The Valdosta Daily Times
“Dance with her always, she'll never be too young or too old,” is one of the many positive messages displayed at the entrance of the annual Father-Daughter Valentine Dance. As the dance enters its 17th year, fathers and daughters nationwide are getting ready for one of the most memorable weekends of the year.
Created by Jeff Stewart in 1997, the father of two daughters, Macy and Melissa, he started the dance with the intention for fathers to show their daughters how a young lady or woman should be treated.
“It is an opportunity for dads and daughters to spend time together and provide an environment for the father to show the daughter how she should be treated on a date,” Stewart said. “Dads can raise the bar, like opening doors.”
In past dances, fathers have given their daughters the experience of a lifetime. They will go dress shopping, out to a nice dinner and even rent a limousine to make the night extra special.
“It was a fantastic bonding experience,” radio host Scott James said. “You get all dolled up. It was an absolute blast. It is a neat way to show them how a lady should be treated in life. It is a good lesson.”
In its first year, Jeff and his wife Becky hosted the dance at their church, First Presbyterian, accommodating about 170 people. 17-years later, their attendance has grown abundantly to around 5,000.
"We are the largest father-daughter dance in the nation," Stewart said. "We owe the dance's success to Valdosta and other areas in the community."
Fathers and daughters of all ages come for the experience, even families of more than one generation.
"We have fathers that come with their grown daughters, who have daughters of their own, who are accompanied by their fathers," Stewart said.
The dance is held at James H. Rainwater Conference Center and is decorated beautifully for the special occasion. Stewart and his team bring in all of their own decorations and prepare a day in advance to make sure everything is perfect.
"We hang a cranberry red gossamer on all four walls, white over all of the doorways and bring in our own chandeliers and gazebos," Stewart said. "Members begin decorating preparation Thursday and then the ladies come in and fine tune."
A great music selection is also provided at the dance, to suit the daughters’ and fathers’ tastes.
"They look forward to their favorite song. For dad, we might play Celebration, by Kool and the Gang, for her, the YMCA," Stewart said.
The hallway to the entrance of the dance is even dressed up with witty sayings, such as, "Teach her that if she acts stupid to attract boys, she'll attract stupid boys," and "Never let her forget that you love her. Even when you're angry with her." The messages are present to remind both the fathers and the daughters of how much they impact each other's lives.
With the past 16-years being a success, Jeff is looking forward to entering their 17th strong.
"We are expecting another tremendous event," Stewart said. "Even though we started the event, we owe all of the credit to God."
Another huge inspiration for the idea, the dances are dedicated to Jeff's late sister, Lucy Martin Stewart. A brilliant singer and compassionate woman, he knows she would've loved to be a part of the event.
The dance will be held on Friday, Feb. 8, and Saturday, Feb. 9. There are two dances each night, from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. and 9 p.m. to 11 p.m. Tickets are on sale now, at $10 per person and are encouraged to be purchased online at www.fatherdaughterdance.org, in advance. Proceeds will go to the First Presbyterian Church for missions.
For more information about the dance, please call Jeff Stewart at (229) 460-3800.