MERCED -- Jeff Strom is among a couple of dozen dads who spent every Wednesday since January in Turlock with their daughters practicing jazz dance.
He may, however, be the only one willing to kick up his legs and shimmy on the corner of 15th and M streets.
Set not to music, but to the giggles of his family, Strom and his 13-year-old daughter, Maggi, re-enacted the routine they performed last week during the dance recital.
For this reason, and many others, Strom on Thursday was named Merced County father of the year during a banquet honoring dads. The essay Maggi wrote about her father was selected as the best by a committee of judges.
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"What a great honor," said Strom, a Hilmar resident. "This is important for fathers. I'll try to live up to my new award."
Maggi read her essay, poignant and humorous, to the crowd.
Their relationship is like a rollercoaster that makes you sick, she began. You love it and also want to get off.
Sometimes she feels sad for her dad -- the only other male in a house of women is the cat. Despite being taught dozens of times how to text message, he still can't figure it out.
"Sometimes I wonder how we're related," she sighed.
Nonetheless, she adores that he'll put off watching March Madness to help her with volleyball. Or spend an hour every Wednesday trying to learn dances.
As a Hilmar Middle School seventh-grader, Maggi wrote the essay as a class assignment. Soon her teacher told her the essay had made it to the final round. The same day, her dad opened a letter at home with the news. He planned to surprise her when he picked her up from school.
She beat him to it.
Evan Sanchez, a runner-up in the kindergarten category, walked up to receive his certificate. A picture of his dad rested at the table where the boy ate. Evan wrote that his dad is in Iraq, fighting the bad guys.
There's also Armando Casanova, who was the fourth-grade runner-up.
"One day I lost a basketball game because I was too nervous to shoot. I really felt guilty. My dad said, 'Don't worry, next time you'll get them,' " he wrote. "I felt much better."