Best Bets: Dancing with Delaware Stars gets new director in Mayan

At first, Jackie Mayan thought Terri Brown was kidding when Ms. Brown suggested that Ms. Mayan take over as chairwoman of the highly successful Dancing with the Delaware Stars competition.

After all, Ms. Brown founded the event 11 years ago and was the heart and soul of what is arguably Kent County’s biggest social night of the year.

“This was her baby for 10 years and such an amazing event. It sells out quickly every year and has raised so much money. She wants to pass the baton over to me? Really?” Ms. Mayan remembers thinking after the suggestion was made.

Jackie Mayan

But Ms. Brown was serious and Ms. Mayan accepted the job.

Saturday night, the 11th annual Dancing with the Delaware Stars will commence at Dover Downs’ Hotel and Casino’s Rollins Center with Ms. Mayan at the helm.

It is, of course, sold out.

The event, which is patterned after the hit ABC TV show, partners members of the community with professional dancers to show off their skills, all in an effort to raise money for Mom’s House of Dover, a facility that offers free childcare for low-income single parents, who wish to continue their schooling, and the Greater Dover Boys & Girls Club.

Over the past decade, the event has raised roughly $1.1 million for the two organizations.

Taking over such an event is a daunting task indeed and Ms. Mayan did have to think about it before she agreed this past fall.

She said she and Ms. Brown had worked on other events together, including the Go Red for Women luncheon. Ms. Mayan handled the decorations and Ms. Brown like what she saw.

“I gave it some thought. I have a full-time job (at Marlin Gas Services) I’m a mom to a 5-year-old. This is a big undertaking,” said Ms. Mayan, who is also a board member at Mom’s House.

“But I grew up with a single mom and just knowing that is helping single moms better themselves and will help keep children off the streets and give them a place that is safe to go after school as well exposed me to all of the positive things that this event is all about.

“That’s what keeps me going and makes it fun. It’s a lot of work but it’s been a fun and rewarding experience.”

She said she hasn’t made too many changes to the way it has run in the past but one thing she did do was streamline the committees by assigning a chairperson to each committee and meeting biweekly.

“I was worried that I was going to be stuck doing a lot by myself. But the support that I’ve gotten from so many people who stayed on has been amazing,” she said.

Jackson Paradee and Rebecca Gasperetti hold the mirror ball trophy as champions of last year’s Dancing with the Delaware Stars competition at Dover Downs. (Special to the Delaware State News/Jason Minto)

In fact, although Ms. Brown is no longer the chair of the event, she stayed on as head of the sponsorship committee and has been an invaluable source for Ms. Mayan.

Ms. Mayan got a look at the event firsthand last year when she was one of the dancers in the competition. Knowing what an overwhelming experience that can be, she created a position of dance liaison to tell the amateur dancers what to expect.

“This gives them a little more individual attention than I can provide. They can tell them what to expect and how they are going to feel going into it,” Ms. Mayan said.

“I also planned three or four side events where the dancers can come together and help ease their anxiety. Now they are all developing close friendships and it’s been really nice.”

She said finding folks to strut their stuff hasn’t been hard.

“I’ve already had people ask to be considered for next year,” she said.

“These are pretty amazing people who love it so much. It brings people out of their comfort level and in front of 1,000 people. Some of the dancers may not have realized how involved it was going to be but what an awesome learning experience it is. They learn new skills, build new relationships and gain visibility.”

Ms. Mayan said dancers start in the early fall on their fundraising duties and then start practicing. Closer to the event, the rehearsals start to get more intense with some couples practicing three to five times a week, all for a chance to take home the coveted mirror ball trophy.

The winners are determined by amount of money raised, vote totals from the public and the judges’ scores.

This year’s judges are CBS 3 news anchor Natasha Brown, last year’s winner Rebecca Gasperetti and sweepstakes winner, Ruby Zulkowski of Shakti Yoga, who was randomly drawn from a field of 2,425 entries for a chance to be a judge for the night.

Ms. Mayan thinks a variety of factors make up the reason why Dancing with the Delaware Stars has been such a hit for more than a decade.

“It’s the whole concept. People love (the show) ‘Dancing with the Stars.’ It’s a chance to dress up in formal attire and see a who’s who of Dover and Kent County coming out for the competition and to support the dancers and the community,” she said.

“It’s such a fun event and a fun way to support some important causes. People just love it.”

Last year’s event raised $250,000 before expenses and this year, Ms. Mayan is shooting for $300,000.

Bidding has been active on the event’s website for unique experiences, which range from VIP Broadway packages to a trip to the Super Bowl to an African safari. Winners of the auctions will be announced Saturday night.

