VALDOSTA -- A father and daughter from Kuwait were among those attending the annual Father-Daughter Valentine Dance Friday at the Valdosta-Lowndes Conference Center.

Mike Hunt, financial director of Equate, a joint venture between Dow Chemical and the Kuwaiti government, brought his 11-year-old daughter, Molly, to the popular social event.

The former Valdostans usually come back here for Christmas, but stayed there during the holidays because of everything going on in Kuwait.

"We went to the Father-Daughter dance four years ago," mom Beth Hunt said. "Molly didn't want to go, but after she got there, she just had a great time with her dad."

Molly wore her first formal dress to the dance.

Depending on what President Bush and Congress decide about the war on Iraq, Mike will return Feb. 23 or 24 to Kuwait.

Navy Chaplain Lt. Brad Sears got called into active duty two weeks ago, but got a pass to come from Camp Lejeune, N.C., to take his 2 1/2-year-old daughter, Claire, to the dance.

"I'm super excited knowing I might not see my daughter for a long while," he said Friday night. "It means the world to me."

Sears is associate pastor at Valdosta's First Presbyterian Church, which has sponsored the dance for seven years. It was begun and is coordinated each year by Jeff and Becky Stewart.

Jeff said 2,000 tickets were sold for the dance in nine days, and as of Friday morning, at least 100 other people wanted tickets.

Daughters and dads attending the dance came in a variety of ages. Joel Bailey of Valdosta held his 9-month-old daughter, Lauren, in his arms, swaying gently to the sound of a slow song.

"It took us eight years to get a girl," he said. "I wanted to show her how a little girl should be treated. When she gets older, she'll have these memories."

Don Weldon of Valdosta took his 26-year-old married daughter, Angie Forte of Moultrie, to the dance.

"I thought it would be something nice we could do together," Weldon said.

It was the third year to attend the dance for Jesse Brewer, 82, of Valdosta. He was there with his daughter, Denise Tebedo, 37, and his 5-year-old granddaughter, Brittney.

"I like to see these old men get out here with their young 'uns," he said, looking out over the crowded dance floor.

The daughters and dads had fun dancing the locomotion and the twist and enjoyed such fun songs as "YMCA," "Barbara Ann," "Rock Around the Clock" and "We are Family."

"This is too fun," said Debbie Parker, one of a host of volunteers helpers. "It just makes you happy."

Todd Tillman took his 9-month-old daughter, Olivia, to the dance. Meanwhile, his 3 1/2-year-old son, Dane, was home anticipating the Mother-Son Dance March 14 at Park Avenue United Methodist Church fellowship hall. His mom, Wendy, said Dane is "excited about taking Mama to the "lou-owl" and eating block cheese" like he did at last year's inaugural dance.



To contact Lifestyles editor Elizabeth Butler, please call 244-3400, ext. 256.



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