By Mark Carpenter –
There aren’t too may citizens of Adams County who aren’t familiar with the work of the Fancy Free cloggers, but if all the cards fall correctly, a whole lot of America is going to know about one of our own local treasures.
After a rather unique Star Wars routine caught the attention of the hit NBC television show, the local clogging group is just one phone call away from a trip to Los Angeles and a spot on the show, according to one of the founding members of the group, Evie Poe.
Poe started clogging in 1988 and founded the Fancy Free Cloggers in 1995. “A lot of people have been through the door since then,” says Poe. “Jim Kimmerly, now 93 years old, came to me when he was 72 and wanted to clog and we have cloggers from all over southern Ohio. Everyone has their own dynamic and we put it all together and we have stayed pretty busy through the years doing festivals and competitions. We compete in Gatlinburg every year and one of our most pleasant surprises was the call from the Red Barn Convention Center. We are there very month and are so blessed, the Red Barn is such an awesome thing to have in this county. We are starting our fifth year there.”
.“We have done a lot of neat things but what happened this year may top them all,” said Poe. “We have plans to go to Dollywood next May and compete but what happened was we went to a competition in North Carolina (Shindig in the Valley) and that was the first time we performed our Star Wars routine (worthy of a Grand Champion Award). I was a little scared of that routine idea and Randi Milburn, who is a Star Wars buff, brought it to me last year. We are known for our creative side and comedy and to me, Star Wars seemed like serious stuff. A man named Brian Pauley came in to help us with the routine and teach the light saber fight scenes and he was one of the main reasons we got noticed.”
Pauley accompanied the group to North Carolina and actually joined the performance in full Stormtrooper regalia, then put the performance on YouTube.
That was in June of this year and in August, Poe’s phone rang and the caller ID said Los Angeles. Poe’s first reaction was telemarketer or survey and she hesitated to pick up the phone.
“Something made me answer that phone and the lady asked if this was Evie Poe with the Fancy Free Clogger and I said ‘yes’, recalls Poe. The lady on the other end was a producer for “America’s Got Talent” and Poe was thinking “this has to be some kind of a joke”, but when the voice on the other end started talking about the YouTube routine, it became serious.
“She asked if we wanted to put a video together but we couldn’t use Star Wars because of copyrights,” said Poe. “She wanted us to do a patriotic/military routine and we have just the man for that job in Jim Kimmerly, a Pearl Harbor survivor. We went to the Murphy Theatre in Wilmington to film the routine, then signed our lives away and sent two copies to the show and the assumption was that we wouldn’t know anything back until next spring. Well, she called me the very same week that we sent the video in and said she loved it and would be sending it right away to the NBC producers. She got back to me later and said they wanted to see us live and wanted us in Chicago.”
“We went to Chicago on Nov. 11 on the MegaBus and it was an incredible experience. The auditions took place in the McCormick Place and we got taken to the front of the line and with the microphones and camera on us, we pretended to register. We did an interview where they asked us what we thought of Simon Cowell and we told them we were looking forward to meeting Howie Mandel. After about 15 minutes in a holding room, they kept us busy for about five hours. The first judge that watched our performance loved us. They put a microphone on Jim and interviewed him and did slow motion videos of us and they took us in front of a live audience and we performed the routine three more times.”
After all of that adventure, the group left with high expectations and high hopes that they will be getting a call inviting them to Los Angeles to perform on the national TV show. Auditions run until February so the call may not come for a few months, though Poe says she is checking her e-mails and messages every day just in case.
“Whatever comes from here we don’t know, but Chicago was an awesome experience,” says Poe. “Jim assures us that we are going to L.A., maybe because all of the people there loved him. Having ages 12 to 93 in our group was huge for us and unique to the show. We are still riding the high from the phone call and we haven’t been told no yet, so we are very positive.”
“We want to make the community proud, we really do want something else good to come to Adams County and we want everyone to feel the excitement of it all. If we just make it to L.A. and get on stage one time. If we get past the cuts to where America is voting, I think we will do real well.”
Local fans who want to see the Fancy Free Cloggers can do that the second weekend in December when find the group will be performing four shows in the annual Christmas Show at the Murphy Theatre as well as their monthly appearance at the Red Barn.