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Lee Daddy-Daughter Dance set Feb. 11

A fathers and daughter dance at a past Daddy-Daughter Dance in Lee County.

A fathers and daughter dance at a past Daddy-Daughter Dance in Lee County.

LEESBURG — The annual Daddy-Daughter Dance in Lee County, which has become far and away the hottest ticket in town, appeared to be headed for an early death as organizers dejectedly watched ticket sales trickle in to around 25 less than a week before the first dance in 2009.

But Mike Lyons, the pastor of Leesburg United Methodist Church, decided to go ahead with plans no matter how many participated.

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A fathers and daughter dance at a past Daddy-Daughter Dance in Lee County.

“The Daddy-Daughter Dance was never about making money,” Lyons’ son Jonathan, who has been one of the dance’s coordinators for the past two years, said as the countdown to the Feb. 11 Daddy-Daughter Dance inched closer. “This has always been a great opportunity for fathers and daughters to bond.

“The big payoff is the look on everyone’s faces as they leave the dance. The smiles are worth all the effort that goes into pulling this off.”

The turnaround for that first dance was nothing if not miraculous. By dance night, more than 300 tickets were sold, filling the available space at the old YMCA and clueing organizers in to the reality that they needed to look for a larger venue.

In 2010, more than 500 couples attended the DDD, which had been moved to Lee County Elementary School, and last year the event attracted 1,200 daddies and daughters. Even though an additional session had been added, some unlucky would-be ticket buyers were disappointed to find the dance was a sellout.

“It’s a different trend now,” said Judy Powell, a member of the Leesburg City Council and one of some 40 Leesburg United Methodist volunteers who are vital to the event’s success. “The word has always been that ‘people in Leesburg buy late.’ Now people buy early because they’re worried that they might not get a ticket.

“This is one event that everyone knows is geared toward the family, and the people around here want to be a part of that.”

The crew that organizes, plans, decorates and puts on the Daddy-Daughter Dance, which was inspired by similar events in Albany and Valdosta, has become adept at making the event special. From turning the LCES gymnasium into a wonderland fit for a magical night to making sure snacks are elegantly prepared and presented to assuring the age- and family-appropriateness of the music provided, the organizers leave no detail unexamined.

“We’ve got this thing down to a science,” co-organizer Michelle Hoover said. “Everybody gets those brooms going, and when they get through (with decorations), there’s nothing left to indicate you’re in a school gymnasium.”

After last year’s overwhelming success, organizers have added a third, early-afternoon session geared more toward younger daughters. That 4 p.m. dance will be held with youngsters 5-under in mind and will include such special features as “princess music.” Other sessions will start at 6 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. Tickets for the early, shorter session are $10 and are $12 for the two later sessions.

Dress is optional, but most attendees put on their best for the big night out.

“We have daddies in tuxes and couples arriving in limos,” Hoover said.

The organizers do offer a warning, though: No moms allowed.

“We had one mom who wanted to get in so badly when she was told that moms had to stay out, she went and got her dad and had him take her,” Jonathan Lyons laughs.

Tickets for all three sessions of the Daddy-Daughter Dance are available online at ddd@leesburgumc.com or LeesburgUMC.com/DDD and will be available Wednesday at Leesburg United Methodist from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Photography and commemorative T-shirts will be available at the dance.

For additional information, call (229) 513-1300.