HAMLET — In tuxedos and jeans, with food, drink and dancing, more than 300 donors celebrated life Saturday night at “The Oscars: Taste of the Sandhills — Dancing with the Stars,” a fundraiser for Richmond County Hospice.
Eighteen local restaurants served pizza to wings in the Cole Auditorium atrium from 6 to 7:30 p.m., fueling a cheek-to-jowl audience sitting on satin-shrouded chairs for the main event: nine couples dancing the Charleston to hip-hop to disco in their midst.
“Go big! Relax!” judge Eric McCotter advised one jittery couple, giving what may have seemed contradictory advice. Many dancers were performing in public for the first time and displayed nervous grins.
Except County Commission Chairman Kenneth Robinette and his crew, dressed Blues Brothers style and shaking their “tail feathers” as they pranced hammily across the stage, displaying the antics that had won them top honors at last year’s event. (Other crew members were Claudia Robinette, Matt Harrelson and Mary Kate Lambeth.)
Emcee Joey Bennett, Cole director and a former hospice dance contestant, encouraged the audience to shake a leg, too, “even if you have to go back to the bar to participate.”
Many trips to the bar followed, but still only nine couples performed — although several other sprightly couples took to the floor during contest intermission.
No one won the giant Oscar-like statue parked at the corner of the dance floor during the Hollywood-themed event, but …
• Judges’ Choice award winners were Robert Smith and Tarrah Billingsley, who danced a hip-hop set and won kudos for busting moves that people half their ages couldn’t perform as well.
• Educators Dennis Quick and Mary Catherine Moree schooled the audience in the proper way to dance a salsa, to win the Hospice Choice award.
•Seth Allen and Gabrielle Robinette Goodwin captured the love of the audience in a modern freestyle-dance performance, winning the People’s Choice distinction.
And No. 1 Diner won honors as top “Taste of the Sandhills.”
Reach Christine Carroll at 910-817-2673.