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Cotton Candy firm involved with fun weekend events

By David Li

Like many basketball enthusiasts, Thornhill’s Nicole Pollock is excited about the National Basketball Association hosting its All-Star game at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto this weekend.

rap2The 29-year-old former member of the Toronto Raptors’ Dance Pak is the co-owner of Cotton Candy Events Staffing and very involved with various events linked to the NBA All-Star weekend.

Just some of the key, fun events running from Friday to Sunday include a celebrity basketball game, a skills challenge, and a rising stars basketball game, to name just a few.

It all culminates in the 65th annual NBA All-Star game at the Air Canada Centre Sunday evening, Feb. 14, featuring the best players from the NBA’s Western conference against the best from the Eastern Conference.

“Cotton Candy has lots on the go, as we will be providing brand ambassadors for events including fashion shows and charity functions,” said the Westmount Collegiate and York University graduate.

One of the high-profile functions her firm is backing is an NBA superstar’s charitable foundation.

“Cotton Candy staff will support and raise awareness at Dwayne Wade’s private charity event in support of Wade’s World Foundation and the ONEXONE charity organization,” she revealed.

rap1Cotton Candy Events is a regular at the Air Canada Centre, with promotional staff on site for all of the Toronto Raptors’ home games.

“We’re working with Canada Goose, who will be having the Cotton Candy team on site at all games as an extension of their brand to connect with the fans,” Pollock added of her company’s connection to both the Toronto Raptors and the NBA.

On Sunday, the Toronto Raptors will have two All-Stars — DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry — taking part in the big game, joined by some of the NBA’s brightest stars such as Steph Curry, LeBron James and Kobe Bryant.

With the game’s best players coming to Toronto in just days, the longtime basketball enthusiast says the buzz and excitement in the city is undeniable.

“Hosting the game here is an opportunity to show just how unique, diverse and passionate this city is,” said Pollock. “I’m so excited for the energy, enthusiasm and talent NBA All-Star Weekend will bring to our city.”


The Indianapolis Colts Cheerleaders will be representing the U.S. and the NFL in Hong Kong this year.

The cheerleaders are taking part in the largest Chinese New Year’s parade. The parade takes place on Monday.

On Thursday the cheerleaders stopped by the studio during Daybreak to talk about the upcoming trip. Watch the video above to hear more about how the cheerleaders will represent the NFL and the Colts.


The Rams are coming back to town. What better time to get re-acquainted with all things Rams — including the iconic cheerleaders?

Before there were Lakers Girls, there were Ram Cheerleaders.

CBS2’s Lisa Sigell recently sat down with some of the originals to look at the past and find out what they’re doing now.

And, of course, to also find out how they felt about the Rams coming back to Los Angeles.

They made headlines on and off the field.

The year was 1978. First, they were called the Sun Dancers. Then, the Embraceable Ewes.

Now, 38 years later, a mini-reunion for some of the girls.

A little older, a little wiser but they told Sigell, still pom-pom sisters.

She met up with Dee, Susan, Myra, Shawna and Melba.

David Mirisch, who created the group, showed Sigell the original applications.

The original squad also included Patty Kotero, aka Appollonia, Prince’s co-star in “Purple Rain.” Jenilee Harrison was another member. She went on to “Three’s Company.”

Mirish was a PR whiz who went straight to the Rams owner with the idea.

“I said, ‘Mr. Rosenbloom, we have the most beautiful women in the country. Why do we not a professional cheerleading team?’ His answerwas simple, he said, David go do it.”

The original call yieled 805 women who tried out. And like a proud papa, his camera captured every moment. Among the judging panel — Wilt Chamberlain and our own Jim Hills, CBS2 Sports anchor and former NFL player.

“That year, we were looking for the most beautiful women,” he said, “with the best personalities.”

From 805, he whittled the group down to 50 and then the final few.

The original costumes were a bit skimpy and many of the cheerleaders worried about wardrobe malfunctions.

Said Melba, “My dad is going to kill me with all these boobs out.”

The bottoms didn’t cover much more.

“I just remember wearing them and my little rear end cheeks hanging out,” said Shawna.

Still, the women loved the excitement and the glam that show business afforded them.

They appeared on “The Tonight Show,” opened for the Rolling Stones, the Super Bowl.

“Being a part of the Rams Cheerleaders,” said Susan James, “it opened a lot of doors for me, and I have friendships forever.”

