I recently took my four-year-old daughter, Sami, to the Father-Daughter Day & Dance in Virginia City. She’s becoming increasingly independent, opinionated, and interested in new things; and I was excited about spending an afternoon touring Virginia City with her. She didn’t really understand what we were going to do, but she’s always looking for an excuse to dress-up. Sami is still a toddler in many ways and comfort in her clothes is a high priority for her. So, she chose a ruffled red sleeveless dress to wear and paired it with pink sweatpants, snow boots, and a stuffed unicorn. I broke out a blue button-down and tie and we headed up the foothills.
When we arrived to check-in at the Delta Saloon, we were handed a bag full of heart-shaped tokens good for lunch, hot chocolate, fudge, ice cream, and an “old-timey” picture with a map listing a wide variety of participating businesses. These were in addition to the corsage for my daughter and a ticket to the dance in the Piper’s Opera House. Sami chose a corsage with a green lace ribbon and we walked out to find lunch.
Exploring Virginia City
At this point, I wasn’t too concerned that she had chosen snow boots instead of glittery flats because touring the icy streets of Virginia City was part of the fun to cash in all our tokens. We stopped at Pricilla Pennyworth’s Old Time Photos for our picture. Garters and Bloomers Old Time Photos and Silver Sadie’s Old Time Photos were also included for photo options. The photographer sat me down and tried to pose Sami standing next me. She took a minute to get into that awkward no-smile pose of old-time photos. She’s been told her whole life to say “cheese” and it was funny to see her struggle not to smile. While the pictures usually come sepia toned, Sami selected the color option so we could see her red dress and pink sweatpants. We gathered our photo and tokens and moved on to lunch.
From the participating restaurants, The Roasting House, the Palace Restaurant, the Red Dog Saloon, and the Delta Saloon Café, Sami chose the pepperoni pizza option from the Red Dog Saloon. We had our pizza among tourists and other father-daughter pairs and looked at the map to choose our next destination. We crossed the street to collect our hot chocolate and coffee from The Roasting House. Sami enjoyed her whipped-cream-laden hot chocolate long enough to eat all the whipped cream before spilling the rest across the coffee bar. The staff graciously helped us get cleaned up and we moved on to find the fudge at Grandma’s Fudge Factory. The dance was just getting started, and I couldn’t justify collecting on the ice cream sundae token just yet with Sami’s stomach full of pizza, whipped cream, and fudge. We walked up the hill to the Opera House and entered the dance.
Time for the Father Daughter Dance
Both of us were nervous at this point. I was not sure what to expect at the Father Daughter Dance. Would it be like a high school formal or a wedding? As we walked through the door, my nerves melted away because I was there for only one person. I did not feel self-conscious for my dance moves or worried about impressing anyone – I was only concerned about Sami having fun. And it was strikingly clear that every other dad in the room was operating with the same objective. The intentionality of all the dads was really comforting to see and be a part of. We were there to make sure our daughters had a fun afternoon. This obviously included dancing like no-one was watching and hamming it up for the kids, much to the chagrin of some of the tween-aged girls.
On the other hand, Sami was nervous to be in a room full of older girls. She even expressed regret for choosing her snow boots since plenty of the other girls came in glittered shoes and heels that matched their dresses. I honestly was not ready for this conversation, but this was a great opportunity to talk to Sami about her confidence and intelligence, and that her decisions about her appearance are on her own terms. This was a powerful reminder that she’s growing up fast and is now starting to compare herself to her peers. Sami also had reservations about joining dance circles with the other girls or climbing on stage with the whole group. She loosened up after a few minutes and was right at home playing with the costume props and balloon decorations.
Ending the Night
We danced for about an hour and a half, sometimes hand in hand, sometimes with her on my shoulders, sometimes chasing balloons. Sami wrapped up the dance by snagging as many salt-water taffy pieces off of the tables as she could hold. Out of principal, we walked down the street to redeem our last token for a sundae. This seemed to be the plan for many dads as the ice cream line into Red’s Old Fashioned Candies streamed out the door. Sami got a sprinkled chocolate cone and lethargically ate her ice cream. I was hoping Sami would sleep on the way home, but I’m not surprised the sugar and dance party kept her amped all the way back to Reno.
The Father-Daughter Day & Dance ended up being very memorable. Not only was it an opportunity to spend one-on-one time with my daughter, it was facilitated in a way that allowed us to take a walking tour of historic Virginia City.
This article was contributed by guest author, Chris Clark, who was provided with this experience for he and his daughter.