Limestone Coast 'stars' show off their moves

NARACOORTE'S Derek James is well known for his building skills, but that is no longer his only claim to fame.

He has proven himself a talent on the dance floor, winning Stand Like Stone Foundation's hugely successful Swinging with the Stars event on Saturday night.

Capping off a successful night for Naracoorte entrants, Georgina Hamlyn won the "People's Choice" award for raising the most money with more than $14,000.

Derek shimmied his way to victory with partner Meagan Pfeiler after battling it out in a final against Mount Gambier and District Community Banks' Alisha Williams and her partner Bronson Pfeiler.

Stand Like Stone executive officer Georgie McKay said it was a hard decision for the three judges - consisting of Marcollat farmer and 2013 Swinging with the Stars "People's Choice" winner Scott Davidson, reporter Gretel Sneath and Hype Dance Studio's Kim Cella.

"There was originally going to be four 'stars' in the semi-final and the winners chosen from that but the judges requested an extra final between two of the contestants," she said.

"Derek James looked truly professional...he had such poise and such stature. It was hard to tell he hadn't been dancing his whole life. 

"Then the other finalist Alisha (Williams) had such energy and a smile from ear to ear. The judges found it very hard to separate the two."

In the end Derek's second dance of the cha-cha wowed the judges enough to allow him to take out the coveted title.

Swinging with the Stars is put on annually by Stand Like Stone as its major fundraising event.

It has been going for seven years and continues to get bigger and better every year.

The whole event was a huge success.

Stand Like Stone Foundation executive officer Georgie McKay.

More than 430 people packed out the Barn Palais in Mount Gambier on the weekend to watch Mr James and seven other "stars" from the SE region vie to be champion.

The other contestants were Lucindale footballer Nathan Clarke, Penola builder James Wimshurst, PPH&S administration expert Georgina Hamlyn, farmer/ironman Brett Snodgrass, Grant High School teacher Danielle Roselt, Mount Gambier High School assistant principal Suze Ricketts and Mount Gambier and District Community Bank's Alisha Williams.

Each performed the foxtrot, cha-cha and disco after many weeks of intensive training.

Georgina managed to collect more than $14,000 which will be put into a Stand Like Stone sub-fund to support the people of Naracoorte and the wider community.

"I have been astounded and feel very proud of the support that I've received from my local town," she said.

"All the 'stars' have commented that people have been so generous with their donations and so ready to support us for this great cause."

Alisha raised $11,700 to finish second. In total the whole group brought in a whopping $59,000 - the largest amount ever raised in the history of the event and easily surpassing 2013's impressive $27,500 tally.

When proceeds from the charity auction, silent auction and income from the evening are added into the equation, Mrs McKay said she expected the grand total to then reach around $70,000.

"This competition isn't really a dance competition - it is much more than that," she said.

"It is about raising awareness of the Stand Like Stone Foundation, raising some funds and having a whole lot of fun along the way.

"The whole event was a huge success...we've had copious amounts of positive feedback...there was such a good vibe."

Musical entertainment was provided by The Voice 2012 contestant Glen Cunningham and Roxane LeBrasse, who placed ninth on Australian Idol's third season.

Daryl Somers of "Hey Hey It's Saturday" fame performed with the Generations in Jazz Academy Band and got everyone in the crowd up and dancing.

Stand Like Stone Foundation chair Sue Charlton congratulated all the contestants and dance partners for their commitment.