Former Elk Grove Mayor Gary Davis with his daughter, Grace at the 2019 Father-Daughter Dance. 

For nearly two decades, fathers were invited to take their daughters to a semi-formal party called, the Father-Daughter Dance, which was held at either the Laguna Town Hall or the Valley Oak Ballroom in Elk Grove. Attendees were treated to a catered dinner, professional portraits, and DJ dance music. 

For Gary Davis, a former Elk Grove mayor and City Council member, this dance was an annual tradition for him and his daughter, Grace.

“We’d go dress-shopping a few weeks in advance,” he recalled. “It was such a cool, special event.”

This month, Davis went to his Facebook page to announce that the dance organizer, the Cosumnes Community Services District (CSD) has “killed” the Father-Daughter Dance. He told the Citizen that Grace opened up the CSD’s annual activity guide and she saw a new event that replaced the Father-Daughter Dance.

During the evenings of Feb. 3-4, the CSD will host a “Sweetheart Soiree” at the District56 center. Organizers say this event will be similar in its focus on children, but the dance will not be limited to fathers and daughters. The catalog’s advertisement for this party included an image of a woman with a young girl.

Davis expressed his frustration over this change, and he spoke with some CSD directors about it.

“What makes Elk Grove so special is that we have these traditions, and the CSD has done such a good job over the years in putting on these events,” he said. “I’m super disappointed they decided to kill the Father-Daughter Dance; I believe it was shortsighted and not necessary.”

Mike Dopson, the CSD’s parks and recreation director, explained what prompted the creation of the Sweetheart Soiree. He said that his staff worked to meet their district’s goals of hosting equitable and more inclusive events.

“Unfortunately, some families might not have a father, but we still want to make it an open event for daughters to still attend,” Dopson said. “Depending on the family dynamic, we realize that it doesn’t always have to be a father taking a daughter – if the father is not available, it could be an uncle or a close family friend. We also didn’t want to limit it by gender.”

He emphasized that the soiree will have the same activities as past Father-Daughter Dances, and he added that the admission was reduced from $30 to $15 so that cost would not be an issue for attendees. Organizers are also ending the Feb. 4 soiree at 8 p.m. for young attendees who have early bedtimes.

Davis told the Citizen that he agrees with the move to lower the price and he also believes that equity is important. However, he does not see those changes as a reason to cancel the Father-Daughter Dance.

“You don’t have to kill one tradition to get a new one,” Davis said.

In addition to the Sweetheart Soiree parties, the CSD also plans to host a family dance at the District56 center on March 4.