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Helmut Schmidt, Published April 11 2014

Making memories: Butterfly Balls selling out in Fargo as dads look to give daughters a special night out

FARGO – Five-year-old Kaiza Vettleson was dressed to impress Friday.

Sitting in a chair at M.J. Capelli in the TJ Maxx Plaza, her blonde locks were getting styled into long, bouncy curls.

She showed off her new pink dress with white polka dots. Her fingernails sport a fresh layer of pink nail polish.

Kaiza was nearly ready for Friday night’s Butterfly Ball at the Hilton Garden Inn, and she had one thing on her agenda, she said: “Dancing with my dad!”

For his part, dad Derick Vettleson of Fargo was game to bust a move on the dance floor.

“We dance all the time at home. This is going to be a little bit different, I’m sure,” Vettleson said.

What he most hopes to do is make memories.

“I thought it would be something that would make Kaiza feel really special,” Vettleson said. “I’m excited for her. When she gets there, it’s going to be a grandiose thing. She can really have fun and appreciate it.”

Butterfly balls or father-daughter dances have been around for a long time, but they’ve taken off in popularity in the Fargo-Moorhead area the past few years.

This year’s three Fargo Park District semi-formal dances, which are set up for the 4- to 12-year-old set, sold out fast.

There are 425 tickets at $16 apiece for each dance.

The dances for last Saturday and tonight were sold out in two hours. Friday night’s event was filled in two days, Program Coordinator Samantha Larson-Frobig said.

The Park District sponsored its first dance 11 years ago in an elementary school gymnasium, Larson-Frobig said. For the past three years, they’ve been at the south Fargo Hilton.

The event opens with a Grand March, followed by the dance. There are appetizers, dessert, and a parting gift for each girl, she said. There’s also a photographer available.

“The little girls love that they get to act like a princess and get to wear the big dresses and the tiaras,” Larson-Frobig said.

Most importantly, their dads, uncles, grandfathers, godfathers and sometimes older siblings can model how a gentleman should treat a lady, she said.

“It’s cool to watch all these dads put their electronic devices away,” Larson-Frobig said. “And they’re all on the dance floor. Most of the dads have their girls in their arms, and they’re dancing, and that’s a really cool thing to see.”

Ricardo Badillo and his granddaughter Ricki Badillo will be going to tonight’s Butterfly Ball.

Badillo said this gives him a chance to make some special moments with Ricki that he couldn’t do with his own children because his work kept him on the road.

“It’s new to me. I’ve never done it. I’ve never had a chance to (go to a dance) with my daughter,” the West Fargo man said.

Ricki, as packed with energy and enthusiasm as any 5-year-old can be, said she’s left most of the planning up to grandpa.

“I’m just going to go with the flow,” Ricki said.

She has a pink dress. Her grandfather will wear a matching pink tie with a pink handkerchief in the pocket of his gray suit.

She’ll get to go to a movie, have her hair styled and get a corsage, Badillo said.

Ricki does have a definite dinner preference.

“I want McDonald’s, because I am the princess,” she declared.

“And who am I?” Badillo asked.

“You are the king,” Ricki said.

The Butterfly Balls give a little extra economic bump to prom season.

Country Greenery in Moorhead took “quite a few” orders for corsages Friday, said saleswoman Audrey Jones.

Similarly, at Shotwell Floral in Fargo, “we’re in full storm doing corsages,” said Vice-President J.D. Shotwell. “We’ve definitely seen a little bit more than average.”

Sara Bauer, a supervisor at M.J. Capelli, said braiding is popular for those going to the Butterfly Balls. She said for many of the girls, it is the first time they’ve gotten a professional hairstyle “unless they’ve been flower girls.”

At Lil Whipper Snippers in south Fargo, hairstylist Olivia Rogers said the salon has done a lot of “up-dos” similar to those done for girls going to high school proms.

“Their hair does look pretty formal,” Rogers said.

Elizabeth Langbehn, a consultant at David’s Bridal in West Fargo, said the young belles of the ball were looking for bright colors and dresses they can twirl in.

“They’re really excited. It’s really cute to see. They usually don’t want to take the dresses off,” she said.

Jenny McColm, the manager of “Once Upon A Child” in Fargo, said the last couple of days have been busy as moms have come in to buy dresses, shoes and accessories for their daughters.

“It’s a lot of fun,” McColm said. “It’s just a big deal around here. I know my little girl is going with dad tomorrow.”

Bob Torres is now a seasoned veteran of Butterfly Ball season.

The north Fargo dad took his 7-year-old daughter, Aurora, to Friday night’s event. It was their fourth Butterfly Ball.

“I get to take pictures with my dad. And I also get to dance with my dad. Those are the funnest parts,” Aurora said.

Torres learned about the balls a few years ago. The first dance was an eye-opener, he said.

“I had no idea there would be that many people,” he said. “It was packed. The Grand March was very long.”

The best way to describe it? “A prom for 4- to 12-year-olds,” he said.

The dads get their cars washed, they buy a new shirt or tie, and maybe even a suit, he said.

He ordered corsages Friday morning, and planned to get photos beforehand and at the dance.

Torres has two sons and two other daughters, Augusta, 2, and Agatha “Aggie,” 4 months. He hopes to take each of his girls to a Butterfly Ball.

“You see a lot of dads out on the dance floor. They’re trying to make it their daughter’s day, and that’s what’s really neat about it,” Torres said.

“I’m hoping she (Aurora) will remember these special moments with dad” and that the night was “all about her, even if only for a few hours,” he said.

“It’s only one night out of the year,” Torres added. “If you take your daughter out to a baseball or basketball game, you can certainly take her to a Butterfly Ball.”

Readers can reach Forum reporter Helmut Schmidt at (701) 241-5583