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Maggie Rennicke shares a laugh with Steve Peloquin during a recent practice for Relay for Life’s Dancing With the Stars event, coming up this Saturday. Elizabeth Huwe/FOCUS

Dancing With the Stars returns to Perham

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“Starting spots!”

Those two words elicited a chorus of groans from the 12 people on the Promenade Ballroom’s dance floor last Wednesday.

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Paul Mathieu, owner of the ballroom, ignored the complaints and started counting beats.

The dancers-in-training, accepting their fate, took a pose with their partners and resumed waltzing around the floor.

The dancers were practicing for East Otter Tail County’s Relay for Life Dancing With the Stars fundraiser, which will be held this Saturday, March 22 at 7 p.m. at the Perham High School auditorium.

Once again, this year’s amateur dancing ‘stars’ and their more experienced dancing partners have been pulled together from around the community to put on a successful and entertaining show. They are:

 -Attorney Steve Peloquin with Maggie Rennicke;

-Heart of the Lakes Elementary School Principal Jen Hendrickson with Tristan Watchorn;

-Perham Cross Country Coach Jeff Morris and Megan McCrary;

 -New York Mills Community Promoter Amy Wallgren and Perham Mayor Tim Meehl;

-Perham Area Community Center Director Kevin Nelson and Sarah Wendt;

-2013 Relay for Life Honorary Co-Chair Kathy Wouters and Terry Lee.

Two of the more experienced dancing partners this year, Terry Lee and Tim Meehl, competed last year as ‘stars.’ After the event, both continued with dancing lessons and volunteered to participate again this year, said organizer Lisa Peterson.

She added that Relay for Life’s cause is what leads most people to get involved. Funds raised at Dancing With the Stars will go to the local Relay for Life, which supports cancer research, education, advocacy and patient services.

“Just about everybody’s got a cancer connection, and that’s why they say ‘yes’ (to volunteering),” Peterson said.

Amy Wallgren shared her experience as an example: “My stepmom died this year from pancreatic cancer, two grandmas died from cancer and my grandpa had cancer. So it’s big in my family.”

Dancing With the Stars has taken weeks to come together. Peterson began seeking volunteers to compete almost six weeks ago, and practice started two weeks after that.

Kevin Nelson said he’s had fun while, “Learning to dance again and having a fun dance partner,” but he’s also had difficulty learning to dance again.

Others expressed similar joys and frustrations.

At the show, the competitors will start out with a group waltz and then perform individual dances with their partners.

Three judges will award scores for the individual portion, which will determine the Judge’s Choice Award.

A People’s Choice Award will be given to the couple that receives the most votes from the audience.

Audience votes cost $1 each, explained Peterson, “so $1 is one vote and a $20 bill is 20 votes.”

Admission to the show is $5.

East Otter Tail County’s Relay for Life will be held on July 11 at the Perham High School track. The 2014 goal is to raise $90,000 by the end of August.

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