Twisting the night away

      Barbara Lawlor, Gilpin County.  The Gilpin County Recreation Center Father/Daughter Sweetheart Dance is perhaps one of the area’s most tender, adorable, heart-melting events in the mountain area.

The girls get to dress up, finding the perfect swirly dress with shiny shoes and shimmering ribbons in their hair. Often the dads get spiffied up, putting on a dress shirt with a tie, combing their hair and maybe adding a splash of cologne. Anything to impress their date for the night.

When the dashing couples walk into the recreation center, the fathers, or grandfathers, take the young ladies’ coats and hang them up as the girls peer expectantly into the room that is leaking pink light. Each of them receives a Valentine bag filled with sweet treats and cuddly critters, and a rose.

The party room dazzles the senses with its sparkling hearts and table laden with pink-frosted cupcakes, sprinkle laden cookies, meatballs simmering in savory sauces. Over the high-pitched shrieks of ecstatic females, Elvis croons, “Can’t help falling in love with you.”

This year was one of the biggest ever, with at least 80 couples showing up, many of them newcomers to the event. But the word has spread among Gilpin girls and when they start pleading with their dads to take them to the dance, the moms nod their heads vigorously and the dads give in without too much pressure. It is, after all, a special time.

Mike Vaughn says that when his daughter Vienn, 4, told him she wanted to go to the dance with him, “There was no saying no.” Vienn was dolled up in a satiny mauve dress that matched the bow in her hair and, shy at first, she was soon finding her groove.

Steve Brennan had his hands full with his nine-year-old twins Katie and Molly who took turns being slid along the floor, 50’s style. Steve says he had heard about the dance before and decided it was time to join the fun. They often dance at home and the girls wanted to show off their dresses and their style.

Five-year-old Emmy Strain from Coal Creek Canyon flitted around the dance floor lost in her world of movement while her dad watched on. “She loves to dance,” he explained. “This is her night. I am just here to observe.

Sometimes, escorts win by default. Ireland Simpson, 9, says she wanted to come with her grandfather Bill because her dad is a horrible dancer. “Once he threw my sister in the air and didn’t catch her.”

Jacob Bellinsky, of Gilpin County, had never attended the dance before but says this is his second year of being a single dad to eight kids and he needed some time alone with his daughters: Sara, 11; Zisa, 9, and Miryam, 5. The girls take jazz and ballet lessons and enjoyed the opportunity to hang out with their dad and demonstrate their dancing skills.

Many of the newcomers showed up for the first time after they received a flier about the dance from the Gilpin Elementary School. It is one of those happy events that will continue to grow as long as there are little girls who love to dance and dads who love their daughters.

No one knows what the moms and wives do while the dance goes on, but one would hope it involves a few hours of putting their feet up, dark chocolate, and maybe a glass of red wine and a rose between their teeth.

Barbara Lawlor

Barbara is a reporter for The Mountain-Ear.