BANGOR, Maine — Elisabeth Budd paces back and forth in the kitchen, glancing anxiously out the window and occasionally nibbling on a cracker or a piece of cheese. She’s wearing a new fuchsia dress with lots of sparkles and a bubble skirt that billows out when she twirls. Her shiny new shoes have heels that click softly on the wood floor.
“They’re still coming, right?” she asks.
Elisabeth, 10, has been looking forward to the annual Father-Daughter Valentine’s Dance since the holidays ended. She has been going to the dance for several years, and although she was a little overwhelmed her first year, now she can’t wait to spend the evening dancing with her dad and her friends.
Elisabeth’s friends Lydia Gilmore and Gabrielle and Isabella Keebler arrive, all wearing colorful dresses and heels.
“I look like Goldilocks!” says Gabrielle, examining her freshly curled blond hair in the mirror as the girls, who all attend Mary Snow School in Bangor, admire each other’s outfits and hairstyles. They’re still chatting excitedly when Dr. Peter Keebler arrives with the final piece of their ensembles: wrist corsages for his daughters and Lydia.
“Don’t you look fabulous!” he says to the girls as they gather around him. They sniff their corsages and debate whether it’s more important to have a special hairstyle or accessories.
For Lydia, whose father is away at a conference, this is still a special night, as many girls her age spend most of the night dancing with their friends. Elisabeth says that her dad “usually talks with other dads that he knows,” although she always joins him for the final dances of the evening.
After a dinner out, the girls arrive in the lobby of the Bangor Civic Center, where giggling girls chase after each other and sample fruit punch and pink-frosted cupcakes.
The dance takes place in the civic center’s main room, past an entryway decorated with red, pink and white balloons. Colorful strobe lights flash as dads and daughters dance to father-daughter dance favorites such as the “Chicken Dance” and “YMCA” as well as pop songs by artists such as Adele and Katy Perry.
In a nearby conference room, many dads and daughters get their photos taken as a souvenir of their special night out.
Debbie Gendreau, superintendent of recreation for the Bangor Department of Parks and Recreation, says that the food and photography stations had been moved so the dance could accommodate hundreds more people. Even so, all of the tickets were sold.
On the crowded dance floor, a large screen displays dads’ and daughters’ formal portraits as well as images of the dancers. Elisabeth and her friends enjoy looking for themselves on the screen, and they’ve developed a technique: “I find [one] person in the crowd,” Elisabeth says. “Then I go over there so I can be in the picture.”
When she dances, she often stays away from her dad because, she says, “Sometimes he just dances to embarrass me — just these weird dad moves he makes up to embarrass me.”
Despite the potential embarrassment of being seen with a dad whose dance moves may not be to their liking, most daughters say they enjoy the one-on-one time with their dads.
Olivia Babin, 8, said that although she likes the music (especially doing the Chicken Dance) and dancing with her friends, she also loves spending time with her dad. “That makes me want to cry,” her father, Bruce Babin, said.
Charlotte Zelz is a freshman at John Bapst Memorial High School in Bangor.