BARNEGAT, NJ –   Juggling two dates on a Saturday night might sound like a bit of a challenge to some.  However, for Barnegat dad John Mele, it’s no less than wonderful.  In fact, it’s not the first time that he’s escorted daughters Claire and Alexandra to the Barnegat Daddy/Daughter Dance.

Four years ago, John didn’t know what he was in for when he brought Claire to their first dance.  Claire is now 10, and both father and daughter had a great deal of fun.  John added Alexandra to his dance card two years ago.  She is now eight years old.

“It’s a special time for the dads and their daughters to spend the night out,” shared John. “I kicked loose with both girls on the dance floor.  At some point, they went off with their friends, but they circled back to me.”

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This year’s Daddy/Daughter Dance was held on February 8th at the newly renovated rec center.  According to Barnegat Recreation Director Jean Broadbent, it’s about the fifteenth time the township has hosted the special gathering.

“The event became so popular that we needed to split it up into two sessions,” Broadbent said. “Our afternoon dance starts with fathers with little girls as young as 3 ½ years old.”

In the evening, fathers hit the dance floor with daughters who are in grades 3-6.  Apparently, John wasn’t the only one escorting multiple dates. This year, 103 fathers accompanied 119 young ladies.

Jay Brinson is another father who looks forward to the annual Daddy/Daughter Dance.  In fact, it’s the fifth time he and Ava, age 10,  made sure to get tickets before the dance sold out.

“Part of the fun is actually getting ready for the evening together,” Jay confessed. “We always try to match each other – I bought a new tie to go with her outfit.”

Although none of the dads admitted to running out and taking dance lessons, Jay enjoyed hitting the floor with his daughter.  “We danced a lot together,” Jay said. “I especially enjoyed dancing to “Butterfly Kisses with my little girl.”

In Jay’s case, the location was somewhat special. Jay was involved in the renovation of the rec center. Although he admitted he’s slightly biased, Jay said he heard several fathers remark on the improvements.  The floor upgrades proved particularly noticeable, as well as the lighting and bathrooms.

Lonny Warner and his family just moved to Barnegat from Jackson.   Although it wasn’t the first time that he and nine-year-old daughter, Melaina attended a dance together, it was their first in Barnegat.  Both found the evening to be an enjoyable event.

According to Lonny, there was a nice set up for all of the attendees. The music blared with tunes like “Cotton Eye Joe” and “Old Town Road.” Fathers and daughters were treated to pizza and could make their own sundaes.

Meanwhile, both Jay and Lonny share one thing in common. Not only do they both have only one daughter – they also have just one child.   In Lonny’s case, he  suspects that his daughter doesn’t consider him a “cool dad.”

“I think I rate more when mom is traveling away on business,” joked Lonny. “If she does get married, Melaina may ask her mother to do the special dance at the wedding.”

Committee Al Bille made an appearance to check out the festivities.  “It was the first time I attended this particular event,” said Bille. “Everything looked beautiful, and I was very impressed by all the fun I saw.  I’ve encouraged the recreation department to continue to make this a yearly event.”