Extravaganza exceeds goals for CASA



February 6, 2017 - 12:00 AM

Local talent dazzled spectators at the second annual Bright Lights-Big Hearts charity talent showcase and silent auction Saturday night at the Bowlus Fine Arts Center in Iola.
Lara Megan Weber, owner of The Studio in Yates Center, said the show raised $4,842 through a combination of tickets, auction items, concessions and T-shirt sales.
 “It went great, it went really good,” Weber said. “We met our goal. Our goal was $4,500. Last year we raised $2,800. We pre-sold 90 tickets and we had 93 walk-ins at the door.”
Weber’s own dance group, Opening Number Dance Company, performed a competition piece that the group started working on in August. Three out of five of Weber’s own children performed in the talent showcase.
Her daughter, Abigail, 11, said she has been dancing and tumbling for five or six years. She said she practices at least three times a week and that it is a lot of hard work. It is all part of her higher aspiration to be a professional dancer someday.
Binni Means, Iola, said he started dancing nine years ago, and joined the group four years ago. He participates in six to eight events a year and assists in teaching the young dancers.  Although he comes from a family of dancers, he said it challenges him and keeps him on his toes to be one of the few male dancers in the company.
“There is nobody else you can hide behind,” Means said.
Weber believes Means is up for the challenge.
“He will be doing his first solo this year and he really has decided that he wants to dedicate his extra time to dancing,” Weber said. “He definitely has made some giant gains in the last year-and-a-half.”
Weber’s dance group was not the only group showcasing their talents.
“I think there was some really great talent, a couple of really great ukulele players,” Weber said. “I think that the talent was really strong this year. I think the show overall was really entertaining.”
Last year’s inaugural event took place at the Yates Center High School, but Weber said after only one year the show outgrew that venue.  She believes the word is getting out that this event is a neutral territory for performers and groups to come together, not as a competition, but as an event to do something good.
Not all the talent was designed to entertain the audience. While performances like Hali Dawson’s aerial silk routine, Explosion Allstars’ Cheerleading and Zury Burleson on the saxophone took place, spectators simultaneously cast bids for donated items up until the show’s intermission. The winners of the silent auction were announced at the show’s end. 
Amanda Dewitt is the dance company’s fundraiser chairperson.  She said the silent auction included 43 items generously donated from area businesses and one business as far away as Wichita.
“And that has been condensed down,” Dewitt said. “We have taken donations from here and donations from there and made baskets out of them. Last year we had about 20 items. We doubled it this year.”

THE AUCTION according to Weber raised around $1,500 of the $4,842.
“Annika Wooton did a speed painting during one of the acts and that was then brought to the auction,” Weber said.  “It was auctioned off and it went for $70.”
Weber said she hopes to see an increased audience at next year’s event.
“I can’t say for sure what our plans are next year,” Weber said. “But our hope is that we can keep it at the Bowlus or another larger theater next year.”
Proceeds from the annual talent showcase and silent auction benefit CASA of the 31st Judicial District.

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