Attending a big, formal dance is a special event for any girl. There's the search for the perfect dress, getting the nails freshly painted and the hair curled and coifed. But a big dance is even more special when her date is dear old dad.
For the sixth year, Carmel Del Mar School hosted its Father Daughter Dance on Sunday night, with 160 little ladies and proud papas in attendance.
Carmel Del Mar is the only school in the district to still hold a Father-Daughter Dance, mostly because the planning process is so time-consuming, said this year's chair Darryl Gordon. But the process is worth it, he said.
"It's an amazing event," said Gordon. "This is definitely the highlight of the year and I will do it as long as I can to keep the event going."
Gordon planned the event with dad Neil White, who has planned the event for six years.
His daughter Taylor is on her way out of Carmel Del Mar, so Gordon said this year's dance is bittersweet.
Gordon's younger girls, kindergartner Dana and third grader Danielle were up at 6 a.m., he said they charged into his bedroom to tell him how excited they were.
They had a full day of pampering ahead of them, first getting their nails done at Color Nails in Piazza Carmel and then getting their hair styled at Bambino's.
At Color Nails, sixth grader Amanda Marks was getting her nails done, fingertips and toes, for the first time. This would mark her third year going to the dance.
"It's always fun with the music, dancing with my dad and the Hula Hoop contest," Marks said.
Kindergartner Tess Maretz was getting her nails painted a pretty red, as dad Peter looked on.
"I've never seen her this excited," Peter Maretz said.
The sweetest dates
On Sunday night, the lobby of the Del Mar Marriott was filled with dads and daughters, dads in suits and daughters in princess dresses. Dads held their daughters' hands as they walked and each girl received a carnation.
A raffle promised great prizes like American Girl dolls, iPods and a giant gumball machine filled with $50 in cash. Dads bought tickets and the girls placed tickets a the bowl in front of the prize they wanted.
Girls danced and Hula Hooped on a large dance floor before eating a dinner of chicken strips and macaroni and cheese.
While there were a few slow songs, Gordon said the girls mostly wanted to rock out to artists like The Jonas Brothers, Rhianna and Lady Gaga.
In addition to all the dad and daughter pairings, there were also three grandfathers in attendance, like Joe Sorrentino who was there with sixth grade granddaughter Alexandra Erdman.
"It's a chance to take them our and share with them how they should be treated," Sorrentino said.
Sorrentino lives in Dana Point and said he tries very hard to be a presence in all of his grandchildrens' lives - he and Alexandra make trips to SeaWorld together. But he said this is the first time he's seen her all dressed up with makeup on.
"It's a shock to see how much she's growing up," Sorrentino said.