With Valentine’s Day on the horizon, everyone should have a chance to show some love to the sweethearts in their lives. On Saturday, Frank J. Mrvan, North Township Trustee, hosted an annual Friends & Family Sweetheart Dance, making space for more than just couples to celebrate the holiday.
Open to children ages 3-12, with an adult escorting them, the event featured an all-you-can-eat buffet, soft drinks, games, crafts, and, of course, dancing. Families of all backgrounds were encouraged to attend.
“One of the things Frank J. Mrvan wanted to emphasize when they first began planning this event was inclusivity,” said Kelly Bridges, Activities Director for North Township Trustee. “In typical family dances like this, the theme is usually geared toward fathers and their daughters, or mothers and their sons. There are so many different family structures and dynamics in today’s world, so we wanted to provide one large opportunity for all families to participate, no matter who makes up their family.”
This year’s gathering saw a number of such groupings. Mothers danced with their daughters, fathers colored customizable tote bags alongside their sons, and schoolmates challenged each other to silly contests while making new friends along the way. Solo parents and caretakers mingled with couples and took photos in front of a festive, Valentine-themed backdrop.
Bridges has spearheaded the event for eight years now and is always looking for ways to boost participation. The event has grown to the point where organizers now host it in the Wicker Memorial Park Social Center. This year, she and her committee opted to move the event to the afternoon rather than the evening.
“We like to give families a little outlet in their day, something that they can all enjoy together without asking for too much of their time,” said Frank J. Mrvan, North Township Trustee. “The kids always love it.”
Unlimited chicken tenders, mac and cheese, and cookies sweetened the deal, while a hula-hooping contest, limbo party, and game of hot potato that drew everyone to the dance floor.
The young attendees seemed most thrilled by their time freestyle dancing, though, especially when their family members joined them.
When asked what her favorite part of the gathering was so far, young Jaina Sarr emphatically said, “Dancing.”
Shaina Chalos, Jaina’s mom, said that she really got a kick out of dancing with her daughter, too. Chalos said the event was well worth the price of a ticket.
“Our friends sent us the invite to this, and as soon as I looked at the details, I said, ‘Yup. We’re there,’” Chalos said. “It was only $5 for both of us to attend! That’s a really great price for everything, from all the food to the activities.”
The price of admission was $5 per couple and $3 for each additional child, less than a movie ticket or dinner out. While Jaina enjoyed the event with her school friend Charlie, Chalos was happy to see her branching out and making new friends.
“I just love that the township put something together that is so affordable and fun for families and friends to attend,” Chalos said. “It’s really nice to come and meet people or relax with people you know while the kids have some fun. And it’s not like it’s a huge time commitment, it’s two hours of just fun.”
Patricia Wolfe, Oak Hill Cemetery Director and volunteer for the event, said that she finds herself gravitating toward the craft table the most.
“This is my second year volunteering, and I just love interacting with the kids at the craft table, hearing them chattering about their projects,” Wolfe said. “You have to be an adult all week, so why not be a little kid-like and focus your attention on something simple and relaxing, like a craft?”
Most of the adults in attendance seemed to operate under the same mindset, finding themselves in peals of laughter on the dance floor or shouting limbo tips from the sidelines.
“I’d love to help get the word out there about this event so even more people come next year,” Chalos said. “There’s a lot to do, it’s very kid-friendly, and it’s definitely a ton of fun.”
For more information on events and services through Frank J. Mrvan, North Township Trustee, visit http://northtownshiptrustee.com/.