They wouldn’t mind pulling out the pom-poms for another go-round.

In fact, Mirish loves the idea.

“If there was a senior Rams Cheerleaders squad, I think they could definitely do it,” he said.



Jess became a Philadelphia Eagles Cheerleader in 2012 when she was just 19 years old. Growing up, Jess was a cheerleader for six years and felt like something was missing when she went to college.

“One night I was out with my parents at a restaurant and I remember looking up at the TV and seeing an NFL game,” said Jess. “The camera flashed to one of the cheerleaders and I remember asking my parents ‘Do you think I could do that?’ They looked at me and said, ‘Absolutely!’”

With encouragement from her parents, Jess sought advice from her friend who was already an Eagles Cheerleader and decided to audition.

Did you know a lot of information before auditioning?

“Yes! I spent a lot of time on my laptop searching for information about tryouts and looking at the cheerleaders’ profiles on the Eagles’ website.”

Did you have previous cheer or dance experience?

“I cheered for six years and I took some hip-hop classes here and there, but I never had any formal dance training. Our choreographer is an amazing teacher and I cannot believe the progress I have made with some of the more technical dance moves in just two years.”

What is the most beneficial part of the audition workshops?

“Learning the Open Call Dance ahead of time, and getting helpful tips from members of the current squad.”

Do you have any advice for the contestants attending the Open Call?

“Confidence is key! Confidence is something that the judges will notice from across the room and it is the best thing you can bring to an audition.”

What was the final audition like for you?

“The Final Audition Show was such an incredible experience. It’s such an amazing feeling to be one of the 60 finalists chosen out of the hundreds of women who audition. You meet and get to perform on a stage with beautiful and talented women and everyone is so supportive not only backstage, but in the audience as well. You feel like a rock star when you go out on that stage.”

Do you have any advice for contestants who may not have much dance or cheer experience?

“Dance is only one aspect of the Auditions. They are also looking for women with showmanship, enthusiasm and confidence so let that shine through when you are in front of the judges.”

What is the best way to practice for the audition?

“I definitely recommend coming to the workshops. After that, practicing in front of a mirror and in front of friends and family is really helpful. If you’re sitting at work or in class, run through the dance in your head. Studies show that running through things mentally can increase your performance!”

What has been your favorite part about being a Philadelphia Eagles Cheerleader?

“I have so many amazing memories with women I am proud to call my friends. I would have to say my favorite part would be giving back to the community with the many community service projects we do such as: Play 60, Playground Builds, visiting CHOP (Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia), the Little Yellow School House (a school for children with special needs) and many more.”

By Carol Comegno

Wearing no makeup, hospital scrubs and a cap that hides long brown locks, Deonna Baquero spends much of her full-time job in hospital operating rooms away from the public eye.

She travels from hospital to hospital throughout the region as a sales representative for a medical device manufacturer, assisting hospital personnel in the use and monitoring of new technologies for heart catheterizations and other medical procedures.


A Marlton native and 2005 Cherokee High School graduate, Baquero leads a double life with two demanding careers that could not be more different. Her other job is only part-time, but it is glitzy and in the public spotlight.

She wears makeup, Vera Wang outfits and shakes pom-poms as one of 39 Philadelphia Eagles cheerleaders performing at regular season Eagles home games and two preseason games each season.

Part of that job also requires appearances at dozens of community and charity events every year to represent and promote the Eagles and to raise money for causes they support.

“I feel like I lead two lives and love both of my jobs,” Baquero said Monday between surgical procedures at Jersey Shore Medical Center in Neptune, Monmouth County.

“I don’t mind going to work in scrubs and without makeup because I love helping patients and educating physicians and nurses on new products and helping them stay on top of technology. And my life as a cheerleader is also fulfilling because there is no other job I have had that has the amount of charitable work we do.”

“Yes, we wear sexy outfits for Eagles cheerleading and wear them with pride in representing ourselves and the entire Eagles organization,” she continued, “but we also represent more than that. We are also women who hold full-time jobs or are going to college full-time. A lot of people don’t realize all we do and fans are really amazed when they find out.”


Barbara Zaun, Eagles cheerleading director, said many of the women have impressive careers while others are still pursuing degrees.

Within the group are a malpractice lawyer, several teachers, a forensic accountant, a business analyst, a physician assistant and a speech pathologist.

