The build-up for the first day of a new year can be overwhelming, and for a group of dancers from the Redwood area Jan. 1, 2020 was a big day to say the least.

That Wednesday 21 members of a Redwood area Just For Kix dance program entered into Raymond James Stadium in Tampa Bay, Fla. where 60,000 fans were watching the Outback Bowl.

Those young dancers were not there to watch. They walked onto the football field to perform with other dancers from across the United States.

When the music started and the pre-game routine began (the dancers would also dance at halftime), more than a year of planning and fundraising, as well as hours of rehearsing, all came together in the performance of a lifetime.

“It was crazy,” said Sam Gertsema as she talked about walking into the stadium for the first time.

Yes, the dancers know what it is like to perform in front of an audience, whether it is a show or a competition, but standing in the middle of a stadium with people all around them as far as their eyes could see brought performing to a new level.

Ann Vote, who helped coordinate the Just For Kix trip for the local dancers, knew that this would be the experience of a lifetime, but admitted she had no idea how much of an impact the experience would have on them and the families who came along for the ride. That goes for her, too. 

According to Vote, the dancers got to learn from Just For Kix owner, Cindy Clough and were led by Clough's daughter, Ali Gereats and JFK coach, Annie Lindbergh.

“It was incredible to see our dancers grow exponentially in the area of dance while on this trip,” added Vote.

Tierra Marxen said she was a little nervous at first, but that went away when the music started.

Gertsema, Christina Anderson, Valerie Plaetz and Marxen all said they loved the experience and will have fond memories of the opportunity they had in Florida.

They all said the work to raise the funds selling pizza, chocolate and even bed sheets was worth it.

“Sometimes it was a little awkward going up to people and asking if they wanted to buy sheets,” said Anderson.

The dancers said while they were in Florida they also had the chance to visit places like Disney, Universal and Busch Gardens.

“There was something different for us to do every day,” said Plaetz.

Vote again expressed thanks to the community for its support of the dancers and their trip.