An evening on the dance floor | NevadaAppeal.com

An evening on the dance floor

Steve Ranson
LVN Editor Emeritus

The 12th annual Dancing with the Stars is less than two weeks away, and 10 celebrities — five men and five women — are competing this year.

The event, sponsored by the Fallon Swing Dancers boosters, is presenting the annual program on March 16 at 7 p.m. at Churchill County High School's Elmo Dericco Gym. Nonrefundable tickets may be purchased at Jeff's Copy Express or at the door.

The five women in DWTS are Jessica Akins, Loni (Johnston) Faught, Heidi Hockenberry-Grimes, Lindsey Irving and Courtney Kelsey. Their responses, which varied in length, were provided on a questionnaire for the program. This year's five men are Darryl Erwin, Eric Grimes, Brooke Hill, Jake Lewis and Grant Moulton

Jessica Akins grew up and Fallon, and the agent at Berney Realty said she has completed some college. Akins, who is also co-owner of Back Roads Vintage Market, said she doesn't consider herself a sports or band person.

As for stardom, she's looking forward to it.

"I have always wanted to learn to dance and thought this was an amazing opportunity to do so and support the community," she said.

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Akins said it hasn't been her major dream to be on DWTS.

"No, I'm pretty nervous," she said. "I don't really dance … I didn't even dance at my wedding."

Nothing has prepared her for this year's DWTS, but she said Racquel Feest has given her the courage.

Faught was born in Fallon, smelling the fresh-cut alfalfa as she says. She graduated from Dixie State College and Brigham Young University in Provo with a degree in broadcast journalism. Faught has worked in radio, television and print media, managed a video store, announced national and semi-professional rodeos and became a top sales banker for Wells Fargo Bank. She is currently a public affairs director for the Fallon area of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Faught, though, said her most fulfilling and passionate work is being a wife and mother.

Johnston said she hasn't found stardom yet, "unless whipping up a delightful batch of pumpkin chocolate chip cookies in record time counts as stardom."

Johnston's loves include family, fun and sun. Time at the lake, on the boat with family or riding horses are, what she considers, her summer highlights.

"I am always ready for a party," she said. "Throughout the year supporting my talented husband and kids in their endeavors gives me pure joy."

She said New England Patriot quarterback Tom Brady is her inspiration … "sigh," and her children.

"They definitely drive me to be the best version of myself to live my best life for and with them," she said.

Faught, who represents all professional moms (and dads) who are the behind-the-scenes heroes and workhorses who make the world go around. She had a unique answer regarding her dream to be a contestant in DWTS this year.

"A nightmare is in the dream category, right?" she quizzed.

But she has developed courage to become a celebrity.

"Apparently, I can only say no to these swing dance directors for so many years before something inside me decides I should say yes even though it goes against all logic," she said. "In my old age, I have also decided life is too short to not live life to its fullest."

Heidi Hockenberry-Grimes, AKA "Heidi from the Block," grew up in South Dakota, attended Churchill County High School and the Orvis School of Nursing at the University of Nevada, Reno.

She is a registered nurse and serves as a labor and delivery nurse and childbirth instructor.

While she doesn't have any sports abilities, Hockenberry-Grimes said she marches to her own beat.

As for this year's DWTS, she was asked to dance, and thought Keith saw a diamond in the rough. As far as her dancing influences, she has studied both Kevin James in "Hitch" and Elaine of Seinfeld game. Her dream has always been to meet Tom Bergeron, host of the nationally-televised DWTS.

Hockenberry-Grimes will represent Banner Churchill Community Hospital and all the moms who dance in their kitchen waiting for the pasta water to boil.

The first time she remembers dancing with a partner was with her father. They attended a father-daughter square dance, and being in a fourth-grade play prepared her for stardom.

"I was a snowflake," she said.

In preparation for DTWS, she is using Voodoo dolls and a professional stunt double.

Lindsey Irving was born and raised in Vernal, Utah, which is also known as "Dinosaur Land," and attended Brigham Young University.

During the week, Irving teaches modern dance in Fallon several days at The Studio for the Performing Arts. The wife and mother of four children also considers herself a sports person.

"I spent my winters as a child on the ice," she recalled. "I loved skating and watching my two brothers play hockey. In high school I played on the girls varsity soccer team and am currently enjoying watching my son play soccer as I coach his indoor soccer team. Soon after moving to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, for my husband to attend graduate school, I discovered that becoming a Steelers fan was a necessary part of living there. We were there for two super bowl championships, and I am now a forever Steelers fan."

On the other end of the spectrum, Irving said she enjoys music, and took piano lessons from her grandmother who shared with her the love for music.

Irving considers her children her greatest influence.

"They teach, influence and inspire me every day," she added.

Irving, who is representing The Studio for the Performing Arts, said it's not a dream but her greatest fear to be on DWTS, but she has prepared in life for this opportunity.

"My professional unicycle career has prepared me most for this moment," she pointed out. "I received intensive training in riding up and down mountains and surviving a sore bum for five months all the while being required to wear fake eyelashes. I thought about joining the circus but decided to have children instead."

With her background, Irving said she's prepared for the night of competition.

"My plan for this dance is to have enough stamina just to make it through the dance without dying," she explained. " Thank heavens for my dancing partner; Davis is awesome."

Courtney Kelsey grew up in Menan, Idaho, a town of 1,000 people. She has three sisters and one brother. Menan was her home for 37 years until moving to Fallon almost years ago.

"I loved growing up in Menan, a little tight-knit town in eastern Idaho, where in winter snow banks were tall, and in summer apple trees were abundant," she said.

Eight years ago her family came to Fallon where they have enjoyed being involved in the community in dance, theater, music, sports and other activities.

Irving, who is trained as a certified dental assistant and oral surgery assistant, and her husband have six children. During the harvest season, she enjoys working for the Lattins' produce stand.

Stardom comes easy in her family, beginning with her children and their dancing. Now, it's her turn.

"Never in a million years did I think I would agree to being a star until I was asked to dance with my son Andrew," said Irving, who's dancing for Lattin Farms. "He is a senior and will be leaving home soon; how could I say no to such an opportunity to spend that time with him learning and having fun. What an amazing memory, so here I am."

Her biggest influence is her husband, Spence, but as for competing on DWTS, she never envisioned the opportunity to dance, not even in her wildest dreams, but she's more than ready with courage, or so she proclaims.

"Courage? Still waiting for more to come," she said. "A mother and son dance, though, how can I pass that up? My son teaching me to dance is such a fun experience, (so) I built up my courage, and I am taking this opportunity."

Preparation for annual event has been mind over matter.

"I just keep telling myself it is just 3 minutes out of my life! How hard can it be? I will just be happy to make it through these few weeks of fear, anxiety and sore muscles," she said.