The Free Press, Mankato, MN

January 31, 2014

Song and dance: Dancing fundraiser draws humorous banter, serious competition

Dancing fundraiser draws humorous banter, serious competition

By Tanner Kent

---- — If Kevin Buisman dances as well as acts, then he might be an early favorite for Saturday's Dancing with the Stars event at the Verizon Wireless Center.

In a video posted to the event's Facebook page, the usually mild-mannered Minnesota State University athletic director scowls through a stocking cap and T-shirt. While spoofing Richard Sherman's recent post-game tirade (Sherman is, of course, the professional football player whose rant about an opposing player generated widespread, and sometimes hateful, criticism), Buisman growls: "Don't you ever talk about me!"

"Who was talking about you?" asks the visibly confused reporter.

Buisman continues: "Stunt Monkey! I hear the monkey-man has been talking about me, trying to get the inside scoop on our showstopping number and telling everyone how he and his gal pal are going to whoop up on all of us."

When reached for comment, Hot 96.7 radio personality Stunt Monkey (also known as Jeff Lang) said unconvincingly: "I don't know what he's talking about." Though, he did indicate a video response was in the offing.

Only in its second year, Dancing with the Mankato Stars is already generating fierce, if humorous, competition. With 13 teams pairing local celebrities with experienced local dancers in a fundraiser for the South Central Minnesota Chapter of the American Red Cross, organizers are hoping to top last year's total of $50,000.

Like other teams, Buisman and partner Tina Flewellyn began rehearsing in November. But unlike his partner who is herself an accomplished dancer, Buisman said he had zero dancing experience prior to accepting the invitation to this year's competition.

"I told Tina when we started, 'My wife won't even dance with me at a wedding — not even a slow dance,'" Buisman said. "But you weigh the downside of public humiliation with the upside of doing something good."

Joe Galli, on the other hand, knows a little something about moving around the dance floor.

At 70 years old, the legendary owner of Dairy Queen West is the event's oldest-ever competitor. More than half of it he's spent dancing with his wife, Vicki.

"We've always enjoyed dancing," he said. "We've been married 46 years. ... I'm a good follower."

That skill, he said, will serve him well with partner and MSU dance student Brenda Martinson. He said they've crafted a "jitterbug" sort of dance but he'll leave the heavy jittering to her.

"I'm too old for cartwheels," he said.

Mitzi Roberts, director of Dance Express, which organizes the competition, said last year's event filled the Kato Ballroom to capacity — even before the public had a chance to buy tickets. This year's event was moved to the Verizon Wireless Center to accommodate a larger crowd and Roberts said more than 1,600 tickets have been sold already.

"It's a lot of fun to see these local celebrities out of their comfort zone," she said. "It's definitely a great family event."

Additional participants include: Buster's Sports Bar and Grill owner Matt Little and Whitney Waugh; Bedpost Furniture owner Mark Weinstein and Amy Wilson; Mankato East assistant principal Kory Kath and Heather Mueller, director of teaching and learning for Mankato schools; Scheels Sporting Goods assistant manager Wade Fischer and Dana Enfield; Mankato Area Young Life director Travis Bowen and Meredith Martin; physician Rich Peller and Nicole Mueller; chiropractor Kevin Hardesty and Jessica Alstad; real estate agent Angie VanEman and Travis Shafer; and OZ Family Dentistry owner Dan Osdoba and Gretchen Osdoba.

If You Go What Dancing with the Mankato Stars When 7 p.m. on Saturday Where Verizon Wireless Center Tickets $15 tickets, $25 VIP/dancer section. Available at Verizon Wireless Center box office and, also by calling 507-625-3865. Note Voting for a favorite team costs $1 per vote.