Story and photos by Rick Emert
Dressed in formal gowns, about 300 daughters danced the night away with their fathers in dress military uniforms, suits or tuxedos Friday at the YMCA Father-Daughter Dance.
Although the girls were as young as 1 year old, the dance floor at the Crowne Plaza hotel remained full for the entire three-hour event, which ended at 10 p.m.
“Last year, at 10 o’clock, some of those little girls were just crying, because they wanted to stay,” said Russ Brinker, Military Outreach director, Southeast Family Center/Armed Services YMCA.
The fathers didn’t seem to mind all the dancing.
“They’ve been wearing me thin, but it’s their night,” said Sgt. Alan Runyon,
2nd Battalion, 12th Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division. “It is a very kid-friendly event. I love it. I’m glad the YMCA looks out for military Families and plans events like this.”
Many of the fathers who attended had either just returned from a deployment or were about to deploy, Brinker said.
“I think this really gives them a chance to connect with their daughters,” he said. “Some of them came home after 15 months (in Iraq), and they can reconnect. I think that’s very important.
Some of them have the moms here, too. It’s very special for them.”
Several photographers were on hand in a mini studio set up for the fathers and daughters to have their portraits taken.
A light dinner was served and a magician performed, but the night really was about the dancing.
“(The magician) gives the dads a little chance to rest,” Brinker said. “Last year, that dance floor was just packed. They didn’t get a chance to rest. I expected that maybe people would leave (after the magician), but I don’t think I saw anybody leave. They were right back on the dance floor.”
Not all of the daughters were in gowns. U.S. Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Jesse Armitage, U.S. Northern Command, Peterson Air Force Base, was attending her very first Father and Daughter Dance in uniform.
“I feel grateful to be able to bring my dad (Don Kissel) here,” Armitage said. “I saw the flier that my sergeant major gave me and called him about it. He got out of the Army in ’58, and he was glad to do this with the military. He drove seven hours (from Vernal, Utah) to be here for this.”
Brinker said that many of those who attended had been to all of the Father and Daughter Dances since the event began three years ago.
Others, who were attending for the first time, said they planned to attend again.
“I normally get dressed up for my spouse, but this night I’m dressed up for my kids,” said Staff Sgt. Chris Mountjoy, 10th Combat Support Hospital. “This night is about them. We will do this every year that we can.”