Amidst a sea of pastel, lace and silk, 47 girls and their fathers gathered Friday night to celebrate the Forest Park Park District’s first Daddy-Daughter Date Night in six years.
The event, held at the park district’s main building from 6:30 p.m. to 9 p.m., included dinner, dancing and a somewhat strict “no moms allowed” policy.
For those who were not up for dancing, there was also a showing of Disney’s Cinderella.
The air was filled with laughter throughout the evening but before the groups could sit down, each one of the 4 to 11 year olds escorted their dads to the back of the hall, where they had their picture taken in front of a heart-shaped ornament.
Commissioner Roy Sansone was accompanied by his youngest daughter Kathryn, 12, a sixth-grader at Forest Park Middle School.
For Sansone, the event represents a continuation of the park’s focus on family events and on meeting the needs of the ever-more-complicated lifestyles many Forest Park families lead.
“Family events are what the park district should be all about because, now, families are so time-restricted,” Sansone said. “With moms and dads working we don’t have much time. Opportunities for [Kathryn] and I to go out are special. Besides, she is at an age where, next year, she might not want to.”
Although his daughter is all grown up, Commissioner Michael Espinoza sneaked in his wife as his date, delivered the opening remarks and got the dancing started on the third floor by enthusiastically yelling out the opening line to a popular song.
The fathers said the evening was a chance to take a break from their busy lives and spend some quality time with their daughters.
“I think it is a good opportunity for dads to spend time with their daughters,” said Gregory Jenkins, director of security for MB Real Estate in Chicago. “I work a lot of hours and usually when I come home Brea  is asleep.”
For Jenkins, events like the Daddy-Daughter Date Night and having a family focused park district are what make Forest Park unique.
Dennis Fuller, works for People’s Energy and was accompanied by his daughter Hillary, 11.
“We always like to spend time together, but I thought this would be more special than watching TV or the Cubs,” Hillary said.
“This is something she wanted to do,” said Rick Adams, a mechanic, accompanied by his daughter Samarri, 8. “Fathers and sons get time together, but fathers and daughters don’t always get a chance.”
For Rob Silenzi, a truck driver, and his daughter Caitlun, 8, the evening was also an opportunity to meet their neighbors.
“You see a lot of faces around town but here you actually get to sit down and talk to them,” Silenzi said.
At the end of the evening, the girls received their pictures with their dads in a Valentine’s Day picture frame. Their fathers received Coca-Cola glasses filled with candy.