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Empire Arts Center to host Dancing for Special Stars on Tuesday

Mayor Mike Brown practices with his Dancing for Special Stars partner, Becca Grandstrand. The fundraiser for North Dakota Special Olympics will be Tuesday at the Empire Arts Center.

Teresa Blilie and her partner, Mark Dobmeier, have been practicing a swing routine to Asleep at the Wheel's "Route 66" for the Dancing for Special Stars fundraiser Tuesday night in the Empire Arts Center.

And when they do, Blilie said, she often teases Dobmeier -- a sprint car driver -- that he's dancing too fast. Speed must come naturally, she tells him.

There's been a lot of lighthearted banter as Blilie, Dobmeier and 13 other couples have prepared for the fundraiser for Special Olympics North Dakota, set for 7 p.m. Tuesday.

"I think the dancers are having a really good time," Blilie said. "There's a lot of fun camaraderie between the dancers, like (teasing each other), 'Don't break a leg,' or "Whoever loses has the tab for dinner.' The main focus is to have fun."

Blilie, a system manager at UND and a community dance class instructor, was approached last fall to find "celebrity" dancers, dance partners for them and to help them learn dance routines.

Tuesday's Dancing for Special Stars will be patterned after TV's hit show, "Dancing with the Stars," a competition on ABC, which this season features stars such as Pamela Anderson, Chad Ochocinco, Kate Gosselin, Evan Lysacek and Buzz Aldrin.

In the Grand Forks competition, the mayor, local media, business owners, teachers, bankers, lawyers and doctors will pair with dance school instructors and/or students to perform brief dance routines. Then, audience members will vote (with dollars) for their favorite dancers. The couple that raises the most money will win, and all proceeds will go to the Special Olympics.

The evening will begin with a 6:15 p.m. reception in the Empire Gallery, and guest dancers Kaia Storhaug and Austin Winger will open the show. At the end of the competition, while judges count the votes, entertainment will be by vocalist Karly Ritland (see story on Page C3), and dancers Tyrone and Becca Grandstand and Dacia Stiles Bring. There will be a silent auction, too.

Kathy Meagher, president and CEO of Special Olympics North Dakota, said in a news release that she expects a highly entertaining evening and anticipates some truly unforgettable dancing.

"But most importantly, it will help us carry out the mission of this incredible organization, which makes such a difference in the lives of the people we serve," Meagher said.

Celebrity dancers and partners will be Dr. Alison Tait, a child psychologist, and Ryan Howard; Milo Smith of WDAZ TV and Jennifer Nyflot; Mayor Mike Brown and Becca Grandstand; attorney and legislator Stacey Horter Dahl and Cory Absey; Jill Fritel of US Bank and Landon Schneider; Arlyce Gibbs, a community volunteer whose family owns a recycling business, and Jeremy Jones; Dave McFarlane, McFarlane Inc., and Alison Wilhelm; Mark Dobmeier, sprint car driver, and Teresa Blilie; Jon Roberts of KJ108 Radio and T.J. Krug; Brian Kraft, Alerus Securities, and Ashley Buckmeier; Krystal Kahealani Torres, UND volleyball graduate assistant coach, and Casey Hayden; Hayley Svedjan Walz, Altru Family Medicine Center, and Victor Meza III; Cassie Walder, WDAZ TV, and Matt Flikka; and Jeff Whalen, Whalen Moving and Storage, and Becky Bjorg.

Josh Jones of Leighton Broadcasting will emcee the event.

Tickets will be $25 and are available from Special Olympics North Dakota. Stop at 2616 S. 26th St., Grand Forks. Call (701) 746-0331, toll-free (800) 279-4201. Office hours are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Pick up tickets at the SOND office at the Empire on the night of the event. Any remaining tickets will be sold at the door Tuesday night.

Special Olympics North Dakota provides year-round physical fitness, sports training, and competition in 15 sports to children and adults with intellectual disabilities. All activities are provided free of charge to the participants and their families.

Reach Tobin at (701) 780-1134; (800) 477-6572, ext. 134; or send e-mail to