A magic show, portrait photographer, handmade paper corsages, beaded bracelets and a local DJ were all part of the festivities at the annual Father Daughter Ball held Saturday evening at Club Meade.
But the highlight of the popular event was a white furry rabbit with black-tipped ears named Donatello who starred in the hourlong magic show performed by David Thoman, a Baltimore magician.
“It was awesome,” said Shannon Boeke, 11. “The bunny, she was so soft.”
For the fourth consecutive year, the formal affair for dads and their daughters — ages 3 to 16 — was sponsored by the Directorate of Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation.
Men wore their military dress uniforms or a formal jacket and tie, while their daughters dressed in gowns or party dresses.
“The goal was to create a special event for fathers and daughters,” said Candace Godfrey, marketing manager of FMWR.
Godfrey said the ball is Fort Meade’s way of introducing the custom of military balls to young girls and teens.
“So they can see what it’s like for a gentleman to take her out — and girls love to dress up,” she said.
The nearly four-hour event was sold out. Although 344 tickets were sold, 12 pairs of fathers and daughters were on the waiting list Saturday evening for tickets.
Lt. Col Gittipong Paruchabutr, commander of Headquarters Command Battalion, brought his two daughters, Suri, 8, and Tippa, 5.
“I didn’t make it to the last one,” he said. “But boy, did I hear it from the girls and everyone else. They said ‘This is a first-class event. It is not to be missed.’ ”
The ball began with a buffet dinner featuring roast beef, pork loin, mac and cheese and an ice cream station for dessert.
As some fathers and daughters sat down to dinner, others stood in line for a portrait photograph or a beaded bracelet designed by members of the Enlisted Spouses’ Club.
Staff members from Army Community Service and the Exceptional Family Member Program made paper corsages for the girls and teens.
“It feels great to be here,” said Aviyanna Williams as she stood in line with her father to have her picture taken. “We hang out every once in a while. I just know this is going to be fun.”
Aviyanna’s father, Terrance Williams, a former Army sergeant and now a management analyst at the Defense Information Systems Agency, said he wanted to spend a special evening with his 12-year-old daughter to teach her important lessons.
“I want to ensure that she knows how special she is and to let her know how beautiful she is,” Williams said. “I also want to give her exposure to what it’s like to attend a homecoming and prom and things like that.”
As her father, he said, it is his responsibility to show Aviyanna “how a man is supposed to treat a young lady.”
While youngsters sat captivated during Thoman’s magic show, the female rabbit suddenly appeared in an empty box. The girls and teens squealed when they saw Donatello.
Every girl had a chance to pet her and take home a prize.
After the magic show, the dancing began. DJ Matt of C&J Entertainment, a music entertainment company based in Odenton, played music ranging from The Beatles and The Supremes to Kool & the Gang and Billy Joel.
Fathers scooped young daughters into their arms to dance, while older daughters took their fathers by the hand and led them out to the dance floor.
Shannon’s father Mark Boeke, an employee at the National Security Agency, said the event is important for the Fort Meade community.
“Just to see the smiles on these girls faces, this is one special day,” he said.