It was the network -- or at least the networking -- that made the difference.
Using Facebook and Twitter contacts, Antrone Brewer was able to garner more than 100,000 votes in only a few hours to win a trip to Los Angeles to see a live taping of the Ellen Degeneres Show.
"I couldn't believe all the people came together to vote," Mr. Brewer said. "That was crazy."
Mr. Brewer entered a contest sponsored by WRDW-TV and WBBQ Radio during the month of November called "Get Your Dance on With Ellen." Participants could make a video of themselves dancing to their favorite song and upload it onto the television station's Web site. The entry with the most online votes from viewers won a trip for two to Los Angeles, including airfare for two, a two-night hotel stay and VIP tickets to a February taping of the show.
Mr. Brewer was actually working at his part-time job as a Thomson firefighter when he filmed the 46-second video. He was washing a fire truck -- something he said has to be done every day -- and decided to add a few moves of the "Jump On It" dance from The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air to his wash routine. He followed proper protocol and received permission from the fire chief first, though.
"I thought it was hilarious," Chief Rick Sewell said. "I didn't know he had them kind of moves in him. I'm glad he won, because it gives him a once-in-a-lifetime experience to go on the trip, plus it gives exposure to our small town fire department."
The dates of the trip have not been revealed to Mr. Brewer yet. But he said he doesn't think he'll have any trouble taking time off from his job with the fire department or from his full-time job as a McDuffie County 911 dispatcher. In fact, he's been checking out Los Angeles on the Internet to see what else he wants to do while there.
"He may not make it back," Chief Sewell quipped. "He may get discovered while he's there. If he does, I expect him to remember me and make me his manager or driver or something like that."
Mr. Brewer said he had help from co-workers and friends who contacted their family in other states, asking them to vote. Thomson Deputy Fire Chief Johnny Crawley sent out e-mails to firefighters across the state, telling them to go online, watch the video and vote.
"It helped me out a great bit," Mr. Brewer said. "Each vote counted. ... I want to say 'thank you' to everybody that gave me a click."
There were 22 entries in the contest -- four from Thomson, one from Dearing, one from Wrens and one from Mitchell. The rest were from Augusta, Evans and from South Carolina.
The number of votes was so large during the 21 days of the contest, that Mr. Brewer said some of the competition officials became suspicious of automated voting and erased all votes toward the end of the contest. His friends pitched in and re-contacted everyone they knew, encouraging them to vote again.
"It got a lot more attention than I thought," Mr. Brewer said. "According to the comments, a lot of people said it made their day. I made someone's day, made them laugh and got to dance at the same time. So, I won both ways."
To view Mr. Brewer's winning video, go to www.wrdw.com and click on "contests."