doing this for the Red Cross.

Josh Lair

How old are you? 35

What has it been like? It’s been fun, but hard.

What has it been like dancing with Angie? I think we’ve become closer from it. It’s been a good bonding experience.

What is an interesting fact about you? I’m on the volunteer fire department in Hayward.

Susie Hulst

How old are you? 26.

What has the experience been like? It has been fun, I’ve enjoyed it a lot.

Susie and Weston Hulst
Susie and Weston Hulst

Who is your partner? My husband, Weston.

What is your favorite type of dance? I guess the salsa.

What is an interesting fact about you? I did tap, ballet and jazz dance lessons growing up.

Weston Hulst

How old are you? 28.

How did you get involved? My wife asked if I would.

In general, what has this experience been like? Fun, frustrating, new, fast and eye opening.

What has it been like to dance with Susie? Fun for the most part. We had to walk away from it a few times to avoid an argument.

What is your favorite type of dance? I better say the salsa.

What is an interesting fact about you? I enjoy working on vintage John Deere snowmobiles.

Julie Schramek

How old are you? 42.

In general what has this experience been like? Our coaches were great to work with and I loved learning the tango. It definitely was a bigger time commitment than I originally thought, but well worth it.

Julie and John Schramek
Julie and John Schramek

Who is your partner? My husband, John “James Allen” Wright.

What has it been like to dance with him? It was good to work as a team and figure out the dance together. It was difficult at first, but once everything fell into place it was a great feeling.

What is your favorite type of dance? I love the fast-paced dances like the cha-cha, salsa, jive and the quick step.

What will you be dancing to on Saturday? We will dance the tango to “Rabbit Tango” by Susan Boynton.

What is an interesting fact you can share? This process started in January. It’s amazing how much time and energy all the dancers have put into their performance. Most dances are about two minutes long. In addition to the dancers’ time, the coaches choreographed all the dances and volunteered their time to train with us once a week. Additionally, Cathy Porter worked tirelessly to help all of us with our costumes. A lot of work has been done to make sure this event is a success. You won’t want to miss it!

John “James Allen” Wright

How old are you? 53.

In general what has this experience been like? It has been harder than I thought, but much more rewarding.

What has it been like dancing with Julie? We have been married for nearly 18 years and it has been wonderful dancing with her. I could not have asked for a better partner.

What is your favorite type of dance? I will be willing to try just about any dance.

What is an interesting fact you can share? If we are able to convince the audience that we are capable dancers, much of the credit should go to Brian and Lynette, our two coaches. Brian especially kept me believing that we could do this and that we were right on track, week by week.

Tricia Dahl

How old are you? 53.

In general, what has this experience been like? When I started, I wondered what I had gotten myself into. It took awhile to get in the mode of learning something I hadn’t done for years. Over time it got easier and has been a lot of fun.

Tricia Dahl and Dennis Dieser
Tricia Dahl and Dennis Dieser

Who is your partner? Dennis Dieser.

How do you know him? We were “matched,” but we know each other from work experience and friends.

What has it been like to dance with him? A lot of fun. Dennis is very competitive and driven so he has helped us stay on task. We also can laugh at ourselves, sometimes uncontrollably, and we don’t take ourselves too seriously.

What is your favorite type of dance? The dance we are doing has been good – not too fast, but not too slow. It would be fun to learn other types.

What will you dance to on Saturday? “The Lady in Red.”

What is an interesting fact about you? I finished my bachelor’s degree and MBA as an adult (all within the past 12 years) which has allowed me to advance from being a secretary to being an administrator at Mayo Clinic Health System.

Dennis Dieser

How old are you? 51.

In general, what has this experience been like? Fun, enjoyable and a good learning experience.

What has it been like to dance with Tricia? There have been lots of laughs and fun.

What is your favorite type of dance? Night club two-step.

What is an interesting fact about you that you can share? Growing up I lived in several different communities.  Since college Albert lea has been home to me and my family for 30 years.