This year marked the Friends of the Atascadero Library’s tenth annual Atascadero’s Dancing with Our Stars celebration and it’s come a long way baby.

DWOS coordinator Jeannie Malik said that the event’s first year raised $25,000 to fund the new library, a far cry from the $250,000 it garnered this year. Since its inception, the production has raised a total of $989,000.

“Where we started in 2010,” Malik said, “with no stage, it was dark. We had one dancer that rode a bicycle up on [stage], that
was Keith Schmidt.”

This year, dancers sailed across a three-foot raised custom made stage under professional lighting to the beat of music from a hired DJ.

For 2019, the pageant looked back to the 80s, featuring music from Huey Lewis and the News, ZZ Top and Madonna. Mayor Steve Martin co-emceed the festivities with professional performer Joel Mason, who took time off his current rock/comedy production ”Tribute Schmibute.” Along the lines of the 80s theme, the two showmen dressed as Doc and Marty from “Back to the Future.”

DWOS began in 2009 when FOAL decided Atascadero needed a bigger library and proposed to move the facility from its 7,000 square-foot location to a new 22,000 square-foot building. The move would cost approximately $8 million. Fortunately, San Luis Obispo County agreed to foot half the bill along with maintaining and staffing the new location. Even with the county’s help, raising millions of dollars in a small town of 28,000 was not an easy task, especially given the fact the national economy was digging its way out of
the Great Recession.

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Malik made clear that the fundraiser is not all about money but it is a great opportunity to bring people together as well as raise awareness for nonprofits and their volunteers who sacrifice their time and energy for the betterment of the community. Now that the library is in its new location, the event continues on to help not-for-profit organizations in northern
SLO County.

“What keeps me going is the people,” Malik said. “I love my people. I mean, we’re just family.”

This year’s dancers, supporting their nonprofits, were Susan Funk who danced with Aaron Avila for American Association of University Women, Tom Butler who demonstrated his swing skills for Atascadero Greyhound Foundation, Jan Lynch who spun an east coast swing with Charlie Bradley for the Atascadero Kiwanis Club, Steffi Ketzler who sambaed with pro dancer Justin McMillan for ECHO, and Karen McNamara who did her two-step for the Atascadero Printery Foundation. Atascadero Mayor Heather Moreno and Deputy City Manager Terrie Banish also made the FOAL proud with their performances.

Each dancer raised money for the organization they represented. Malik said that FOAL’s dancers also raise money to help recoup the cost for DWOS. She also wanted to dispel idea that ticket sales cover the cost of the production.

The winners of the event were the Atascadero Greyhound Foundation, Kiwanis Club and the Printery Foundation. Justin McMillian received the coveted Good Sport Award for answering the call at the last minute, learning a whole new dance routine to fill in for an injured dancer. People’s Choice awards were distributed each night. Winners who took home a sparkling trophy were Lynch, Banish and Butler, winner for the last night.

Choreographer Frank Sanchez, who worked as artistic director for the production for many years decided to step down and take it easier this time around, meaning he only choreographed three numbers. Malik said that time and again Sanchez has proven himself an invaluable resource to the production. For 2019, Moly Comin, who has been involved with DWOS since its inception, took the reins of the show, demonstrating her boundless energy and passion for the event.

“She likes to have an upbeat, entertaining show,” Malik said about Comin.

Comin and Malik each took about a week or so off to enjoy the success of the show and then could not wait to start working on next year’s program. The working theme for the 2020 production is “TV Shows.”

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