“It’s a night of faith, family and friends, and that’s what makes it so special,” says Peggy Barnhart about the Fleur de Lis ball. A board member and mother of Crosby Barnhart, one of this year’s honorees, Barnhart says those three elements are chief among the reasons why her family has been involved through the years.
Barnhart’s three sisters were presented at the Fleur de Lis, as were all her own daughters and her sisters’ children. Her oldest daughter, Ally, walked in 2005, with second daughter Caley being presented in 2007. This year was Crosby’s turn, and it was a night where the teen was looking forward to following in the family tradition. “Both older girls remember it as just the night of their life; they loved it,” Barnhart says. “There were so many friends, and it’s an exciting night: They get dressed up and are presented to the archbishop. It also connotes adulthood—they’re beyond high school and now they’re part of the larger world. I think it also indicates that they now have a responsibility.”
While the family also is involved in the Veiled Prophet organization, Barnhart says the two debutante balls are not really comparable. “It’s two different traditions; the Fleur de Lis is a family celebration—the father walks them down, and the family is much more involved.” While the focus is on the young women entering adulthood, the strong component of faith, family and community also is important Barnhart says. She adds that carrying on the traditions is spectacular in itself. “When we did it, it was at the Chase, but the traditions were much the same. They had the boys run down the aisle, and the stags in waiting. It’s still pretty much the same night, all these years later.”
Also being presented this year was Catherine Freeman, whose mother, Julie, also was an honoree. In addition, Julie’s three sisters and her husband’s three sisters participated; as well as Catherine’s older sister, Ashley, who was presented last year. “I love the whole family tradition idea behind it,” Julie Freeman says. “Their father walks them and they’re all in white gowns. They’re presented to the archbishop and I love that the money goes to Cardinal Glennon. It’s an all-around great cause.”
Because of the strong ties among the families who participate in the tradition, Freeman sees continuity between when she walked and today. “I don’t think it’s really changed much. What has changed is the people on the board—many of the people on the board now are women whose mothers were on it. It’s like a flashback to see all those people.”
The Freeman family has carried on several of its own traditions with this generation of daughters being presented, she adds. Just like her sisters, who were all presented in the same gown, her two daughters wore the same dress. Catherine and Ashley also shared the song that played as they walked down the aisle: What a Wonderful World. “It’s such a special night. It’s a quaint celebration that’s so special for the daughters and fathers.”