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Dads and daughters have a ball at the Sweetheart Dance

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Enchanting tradition draws near-record crowd

by Patty Unruh

Love was in the air at the thirteenth annual Sweetheart Ball held at the Gilpin Community Center on Saturday evening, February 11. A near-record 76 princesses were signed up with their dads to enjoy an evening together in the “magical kingdom” themed ballroom.

Center staff member Bonnie Saeedi coordinated the event, and with the help of Center director Kathi Lambert and volunteers Barbara Thielemann and Dorothy Sweet, everything glided along as smoothly as a Strauss waltz.

The ball was a long-standing custom for several of the daddy-daughter pairs and a new tradition for many others. All the young ladies received a long-stemmed silk rose and a gift bag brimming with candy, bubbles, plush animals, and a “Sweetheart Ball 2017” commemorative candle. Many of the girls have collected these special mementos from previous years.

Every little girl loves to feel like a princess. These sweethearts were visions of beauty in colorful gowns, dressy shoes, sparkling jewelry, hair styled by moms’ skillful fingers, and bright smiles. The fathers were more than equal to escort their daughters – well-groomed in suits, dress shirts, and ties that matched their dates’ outfits. Some couples even had corsages and boutonnieres.

The right clothes were important to Serenity Dominguez, age 8, and her father Justin, who went to Denver to get stylish duds for their first ever Valentine’s dance. Fellow guest Bill Innis quipped, “When I bought this vest for Christmas, I had no idea how much I would use it!” His daughters, 13-year-old Andal and 5-year-old Clementine, were proud of their dad’s fashion sense.

As in the past, the multi-purpose room was glowing with rosy light and decked with foil hearts, yellow and pink bunting, and red streamers over the doors and windows. Balloons were very popular items, and every once in a while a loud “POP” drew gasps and giggles.

Everyone helped themselves to a buffet that included savory meatballs and mini pizzas, healthful carrots, and tempting mini cupcakes and frosted cookies.

The dearly devoted couples were drawn to the dance floor with favorite oldies like “Sugar, Sugar” by The Archies and “Can’t Help Falling in Love” by Elvis. Like ice cream, there was enough variety in the mix to please fathers and daughters alike: the “Macarena,” Pharrell Williams’ “Happy,” and much more. Dads had a chance to catch their breath mid-evening as all the girls circled up to show their moves on the “The Hokey Pokey.”

There was a jubilant variety in the group. Some of the fathers had more than one daughter to squire, and the happy family members held hands as they swung in circles. The smallest of the little misses had their first dance in daddy’s arms. Other girls had help in their dance moves by standing on their papa’s toes. Some young ladies brought their grandfathers. Pre-teens entertained some of the tiny tots with “ring-around-the-rosy.”

It was the first Sweetheart Ball for quite a few folks, including Tyler Voorus and daughter Ezra, 2; Sherman Loges and his girls Airabella, 5, and Zenya, 3; David Fowers and daughters Beatrix, 8, and Lola, 11; and many more.

Of course, everyone loved the dancing, and all agreed that it was sweet just to hang out with each other for the evening. Some had made a full day of it.

“We went out to lunch at the Sundance Café and visited the Carousel of Happiness in Nederland,” noted Bob Watson and daughter Isabella, age 5.

Mike Cope, whose daughter Lili is 11, caught the essence of the occasion when he said, “It’s a reminder of how fast time goes by. We need to hold onto these times.”

Laughter emanated from the ping-pong and pool tables and the air hockey game in the teen room. A gentle round of balloon soccer was also in progress. Several dads assisted their offspring in making foam photo frames at the craft tables.

It will be a special evening to remember for these fathers and daughters. True love is one Gilpin tradition that is likely to continue until “happily ever after.”

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