There will be the annual auction for a low-digit license plate along with continued voting for a favorite couple. Votes are $1 apiece or $20 for 25 votes.

Voting on the website closes today at 5 p.m.

For a chance to vote and to bid on experience packages, visit

Awards for artists

Nineteen Delaware artists are being recognized by the Delaware Division of the Arts for the high quality of their artwork. Work samples from 139 Delaware choreographers, composers, musicians, writers, folk and visual artists were reviewed by out-of-state arts professionals, considering demonstrated creativity and skill in their art form.

The 19 selected fellows reside throughout Delaware including Dover, Lewes, Milford, Milton, Newark, New Castle, Rehoboth Beach and Wilmington.

Awards are given in three categories – $10,000 for the Masters Award, $6,000 for the Established Professional Award, and $3,000 for the Emerging Professional Award – and Fellows are required to offer at least one exhibit or performance during the upcoming year, providing an opportunity for the public to experience their work.

The work of the Fellows will be featured in a group exhibition, Award Winners XX at the Biggs Museum from June 5 to July 23 with an award ceremony and reception on Wednesday, June 10 at 5 p.m.

Selections from Award Winners will travel to CAMP Rehoboth for the entire month of August and then Cab Calloway School of the Arts in Wilmington from Sept. 4 to Oct. 25. Opening receptions will be held June 5, Aug. 1 and Oct. 2 and are free and open to the public (Dates are subject to change).

The Masters Fellowship is open to differing artistic disciplines each year. In Fiscal Year 2020, Masters Fellowship applications were accepted in Visual and Folk arts from artists who had previously received an Established Professional Fellowship. In addition to exemplifying high artistic quality,

Masters Fellowship applicants must demonstrate their involvement and commitment to the arts in Delaware and beyond. Listed below are the Delaware Division of the Arts 2020 Individual Artist Fellows and two Honorable Mentions.

Mark Unruh has been awarded this year’s Master’s Fellowship in Folk Arts: Music. Mr. Unruh, a multi-instrumentalist, vocalist, composer and instructor, teaches at The Music School of Delaware, Accent Music Store, Wilmington and Pro Musica Studios in Kennett Square, Pa.

Local Established Professional Award winners of $6,000 are the following:

Anne Colwell, Milton, Literature: Creative Nonfiction

Shelley Koon, Dover, Visual Arts: Photography

Aaron Paskins, Dover, Visual Arts: Sculpture

Nicholas Serratore, Lewes, Visual Arts: Works on Paper

Robert Bruce Weston, Milton, Visual Arts: Crafts

Michele Xiques, Milford, Dance: Choreography

Local Emerging Professional Award winners of $3,000 are the following:

Sarah Barnett, Rehoboth Beach, Literature: Creative Nonfiction

Kim DeCicco, Lewes, Literature: Fiction

Kari Ann Ebert, Dover, Literature: Poetry

Michael Fleishman, Milford, Visual Arts: Works on Paper

Local Honorable Mention winners are:

Crystal Heidel, Milton, Literature: Fiction

The next deadline for Individual Artist Fellowship applications will be Aug. 3 by 4:30 p.m.

For more information about the Delaware Division of the Arts, visit or call 302-577-8278.

New Orleans comes to Milton

Shamarr Allen & The Underdawgs with local musician Bryan Russo as opening act will play the Milton Theatre Frida at 8 p.m.

Hailing from the Lower Ninth Ward of New Orleans, Mr. Allen has influences in jazz, hip-hop, rock, funk rhythms, blues, and country. He is the lead vocalist and trumpeter of his band Shamarr Allen & The Underdawgs.

In addition to performing with his band, Mr. Allen has collaborated with many renowned artists around the world such as Willie Nelson, Patti LaBelle, Galatic, Harry Connick Jr, and Lenny Kravitz.

Mr. Russo, the former multi-award-winning journalist and host of Coastal Connection, has spent close to 20 years working diligently as a singer/songwriter in the Mid-Atlantic region of the U.S., sharing the stage with more than 30 national recording artists and receiving high praise from critics and listeners on his five independent releases.

Tickets are $10-15. Purchase them online at, via phone by calling 302-684-3038 or at the box office at 110 Union St.

Now Showing

New this weekend in theaters is the action-adventure film “The Gentlemen” and the horror film “The Turning.”

New on download and DVD starting Tuesday is the Oscar-nominated film “Parasite,” “Terminator: Dark Fate,” “Harriet” and “Motherless Brooklyn.”