When folks in and around Benton found out there would be a talent show at the Benton Civic Center featuring nearly two dozen area singers, dancers and musicians, along with veteran television reality show stars of "The Real Housewives of New York City" Luann de Lesseps and Sonja Morgan, the tickets to the variety show began to sell at a steady pace.
But then when it was publicly announced less than 48 hours before curtain time that the previously hinted-to surprise guest would be Paula Abdul, the remaining tickets were sold within hours.
For the 500 audience members the event was a two-hour display of local talent and worldwide celebrities that was met with raucous applause and cheers throughout the evening. Benton Mayor Fred Kondritz has said he hopes the Follies can become an annual event in town.
The whole thing was part of filming for a to-be-named reality show that is the brainchild of Benton native Russell Jay Staglik.
Staglik is the producer of the somewhat hush-hush project, which has seen celebrities de Lesseps and Morgan and a 40-person production team in Benton for six weeks of filming and being involved in benevolent civic projects that will have lasting positive impact for the city and surrounding area for years to come.
• The proceeds from ticket sales at "Benton Follies" will benefit the local food bank.
• They have provided new playground equipment for a new city park at 304 N. Grand St.
• The two women have provided new dog exercise runs for all of the dogs waiting to be rescued at the Franklin County Animal Shelter.
• Jay Staglik personally will be paying for all dog adoption rescue fees for the next year.
• They hired nationally known muralist Ania Amador to paint three large murals in Benton.
Jay StagIik summed up it quite simply: "I adore my hometown. I can't wait for this show to air and showcase the charm of Benton!"