Nine of the cheerleaders hail from South Jersey — Baquero; Erica Dorsey and Rachel Swartz, both of Marlton; twins Sage and Gabriella Cifaloglio of Medford, Lauren Bidicof Vineland, Alycia Guzman of Glendora, Pilar Martin of Mullica Hill and Nicole Mazzatenta of Gibbstown.

Baquero, a Rutgers University graduate, and rookie Swartz won’t be participating in Super Bowl events this Sunday. They will be traveling with four other Eagles cheerleaders to Mexico City as NFL goodwill ambassadors.

The cheerleaders will greet fans, sign autographs and perform at NFL Mexico’s Super Bowl Experience 2016. Beginning Friday they will make appearances throughout the city in a country where NFL officials say football is the second most popular sport — after soccer.


“The Super Bowl is the most watched single sporting event in Mexico. Over 9 million people watched last year’s Super Bowl in Mexico,” said Jorge Loperana, NFL Mexico Director of Marketing and Media. “By having the Eagles cheerleaders participating at one of the most important viewing events in Mexico City helps to amplify the popularity of the sport and the growth of the local fan base.”

“It’s a huge event and I am really excited about it. It is a great way to interact with fans there, most of whom have never been to a game or met an NFL cheerleader,” said Swartz, a 21-year-old student at the University of Delaware majoring in communications.

Two other Eagles cheerleaders have flown to Asia to entertain the armed forces and bring a part of the NFL to the troops while they watch the Denver Broncos battle the Carolina Panthers Sunday.

Other Eagles cheerleaders are spending time at military installations in Singapore, Diego Garcia, and South Korea.

Eagles spokesman Brett Strohsacker said the cheerleaders have the opportunity to perform for the troops and personally thank them for their bravery and sacrifices. They also will learn about military life while staying at the installations.

“My grandfather served in the Air Force and I’ve always had great respect for the brave men and women that serve for our country … and I am always in awe of their courage and heroism,” said Moffa, a kindergarten teacher who has visited with active duty and wounded service members as an Eagles cheerleader.

Moffa can’t wait to distribute handmade cards from her students to the servicemen.

Passion for the job

Baquero was a cheerleader all through her public school years and at college while Swartz had danced ballet and jazz since the age of 2 but was never a cheerleader.

Swartz said she always was interested in cheerleading but never thought being an Eagles cheerleader was a possibility. “But I went for it and was surprised I made the team.”

She called it a once-in-a-lifetime experience and an honor to be on the field during games.

“For someone like me who dreamed of doing something like this, I am willing to make the sacrifices. And if you find something that you truly love as I have, it does not seem like a job,” said the 2012 Cherokee High School graduate.

The cheerleaders say they appreciate the passion of Philly fans.

“Our fans are like no others; you feel energy when you walk into the stadium it is just booming,” Swartz said. “They respect us and I also feel really respected as an employee of the Eagles. They have given me so many opportunities for which I am ever grateful.”

But being an Eagles cheerleader involves more than glamour. There are job guidelines, rehearsals twice a week with their director, new dances to learn every year from choreographer Suzy Zucker of Voorhees, practices before games and fan visits during tailgating prior to home games.

As a group, the cheerleaders make more than 350 personal appearances a year with each member required to attend a minimum of three events monthly.

Every team member also must try out every year. The two-month tryout and interview process is lengthy and begins March 5 at Lincoln Financial Field.

“We are looking for talented performers who have ability, showmanship and enthusiasm and can engage with fans and also with the community at events like junior cheerleading clinics and autism fundraisers,” Zaun said.

“Being on the the NFL stage is a great accolade and the pinnacle of a cheerleading career.”

By Matt TaylorCentral
Coast Gosford Express Advocate

Alex Tsambos is a superhero of sorts. By day she is a mild-mannered accountant. But by night she trades her business suit and calculator for tights and pompoms as she spreads her wings in charge of an NRL cheerleading team.

“Cheerleading lets me get my creative side out after being at a desk and immersed in numbers during the day,” Ms Tsambos said.


This week the 28-year-old Umina Beach resident realised a dancing dream when she started as director of the Newcastle Knights’ cheerleading team.

“I’ve just had eight years cheerleading for the Manly Sea Eagles, and I’m definitely ready to step up now,” she said.

