The hours leading up to the Family Dance at Fleetwood-Jourdain Community Center on Sunday, Feb. 5 were filled with anticipation for Ricky Malone and his daughter, Rianna.
“Before we even walked in the door, my daughter said, ‘I’ll remember this day for the rest of my life,’” Malone told the RoundTable.
The pair dressed for the occasion in matching shades of navy blue – Dad in a suit and tie, daughter in a twirl-worthy dress. A wrist corsage completed Rianna’s party attire.
Malone said his daughter’s excitement points to the importance of taking the time to create memories and nurture a strong parent-child bond.
More than 80 community members attended the Valentine’s Day-themed dance, filling Fleetwood-Jourdain’s auditorium from 3 to 5 p.m.
Many, including the Malone family, experienced the event for the first time. Others, such as the Totsch family, have made it an annual tradition.
“We came last year. It’s been on the calendar all year,” said Jeff Totsch, at the dance with daughters Hazel and Florence.
The auditorium was transformed into an enchanting environment with dazzling decorations, dinner, dancing and craft tables filled with red, white and pink paper, hearts and glitter.
Previously known as the Daddy-Daughter Dance, the event was renamed this year to make it inclusive, according to Briana Jenkins assistant program coordinator at Fleetwood-Jourdain.
“We changed it to Family Dance, so that everyone feels welcome to come,” Jenkins said.
Also new this year was Glenn David Productions. “We have a great DJ production team … with a great vibe, and I can’t wait for them to get started,” Jenkins added. “I think everyone will really enjoy it.”
Although the event was tailored for families with children 5 to 10, the father-daughter tradition appeared to carry over from its previous iteration, with girls escorted by fathers or other paternal figures.
City of Evanston Recreation Manager Ken Cherry said he was pleased by the large turnout.
“I’m excited! This is wonderful,” said Cherry, as he looked toward a seemingly endless stream of bubbles floating and sparkling above the dance floor. The fleeting bubbles brought added joy and laughter to an already magical afternoon.
DJ Glenn David kept ebullient crowd members on their feet, with dads and daughters sharing their favorite dance moves – and even engaging in a friendly dance competition. By the loudness of audience cheer voting, it was determined that dads were the winners this year.
But win or lose, participants gave it their all, and had fun every dance step of the way.
The smiles on the faces of those in attendance, and the sparkle in their eyes, signaled that for some participants the Family Dance memories will last for years to come. Maybe even for the rest of their lives.