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Cancer fundraising pageant to be a drag

JENNA-LEY HARRISON
Staff Writer

Lincolnton Fire Chief Mike Lee plans to dress as “firefighter L.A. Barbie” this weekend as he joins nine other local male contestants in a “Womanless Beauty Pageant” at the Lincoln Cultural Center to help fight cancer.
“We all want to see an end to cancer,” Pageant Co-Chair Cheryl Burgess said. Burgess also serves as team chair for the Lincolnton Relay for Life Committee.
Proceeds from the event will go to benefit upcoming Relay for Life events in East Lincoln on April 27 and 28 and Lincolnton on May 4 and 5. Burgess said this specific type of fundraiser has already had much success in Cleveland County in recent years.
Chief Lee said he decided to participate in the unique competition after speaking with a friend whose two daughters battled with cancer.
“How could anyone refuse,” he said. “I feel very honored and privileged.”
Despite Lee’s hesitation to go out of his “comfort zone” and appear in women’s clothing in front of a large crowd, wearing leather boots he purchased from a consignment shop, he’s looking forward to bonding with the other contestants, whom he called “good people.”
Perhaps, more difficult than walking in heels and wearing makeup will be speaking with show-goers after the event.
“I will be seeing people up close and still in costume,” Lee said.
He added that throughout his 33 years in the law enforcement and emergency response field, his participation in fundraising events has never been more extreme.
“My first year in Lincolnton I participated in a dunking booth for Relay,” he said, “and last year, I did the Polar Plunge … for Special Olympics — nothing as crazy as dressing up as a woman.”
He said both Mayor John Gilleland and City Manager Jeff Emory support his participation in the event.
Last year’s Relay for Life events raised nearly $300,000, Burgess said. As a result, The American Cancer Society placed Lincoln County on its top 10 list for funds raised per capita.
The East Lincoln Relay for Life contestants will include County Commissioner George Arena, Michael Bryant with Sports Page Food & Spirits in Denver, Dr. Todd Hamilton of Denver’s Hamilton Orthodontics, Ken Morris of Servpro and well-known Lake Norman Guide Craig Price.
On the Lincolnton side, Lee will join John Dancoff with Steele Rubber Products, Terry Curles with Timken, County Comissioner Carol Mitchem of Mitchem’s Kitchen in Vale and Lincolnton High School teacher and coach Cole Sigmon.
Contestants will sport “evening wear” while competing in two group dances, an interview and individual talent. Burgess said each man has also selected a theme song best representing the character he’ll be portraying. In addition, contestants must be able to explain their individual characters’ place of origin and claim to fame.
Burgess encourages the community to come watch the men “get their groove on in the name of Relay For Life.”
Individuals can visit www.relayforlife.org/lincolnton and donate money toward their favorite contestant. Funds will directly benefit each contestant’s Relay for Life team. The title of Queen will go to the man with the most money raised at the end of the night. Additional funds raised will be split down the middle, Burgess said.
The pageant is set for 7 p.m. Saturday with an after party following in the Cultural Center’s Reception Hall.  Doors open at 6:15 p.m. For more information on the event or ticket prices, contact Cheryl Burgess at (704) 736-5786 or Pageant Co-Chair Audra Lattimore at (704) 634-8431.

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