“I have always wanted to be a director of an NRL cheerleading team, and I can’t wait for the season to start.”

Ms Tsambos, who graduated with a Bachelor of Commerce at the University of Newcastle’s Ourimbah campus about five years ago, said many cheerleaders in the NRL were degree-qualified­ women.

“We all tend to do cheerleading as a hobby. And this stigma of the girls getting into it to date footballers is rubbish,” she said.

“The girls do it to entertain the children and the families. We all love to perform, and it gives us a chance to be part of the NRL.”
Asked what made a top-notch cheerleader, she said: “You have to train hard and a lot of it comes down to your personality.”

Her new role with the Knights, who finished with the wooden spoon in 2015, will see her work up to 20 hours a week on planning, choreography, uniforms, promotional work and game days.

Ms Tsambos is hoping her good friend Angela Nicotera, of the world-famous ­Dallas Cowboys NFL cheerleading team, will teach her Knights girls some new moves this year.

“Ang and I were cheerleaders together at Manly. The NRL will start introducing more of the American-style tumbling and acrobatics in the future, so she can hopefully help us with that.

“We are always looking to offer more great entertainment for the fans.”

BY EthanForman
Salem News

Former New England Patriots cheerleader and budding entrepreneur Michelle Nigro of Swampscott felt firsthand the disappointment on the field when the Patriots lost Super Bowl XLVI to the New York Giants in February 2012.

She and other cheerleaders watched as the confetti was being rolled out in Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, but the squad had a gut feeling the game would not go the Patriots’ way. They lost, 21-17.


“It was heart breaking,” said Nigro, who cheered for the Pats from 2010 to 2015, with a year off in between.

Nigro did get to experience redemption with the Pats before she hung up her pompoms for good though.

At last year’s Super Bowl in Glendale, Arizona, she and the rest of the cheering squad anxiously watched as the clock wound down on the Patriots and Seattle Seahawks, battling back and forth, flashbacks of 2012 ever present on their minds.

“When that last play happened, it was so surreal,” said Nigro, referring to the goal line interception by rookie cornerback Malcolm Butler to give the Pats the victory.

A 2008 graduate of Swampscott High, Nigro has now turned her love of dance and her ability to juggle a hectic schedule into opening her own boutique fitness business called Town Barre and Fitness, which she started in October. At the same time, she works full time for a public relations firm called InkHouse in Waltham.

The grueling pace isn’t foreign to Nigro — an athlete, dancer and cheerleader in high school — she described being a Patriots cheerleader as akin to a full-time job — team practices twice a week, promotions to attend and practice outside of regular workouts. She cheered for the Patriots while in college, and still later while working a full-time job after graduating from Emerson College in 2012.

Now, she hopes her new workout will capitalize on the growing popularity of barre, which blends dance, pilates and yoga. Nigro said barre is also part of a craze in which boutique fitness classes are replacing standard gym workouts of weight lifting and elliptical machines.

Older clients like barre because it helps them build their balance, while younger clients like to push it, she said. And the classes have been getting crowded as Nigro has built her business through word of mouth.

“It’s not an intimidating workout, and you still see results,” she said.

Since the workout is a dance barre, Nigro is limited to which studios she can offer classes at. She currently offers classes at Studio 21 at 21 Elm St. in Swampscott, where she rents space, and at the Marblehead Fitness Center at 14 Bessom St. in Marblehead.

The Studio 21 connection was also a personal one. One of Nigro’s mentors, Danielle Beatrice, owns the studio and was an assistant coach of the Swampscott High Dance Team when Nigro was a member of the team. Coincidentally, Beatrice was also a Patriots cheerleader from 2007 to 2009.

Nigro noted that the commitment as a Patriots cheerleader was “so much more than game days” and in fact gave her some “crazy opportunities,” such as a trip to China in 2012 to attend the Nike Festival of Sports in Shanghai.

At 25, Nigro says she gets her entrepreneurial spirit from her mother, Maria Freni of Swampscott, who owns her own business, Essential Friends Spa on Tulip Street in Salem.

“I think she was both excited and happy for me, and she had her concerns,” said Nigro of her mother’s sentiments about her opening her own business, especially when it came to the hurdles one can face starting up.

Nigro said she’s not ready to open her own studio, just yet; she’s taking the barre workout classes one step at a time.


sabSabrina joined the team last year for her first season as a 2015-16 Denver Nuggets Dancer.

