PASCO — There were cowboy boots aplenty -- shiny new ones; worn down at the heel pairs; daddy size and little girls too; even one pair that flashed ruby lights as Dad's princess stomped about the floor.
It was Hillbilly Hoedown time at the 17th annual Father-Daughter Ball sponsored by the Calvary Chapel Tri-Cities in Kennewick.
"This is the eighth oldest, and the best attended, father-daughter dance in the country. I can say that because over the years I've talked to organizers of father-daughter balls all over the country," said Renae Quigley, event coordinator and ministry leader for Calvary Chapel.
Quigley has been involved with the annual event for 14 years and coordinator for the past 10 years.
The annual dance is a Christian Out-Reach event but is open to everyone in the community, not just members of Calvary Chapel or even residents of the Tri-Cities.
The first few father-daughter balls drew several hundred people. But this year's ball, which spanned three days -- two evening dances and one Sunday afternoon event -- was expected to draw 5,000.
There were 750 tickets available for each day. Quigley didn't have a headcount for each day's dance but said tickets for Saturday's ball sold out completely. And when Sunday's dance opened at 3 p.m., only 100 tickets remained to sell at the door.
The tickets are for the dads and father figures -- be they uncles, family friends or teachers. Each man can escort as many young ladies as he likes, free.
"We average 2.3 people per ticket. Some dads only have one daughter, others bring three, four or more," Quigley said.
For Antonio Garces of Ephrata, Saturday's dance was the fourth time he invited his daughters to the annual ball. His dates for the evening were Alexia, 15, Sydney Marie, 12, Kylee Rae, 6, and Baby Alicia, 2.
The entire family wore their hillbilly best: jeans and boots for Dad, boots and cowgirl dresses for the girls.
Garces, who also has three sons, said "I like getting out with my girls. We dance and have fun, be silly."
The idea behind the father-daughter ball is for dads and other important men in a young girl's life to establish and build positive, healthy, loving and supportive relationships.
"We're providing an event where young ladies can build great memories with her dad," Quigley said. "We're hoping she'll grow to know what it means to be valued and loved and cherished."
Dustin Cooper of Pasco and his daughter, Eden Axtell-Cooper, 6, attended their third father-daugher ball Saturday. Eden said she didn't remember much about the previous dances but had been looking forward to this year's.
"I love it. It's one of the best days of the year," Eden said, showing off her red lace and sequined party dress.
"I have pretty hair and make up too," Eden said, patting her braids.
Her proud father, said, "we definitely enjoy the father-daughter ball. It's one time it's just the two of us."
Scott Hutson of West Richland echoed that sentiment. He and his daughter Ella, 61/2, and Bill Goble of Prosser and his daughter Sophia, 6, have been attending the annual dance since the girls were just 3 years old.
"They love it big time," Hutson said. "This is a special time with my daughter, a special time just for us. It's a good way to bond with my daughter."
While the men appreciate the chance to build relationships, their daughters have other priorities.
Ella said the best part of the ball is doing the funky chicken dance, while her friend, Sophia prefers the hokey-pokey.