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The passion of dad

The clapping, signing, reading and eating were all in honor of the fathers.

By MICHELLE JONES, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published June 16, 2002

LAND O'LAKES -- Steven Gress really got into the Father's Day celebration at the Land O'Lakes Library on Saturday. He clapped his hands, sang the songs and nodded at the right times.

He even frowned when the book that library assistant Linda Rothstein was reading talked about watching a sunset with his children.

"He doesn't get home in time," said Joshua Gress, 10. "But he does play soccer with me."

Gress also reads bedtime stories to his youngest child, 18-month-old Hanna Gress.

"My kids asked me to come, and I wanted to support the library's programs," said Gress.

Dads Rock was the theme of the barbecue, storytelling and game playing to honor fathers the day before Father's Day. Forty-four adults and 39 children registered in advance for the event.

Father's Day was proposed by Mrs. John B. Dodd in 1909 to honor her father William Smart, a Civil War veteran. His wife died while giving birth to their sixth child, and he raised the newborn and five others by himself on a rural farm in Washington state.

The holiday was first observed on June 19, 1920, in Spokane, Wash., and in 1924 President Calvin Coolidge supported the idea. In 1966 President Lyndon Johnson signed a president proclamation declaring the third Sunday of June as Father's Day. Ever since, dads have been on the receiving end of special meals, bad ties and adoration from their children and grandchildren.

Shannon Bennett-Manrose, the branch manager of the Land O'Lakes Library, decided it would be a great way to honor fathers and create some good library memories with Saturday's event.

"We had the Mother's Day Teddy Bear Picnic and felt we needed to do something for dads to get them involved in some positive reading," she said.

Grilling the hot dogs on a gas grill was Barbara Messana of the Lutz/Land O'Lakes Woman's Club. There were chips, drinks and watermelon for the honored guests and their children.

"I'm here to support the library to help make it a success for the children in the community," said Messana.

Three-year-old Garrett Gwinn of Lutz brought his dad Gary to the barbecue.

"He comes for story time on Fridays," said Gary Gwinn.

He took home a baseball key chain as a special gift.

"NASCAR is my favorite sport, but there wasn't one of those in the basket to choose," he said.

Delyn Gwinn, Garrett's mother, said the libraries' Friday Storytime is great for the children.

"They do a great job. It gives Garrett a good time of interaction and helps him learn to focus," she said.

Kaleigh Kunde, 9, brought her grandfather, Chuck Kunde, to the party.

"It is nice that she thought of bringing me," he said. "This is my date with her."

Rothstein and Bennett-Manrose took turns reading books about fathers, played songs with interaction involved and got dads and children playing games together, including a scavenger hunt.

One of the books got a lot of laughs from the audience. It is titled What Dads Can't Do.

"They can't cross the street without holding hands," read Rothstein. "And when they play hide-and-seek, they always get found. And they always need to be kissed good night before they go to bed. And they can never stop loving you."

Joshua Gress added that his dad is the only one who will go on the roller coaster with him.

"He's a special father," said Joshua.

-- Michelle Jones covers central Pasco community news. She can be reached toll free at 1-800-333-7505, ext. 4612, or (813) 909-4612. Her e-mail address is

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