As the youngest of six children, she has a variety of nicknames; Sab, Sabs, Sabrinas, Sabe, Sabey, Sabre, Sabretooth, Brina, Sabribri, but to her Dad, she’s known as Orange.

The Temecula, California native made her way to the Rocky Mountains to attend Colorado State University in Fort Collins where she graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Communication Studies and a minor in Sociology.

“I have always been really adventurous and love going out of my comfort zone,” said Sabrina. “I am extremely close to my family and relied on them, but I knew I needed to grow as a person and be independent. After high school, I decided I wanted to go to college out of state, I ended up attending Colorado State University. After I visited the school, it automatically felt like home.”

Sabrina, or Orange, was a member of the CSU Golden Poms team for four years. As an undergraduate, her leadership and positive energy earned her the honorable “Mood Changer Award” her sophomore year and the team captain title her senior year.

“The coach recognizes a team member who brightens the mood of the team when times can get stressful, or discouraging. I love being positive and encouraging my teammates, it’s always been normal for me to do, so when I received the award it was a sweet surprise,” Sabrina said. “Knowing that my coach and teammates saw me as a leader on the team meant a lot to me.”
Her ambitious spirit has been dancing since she was barely able to walk (even dancing down grocery store aisles with her Mom!), but performing in front of a large crowd wasn’t always as seamless as it is now.

“I have been dancing since the age of two. All my older sisters did it so my mom stuck me in it, too! My earliest memory of dance is actually my first dance recital when I was three.” Sabrina jokingly recalled, “I cried for my mom the entire time I was on stage.”

Sabrina is an incredibly well-rounded dancer. She is not only trained in hip-hop and tap, but also in jazz, contemporary, modern, ballet, lyrical and even musical theater. Her diverse set of footwork matched by her adept leadership skills makes this performer an integral member of the DND.

“I love so many things about being a DND!” She exclaims. “I love the opportunity to learn from my teammates and to have the ability to push myself to not only be a better dancer, but to be a better person. I also love that I am able to fulfill my dreams of becoming a professional dancer and the opportunity to dance for the best fans in the NBA! Lastly, I love the friendships and individual relationships I’ve built with each one of my beautiful teammates!”

Although she has been dancing for nearly her entire life, she will never forget performing in front of the Denver Nuggets fans for the first time.

“My favorite memory thus far being a DND is without a doubt the Home Opener, which was my first game representing the Denver Nuggets. I just remember standing there with my hand over my heart during the National Anthem thinking, I can’t believe I’m here, my dream has come true. I felt very emotional, but was in front of thousands of fans so I had to keep it together!”

[Sabrina on Twitter]

[Sabrina’s Photo Gallery]


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Many are counting down to Super Bowl 50 this Sunday.

One local woman is gearing up for the big game by remembering her days on the field performing for the Los Angeles Rams.

Neva Sjuts was one of the first majorettes for the Los Angeles Rams.

This was before teams had cheerleaders we think of today.

For those of you who might not know, a majorette dances with the band and twirls a baton.

While some sequins might be missing and the fabric on her costume has faded, her memories on the field remain clear as ever.

“It was very popular, so there was a lot of interest. It was a big deal knowing the Rams were in the coliseum,” said Sjuts.

The team chose Sjuts to be one of four majorettes to perform during the Los Angeles Rams games starting in 1949.

She was just 15 years old.

“Half-time we’d get out and twirl and during the game we would try to keep the fans interested in the game. But it was exciting,” Sjuts said.

Back then the games were just starting to be televised, but the pictures of her doing what she loves stand the test of time.

One of her favorite memories on the field were during one rainy game.

“The mud was all over my boots and we started our routine, and the first thing I did was my high kick and the mud hit me right on the top of the head,” Sjuts said.

She was on the team when the Rams won the NFL title in 1951.

And when she heard the news the Rams were coming home to California?

“I think it’s wonderful because L.A. has needed a pro team, period. But to have the Los Angeles Rams with the history which they have had here, and the fans love them they hated to see them go,” Sjuts said.

And when I asked her what she thought about NFL cheerleaders now?

“It’s come a long way; I wish I could be a part of it now because I think I would thoroughly enjoy it



The Knicks City Dancers wow the crowd with performances of “Dear Future Husband” and “Manhattan Dolls” at MSG.

[KCD Gallery]