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Turlock fundraiser brings in donations for non-profits, wows crowd in milestone year
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Mother and daughter duo Connie Irish and Brittany Irish Smith brought forth their inner Barbie Dolls for their freestyle dance routine Saturday night at the fifth annual Dancing with the Turlock Stars. - photo by KRISTINA HACKER/The Journal

Thirteen couples boogie-woogied, jumped and jived, and sashayed around the stage Saturday night as Dancing with the Turlock Stars marked its fifth year and raked in a remarkable amount of money for three local non-profits.

The projected profit from the popular fundraising event is an estimated $170,000, said DWTTS Board President Kristin Bettencourt. The money raised will be distributed to Jessica’s House, Covenant Care Hospice and the Salvation Army.

“Once again, I am completely humbled by our community,” Bettencourt said. “We sold out in record time (42 minutes) this year and while our Star fundraising was down a bit from last year, we made up for it in sponsorships and in bar sales. DWTTS is truly a team and family effort. We all work together for the success of the event. We couldn't be any more thrilled with our cast, with the move to Larsa Hall with the special touches from Event Drapes, Yonan's Floral and the Sound Co.”

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Narciso Flores and Lucia Aguiar-Flores took home the Fred and Ginger award for their modern salsa routine to “Havana.” - photo by KRISTINA HACKER/The Journal

The Mirror Ball Championship trophy, which is awarded to the team that raised the most money for the non-profits, went to Denny Drake and Kathy Maldonado. The mother-in-law and son-in-law team raised $22,012 and wowed the crowd with their freestyle routine to a medley of Michael Jackson hits that started with a dance battle set to “Beat It” and ended with a horde of zombie dancers joining them on stage to perform portions of “Thriller.” The choreography was done by Fabian deLeon, who also choreographed the 2017 Mirror Ball champs.

“The whole experience has been phenomenal,” Drake said.

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Denny Drake and Kathy Maldonado celebrate their win of the coveted Mirror Ball Championship. The duo not only spent months learning their dance routine, but also raised more than $22,000 for the non-profits benefiting from the annual fundraiser. - photo by KRISTINA HACKER/The Journal

It was a close race for the prized Mirror Ball. Coming in second place for fundraising was the team of Matt and Candace Gonsalves, who raised $20,410. The husband and wife team own the décor and gift shop Farm House and Rustic Metal Designs. The duo managed to pull off a surprise flash mob at the end of their routine, with a confetti-popping entourage joining them onstage for a dance routine to “Uptown Funk.” Their performance and the flash mob were choregraphed by Kerry Rocha, who teaches at Footnotes Dance Studio.

“That performance gave me the feels and part two with your crew is going to be hard to follow,” said Turlock Vice Mayor Matthew Jacob, who served as one of the judges for the event.

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Matt and Candance Gonsalves take a moment to catch their breath after performing a freestyle routine to a medley of pop and hip-hop songs. - photo by KRISTINA HACKER/The Journal

The team that took home the Judges Choice award was made up of Bernard Souza and Kerri Carr. Their choreography, done by Mackenzie Shamgochian, created waves of excitement through Larsa Hall as they performed a high-energy freestyle and hip-hop routine to a mix of popular tunes.

“These two brought so much energy into the room,” said Allison Kuykendall, one of the judges for the event.

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Bernard Souza and Kerri Carr pumped up the crowd with their hip-hop routine, which earned them the Judges Choice award. - photo by KRISTINA HACKER/The Journal

The evening included some touching moments, none more so than the dance performance from Juan Alanis and Mercedes Wallace that paid tribute to Wallace’s husband and fallen deputy Dennis Wallace. The pair donned black and blue costumes and danced a waltz that ended with an unveiling of Dennis Wallace’ portrait on stage. It was a moment that elicited a standing ovation from the more than one thousand guests in attendance and an expression of gratitude that was not lost on Wallace’s widow.

“This has been an amazing experience and everyone involved has become a new family for me,” Wallace said.

The choreography for the pair was done by Xavier Huerta from Alegria Ballroom Dance Academy and earned the duo the Excellent Showmanship award.

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Juan Alanis and Mercedes Wallace were presented with the Excellent Showmanship award for their routine that paid tribute to Wallace’s husband Deputy Dennis Wallace, who was killed in the line of duty. - photo by KRISTINA HACKER/The Journal

The Outstanding Choreography award was presented to Rich and Terra Curiel. Under the guidance pf choreographer Kristi Rojas Garcia, the father and daughter performed a freestyle dance routine to a mix of Michael Jackson hits that included the signature glittery glove and a moonwalk that the crowd went wild about. 

The Fred and Ginger award was presented to Narciso Flores and Lucia Aguiar-Flores, who performed a modern salsa to the song “Havana” that was choreographed by Gabrielle Aguiar-Forrest, who happens to be Lucia’s younger sister.

“It was interesting taking orders from my little sister,” said Lucia Aguiar-Flores.

The couple, who own Aguiar Milk Testing, showed real dedication to competing in the dance competition. A week prior to the event Narciso Flores underwent an appendectomy.

Even though this was the fifth year of the event, it was a year that saw several firsts, like the mother and daughter dance team of Connie Irish and Brittany Irish Smith, who performed a routine to “Barbie Girl” that was choreographed by Amy Shamgochian.

The most visible change was the staging, which was set up in the middle of the room to create a 360-degree view.

“When I stood on the stage Saturday night to welcome the crowd it was overwhelming to see them all from the 360 setting of the stage,” Bettencourt said. “The feedback on having the stage in the center of the room was wonderful.

“Our board is very grateful for the continued support of our community,” Bettencourt added. “We love this event and put our hearts into it and hope to keep it going for several more years.”

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The confetti rained down around Patrick Kolasinski and his mother Elzbieta Jarrett as they completed their dance number. - photo by KRISTINA HACKER/The Journal