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Dance contestants get pep talk

Six entrants in the 2017 Dancing with the Gorge Stars contest are clearly taking the competition seriously, as evidenced by a photography session that quickly turned into a brawl. The scene looked a little like a World Wrestling Federation match.. Pictured from left are: Sherry DuFault twisting Wayne Schaffeld’s arm, Greg Johnson being accosted  by Rena Hunley and Bill Ketchum tussling with Molly Ott.

Photo by RaeLynn Ricarte
Six entrants in the 2017 Dancing with the Gorge Stars contest are clearly taking the competition seriously, as evidenced by a photography session that quickly turned into a brawl. The scene looked a little like a World Wrestling Federation match.. Pictured from left are: Sherry DuFault twisting Wayne Schaffeld’s arm, Greg Johnson being accosted by Rena Hunley and Bill Ketchum tussling with Molly Ott.

If you go

The Dancing with the Gorge Stars competition for 2017 will be 7 p.m. Jan. 6 in The Dalles High School auditorium, 220 E. 10th Street.

Tickets are $20 prepaid or $25 at the door. Proceeds benefit the Mid-Columbia Concert Association, which provides the region with cultural enrichment opportunities at an affordable price.

Tickets can be purchased at: Klindt’s Booksellers, 315 E. Second St.; Lines of Design, 110 E. Second St.; or The Dalles Area Chamber of Commerce, 112 W. Second St.

For more information call 541-298-4352 or 541-386-3055 or visit online at

Six contestants in the upcoming 2017 Dancing with the Gorge Stars competition got advice Monday evening from past winners — and some who didn’t take home the Mirror Ball Trophy.

“I always knew I didn’t have any rhythm and now the whole town knows it,” said Dean Dollarhide, a local insurance agent who competed in the 2016 competition with “Jailhouse Rock,” an Elvis Presley song.

“It was a ton of fun but I was way out of my element,” said Dollarhide.

He said it became apparent that things weren’t going well when his wife and children came to a rehearsal and then talked about how well everyone else was doing. Arriving at practice with the dance shoes and trophy earned in 2015 by Rick “Twinkletoes” Eiesland, then the Wasco County sheriff, didn’t give him the luck he wished for.

“If I were you I’d quit now — they could still find a replacement,” said Dollarhide to new contestants.. “If you don’t, remember a sense of humor overcomes a lot of bad dancing. And you shouldn’t take your family to rehearsals.”

His comments were directed to Greg Johnson, Wayne Schaffeld, Bill Ketchum, Sherry DuFault, Rena Hunley and Molly Ott, who will all take to the dance floor for “90 seconds of terror” on Jan. 6.

They will be paired with professionals from the Utah Ballroom Company, who provide costumes and lights, and given less than a week to learn dance steps in a genre of music that has not yet been selected.

Kim Koch, principal of St. Mary’s Academy, and Bob Palmer, chief of Mid-Columbia Fire and Rescue, each won their contests, in 2015 and 2014, respectively. They told the crowd gathered at Riverenza Café to “just have fun in the moment.”

“Take it all in and enjoy it because it’s over before you know it,” said Koch.

Palmer credits his success on the dance floor to costuming – especially the wig he donned for his disco number “Hot Stuff,” which has become his nickname.

“I put on that wig and it changed everything,” he said. “I was kind of nervous but, with the wig on, it was like I was in character. I felt like a disco man – it just kind of changed my personality.”

He told the future dancers to “Step it up, stay loose and have a good time.”

Tina Skeele, activities director at The Springs at Mill Creek, took second in the first competition in 2013.

She said the lights and applause made her truly feel like a celebrity. .

“I thought I had died and gone to heaven,” she said. “To me, it was everything. We need more of that in our lives.”

Damon Hulit, a local banker and president of the Fort Dalles Rodeo Association, danced the Viennese Waltz on stage in 2014. “It feels like TV for a hometown, it feels really professional,” he said.

Steve Hudson, insurance agent and one of three community members who will serve as judges, was present at the Dec. 5 dinner.

Although there was talk of bribing Hudson, a reporter saw no money changing hands.

Also to be seated at the judge’s desk are Gene Parker, city attorney, and Addie Case, general manager of Cousin’s Country Inn.

