The City of Auburn hosted its 32 annual Daddy-Daughter Date Night. The three-hour, two-night event was held Friday, Feb. 11th, and Saturday, Feb. 12th, at the Auburn Junior High School field house.
Tickets were sold-out both nights. There were 300 people in attendance each evening.
This year's theme was confidence, focusing on fathers empowering young girls ages 0 –12.
Elizabeth Kaufmann, coordinator of the program, said The Daddy-Daughter Date Night began as a one-night-only event three decades ago and quickly grew over the years. She said it is now a custom of the city and a highly anticipated community-wide event.
"It's an Auburn tradition," Kaufmann said. "The city recognized that there was a need for a special occasion just so fathers or father figures and their little girls could have fun and form that important lifelong bond. They forward to this all year long, and we definitely wanted to keep that going."
Dad and daughter duos did line dances such as the Macarena, Cha-Cha Slide and Cupid Shuffle.
Special appearances were made by Aubie the Tiger, who led one of the lines dances, the Chick Fil-La Cow and Princes Cow, from an Atlanta store.
The newly elected 2022-2023 Miss Auburn, Anne Earthman also appeared at the dance. Earthman said attending the event was a new experience for her.
"We don't have daddy-daughter dances where I am from," Earthman said. "I would always hear about them on TV, but I never attended one, so technically, this is my first time attending a daddy-daughter dance event. Seeing the dads and their daughters all dressed up and having a good time is truly awesome."
But last year, this event was not possible.
In February 2021, the Daddy-Daughter Date night was canceled due to the COVID-19 outbreak in Lee County. This was upsetting news for some father-daughter duos.
"She was sad and I was sad," said Jamie Missildine, an employee at Briggs and Stratton Corporation who attended with his six-year-old daughter Maci. "We have been coming every year since she was three years old. We were so heartbroken that we could not attend last year."
Kaufman said, in turn, the city hosted an online event. She said it is good to make an in-person return.
"Last year, we tried to do the virtual date night was nice, but of course, it didn't have the same effect as an in-person event with the live music, food, and dance-offs," Kaufman said. "But now, it feels amazing to be back. Because we did not have the event last year, and a lot of people missed out, I think it will make this one even more exciting for folks."
The Daddy-Daughter song of the year was "Baby Mine" performed by Frank Churchill from the 1941 Disney film 'Dumbo.' It consisted of a slow dance in which the fathers were to hold their hand out and ask their daughters," Will you dance with me?"
Some fathers held their toddler-aged daughters the entire night. One of those fathers was Derrick Harris, local cosmologist, who attended the event with his 2-year-old daughter.
Harris said it was vital for him to attend the event. He said the lack of a father's presence in his childhood motivated him to participate in the event and positively impact his children's life.
"My mother passed away when I was 13, and my father wasn't there for me a whole lot like he could have been," Harris said. "I played sports in school, and he didn't come to any of my high school or college games, so It pushed me to be involved in my children lives because I didn't want them to feel the way I felt, and it starts with being here for moments like this."
The event concluded with Daddy-Daughter Dance competition. There were six winners from the competition. Mark Burnette, an auditor, won the first-place trophy with his two daughters, Haisley and Camille.
Burnette said he was happy that he won, but the real reward came from having fun and spending time with his daughters.
"We had a blast tonight," Burnette said. "The trophy was nice and all, but what was most important tonight was spending time with the girls, I know this is a night that we are going never to forget and talk about forever."
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