Standout success

A re-enactment of Ricki Lee Jones was the top act in last weekend's Marlborough Stars in Your Eyes but proceeds from the 2011 event make it "a win-win for everyone".

Spring Creek and District Lions Club president David Lloyd says the event is built on partnership.

Stars was launched four years ago. It grew out of an idea David put forward so the club could swap its traditional activities, like chopping firewood and growing pumpkins to sell, for a more sedentary form of community fundraising.

As members grew older, or other commitments encroached on younger members' leisure hours, the long hours of manual labour were becoming less viable.

And definitely less fun than what has evolved.

David's original suggestion to hold a lip-syncing contest was expanded by Marlborough Dance Centre co-director Robyn Simmons, who said a talent quest format would have more appeal.

She offered to co-ordinate it and it all took off from there.

The Marlborough District Council allowed the inaugural event to be held free of charge in the Marlborough Convention Centre, and professional cooks volunteered their time to help Lions' members prepare a dinner for everyone who attended the show. It was a sell-out success.

"In the second, third and fourth years we formed a good relationship with the Marlborough Convention Centre," David says.

Thanks to its general manager, Brett Inkster, the centre is now the chief sponsor for Stars in Your Eyes.

Heartland Hotel cook Chris Fortune prepares all the dinners, and widespread support from other Marlborough businesses makes the show a huge success.

Marlborough Light and Sound deserve a special mention, Dave says, as does White Haven Wines, which sponsored all of this year's wines.

Then, he says, there is the milkman who provided all the bottles of cream and milk, a butcher who rolled the meats: "It's a collaboration of different people so [Spring Creek Lions] could pour money back into Marlborough."

Following sell-out shows in the first two years, Stars in Your Eyes was turned into a two-night event.

On Thursday last week, contestants could present their "star" in front of an audience but away from the critical gaze of a judging panel.

At the Friday finale, guest judge and Auckland entertainer Jackie Clarke was joined by Marlborough Civic Theatre chief executive Paul Towson and Marlborough Express editor Steve Mason at the adjudicators' desk.

Their opinions counted for 60 per cent of participants' scores; the remaining 40 per cent was earned from audience votes.

The whole night is one of partnership, Dave says.

"We've done it for four years and every year has been different – and seems to be better.

"This year was fantastic."

He says Robyn Simmons has co-ordinated it from the start and some of her Marlborough Dance Centre students volunteered their time to work front-of-house or do choreographed dance routines to complement the contestants' presentations.

"Without her we [Spring Creek Lions] couldn't run the show."

He thanks the hospitality students from Marlborough Girls' and the Marlborough Community colleges who helped Chris Fortune prepare meals in the kitchen for the 350 guests or waited at tables.

Each Stars in Your Eyes contestant nominated a youth-based charity to receive any prize money won. This year, Clara van Wel took the top award for her re-enactment of Ricki Lee Jones, and her charity, John's Kitchen, will receive $1000. Luka Velebit (Robin Williams) as runner-up earned the Marlborough Boys' College first XV rugby team $750 for new uniforms and Ange Liddicoat (Sandi Thom), second runner-up, raised $500 for Project K.

Project K is one of the community youth groups Spring Creek Lions channels its Stars in Your Eyes proceeds towards, David says. Other groups it supports include Swim Start, a youth mentoring programme and a reading-assistance programme.

Takings for this year are still being calculated but it is expected they will exceed last year's, when more than $20,000 was raised.

The Marlborough Express