Patti Blagg, organizer of the contest for the Mid-Columbia Concert Association, said the gathering of old and new dancers is intended to be inspiring and informational.

“You six have been selected for a particular reason; you’re movers and shakers in the community,” she said.

Blagg now serves as vice-president of the nonprofit group that hosts the event as a fundraiser to support musical education programs in five counties.

Ronica “Ronnie” Smith has taken on the role of president.

Last year, about $10,000 was netted from DWTGS for the association’s mission and Blagg is hopeful that 2017 will bring in that much revenue, or more.

“I believe the community needs a ‘lift’ during January and this is something they embrace,” she said.

Local Lineup

Molly Polehn Ott has always loved to dance so was quick to say “Sure,” when asked by Patty Blagg, organizer of the annual Dancing with the Gorge Stars competition.

She even put off a trip to Cambodia to compete for the 2017 Mirror Ball Trophy on Jan. 6.

“I’m not nervous about getting up in front of people. As long as I have a costume, I’m good,” she said. “I just wanna have fun.”

Ott owns the Riverenza Café and directs packing at Polehn Farms, her family’s cherry orchard. She is the mother of three and enjoys hiking, paddleboarding, backpacking and cross country skiing.

Wayne Schaffeld is an auto glazier in The Dalles, and sales rep for Schaeffer Manufacturing, who is competing because “I’m pretty sure one of my high school friends threw me under the bus” by submitting his name to Blagg.

He enjoyed dancing in high school so is excited about mastering new moves with a professional partner from the Utah Ballroom Dance Company, who will spend five days training local contestants.

“I’m looking forward to just learning something new, I always look forward to that,” he said. “I think I will be pretty entertaining, or at least that’s what my mom says — but she’s supposed to love me no matter what, right?”

Shaffeld is the cowboy in the group, having competed in rodeos and been on horseback most of his life. He also enjoys snowboarding and hunting.

Greg Johnson, a middle school science teacher at St. Mary’s Academy who co-owns Renken Farms, is in the lineup because “Patti talked me into it. I knew if I didn’t do it, I would see her every day.”

He said students were also hounding him to give the contest a try, as was his wife and two grown children, so he’s willing to follow their advice.

“I didn’t even dance at my own wedding but I’m always up for a challenge – and this will be a challenge,” said Johnson.

He is hopeful his partner wears steel-toed shoes to protect her feet during his learning curve.

“I’d like something faster than a rhumba or tango. Go big or go home,” said Johnson, who is a big sports fan and, thereby, competitive by nature.

Bill Ketchum, operations manager for Crestline Construction, expects the opportunity for him to entertain the crowd in January will be a “10,” not for dancing but for laughter.

“I don’t want to do a tango, that seems difficult. I can probably handle anything else,” he said.

Ketchum is from a pioneering family who arrived in The Dalles around the 1900s. He most enjoys spending time with his wife and their four children. His hobbies include flying, skiing and riding his motorcycle.

“Everything in moderation” is his secret for a happy life, and one that he hopes will apply to his upcoming dance experience.

Sherry DuFault decided it was time to dance in front of 400 people or so because “it scared the heck out of me and I need that when I am turning 60.”

She has watched others perform and thought the winter program was a great way to bring the community together, something she wants to support.

In addition, she enjoys the performances arranged by the Mid-Columbia Concert Association, which netted several thousand from last year’s dance fundraiser.

“It’s a great way to raise money,” said DuFault, “and I’m going to provide the comedic relief.”

Her present challenges include selling designer jewelry, serving as president of The Dalles Rotary Club and on the board of The Dalles Area Chamber of Commerce. She also consults with corporations to help them increase efficiencies.

Rena Hunley, a retired real estate broker/owner, ran into Blagg in the post office and was immediately asked if she would dance in the upcoming event.

“I was intrigued,” she said. “When I got home, I told my husband that I was asked and he said, ‘Do it, go for it!’ and I was shocked.”

She loves to dance so it didn’t much persuading to get Hunley to sign on for the contest.

“I don’t know if I can dance any better than I can carry a tune, but no one’s told me otherwise,” she said. “I think it will be a blast.”

Her hobbies include horseback riding, fishing and hanging out with her grandsons. She also drives for Meals on Wheels and is active on the nonprofit’s board.


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