WESTMINSTER — The ladies, giggling with excitement at their first grown-up date, filed into Martin's Westminster with the first man they've ever loved.
In celebration of Father's Day, the City of Westminster's Recreation Council sponsored its first "Daddy/Daughter Date" Thursday night.
Two hundred and twenty-eight couples -- girls in kindergarten through eighth grade and their escorts -- attended the "mini-prom," complete with corsages, boutonnieres, dinner and formal pictures.
One group even "double-dated" in a stretch limousine, said Carol Donovan,the city's director of recreation.
In cases where Dad had more than one daughter or couldn't attend, other male role models filled thebill for the evening.
"We wanted this to be a one-on-one thing, not Dad's night out with the kids," Donovan said. "Some girls are herewith their grandfathers, godfathers, uncles or brothers."
While most girls were sad that they had to share Dad with a sibling or that he had to work, Abigail Adams, 13, said she was glad her sister Sarah, 9, got their father for the evening.
"I didn't want to ask Dad,"she said. "I wanted to ask someone else."
She and her escort, Gene Straskulic -- a friend of her father's -- are very close, Abigail said.
"We're just like father and daughter," she said.
Being among the oldest in a crowd of girls with an average age of 8 didn't seem to bother Abigail and her friend Lauren Kadlubowski, 13.
"It's nice to have each other," they said.
Twins Molly and Anna Snyder, 9, solved their dilemma by deciding that Molly should get Dad, former City Councilman Mark S. Snyder, and Anna would take grandfather John Donofrio.
With the pomp of a debutante ball, couples were announced as they entered through the arch to begin their evening.
Styles ranged from full-length gowns to fancy formal dresses, and the girls -- sporting bows and flowers in their hair -- seemed delighted with the way they looked.
"My dress was a gift from Grandfather," said Anna.
Other girls said their dresses had been worn in weddings or to elementary school graduations.
Planning for the event began whenMayor W. Benjamin Brown suggested that the city needed something to celebrate Father's Day, Donovan said.
"I've got two events for Mother's Day and had nothing for Father's," she said.
After hearing about the Father/Daughter Dates sponsored by the borough of Metuchen, N.J., from former Westminster city manager Philip F. Hertz, Donovan decided to organize one of her own.
"Ours is a lot different," she said, explaining that in Metuchen the event is more of a banquet, with mom preparing the dinner.
Special contests included drawing names for door prizes and musical chairs -- with dads as the chairs.
"We're going to get these dads on the dance floor if it kills us," Donovan said.
Dads, mystified by the music of M.C. Hammer, watched astheir daughters wriggled and jumped in can-can lines. Other fathers just bounced in time to the rhythm.
"My mom said my dad can't dance, but he really can," said Heather Goddard, 9, who won the dance elimination contest with her father, Joe. "I'm having a wonderful time."
Other girls -- like Becky Prise, 7, and Deborah Gesell, 9 1/2 -- were worried they wouldn't be able to get their fathers onto the floor.
"Can we be a couple for the dance contest?" they asked organizer Carolyn Griffin. "Our dads won't dance."
But, with a little persuasion, Deborah got her father to take a few tours of the dance floor.
Martha Gray, the 7 1/2-year-old stepdaughter of Sykesville MayorLloyd R. Helt Jr., had no such fears that Dad would be shy about
showing off his dancing style.
He'd been taking dance lessons for the past few months just for the occasion, she said.
Most said they enjoyed the evening, and hoped the city would sponsor another one next year.
"I think this is one of the better things Carol Donovan has done for the city, and I will come back every year Marcie (his daughter, 7) will have me," said Brown.
Some fathers had a better time than they thought they would.
"I'm not into dress-up affairs, but I think this turned out pretty good," said Mike Beacham. His daughter Angie, 12, won one of the musical chairs competitions.
In fact, many said the evening was worth the $32.50 per couple price tag, which covered dinner, flowers, a 5-by-7 formal portrait and music by disc jockey Scott Alban and his wife, Lisa Becker.
The city did not make a profit from the event.
"The price was no problem at all," said Buzz Ludwig, whose 9-year-old daughter Jamie was a musical chairswinner.
"When (Jamie) brought the notice home from school, she said, 'I don't think Daddy's going to want to do this because it's a lot of money.' But I saw it and said, 'Great, let's do it!' "
As theevening drew to a close, the little ladies gladly slowed down as themusic reminded each of them who they were.
"You're sugar, you're spice and everything nice, and you're Daddy's little girl."