A memory from high school for just about every American is attending prom. This year put a stop to many memory-making events or changed how they were done. For Langdon and Walhalla, both school districts decided to not hold a formal dance for their students leaving that universal memory-making event unaccounted for in these teens' yearbooks. When COVID-19 restrictions for social gatherings were lessened, area teens Kiarra Hodek and Rebecca Kuhn looked to make a 'Not-Prom' happen for themselves and their friends.
“A lot of us haven’t seen each other since school ended. I wanted everyone to have the experience to meet and talk and have fun one last time before they head off to college or whatever their plans are after high school,” Hodek said.
The Langdon Area School District had no part in the organization of the Frost Fire event, leaving planning and responsibility to the parents and teens. Hodek informed the school that there was going to be a dance-type event so that they would be aware. She continued to work to find a location to hold the event within the City of Langdon. When that failed, the suggestion for Frost Fire to host was made.
“I was more comfortable having it in town but then was contacted, and Steven (Ouellette) really wanted to do this for us out there. Me and Laurie (Delvo) talked about it, and I had to be convinced because I was like ‘I don’t feel comfortable driving at night’ and that was just me caring about my classmates and wanting everyone to get home safe,” Hodek shared.
Frost Fire Hospitality Manager Steven Ouellette and Laurie Delvo worked with Hodek and Kuhn to organize a 'Not Prom' for the juniors and seniors of Langdon. Delvo explained that when the Langdon Activity Center would no longer host the event, the small group had only days to get another location and set up the event. Over just three days, Hodek, and Kuhn, with the help of Ouellette and Delvo, were able to put together a fun 'Not-Prom' for over 60 guests.
“I heard about the Not Prom through a couple of the parents in Langdon. Originally, I heard from parents in Walhalla that were trying to do something. We also did one for Walhalla kids,” Ouellette shared. “So, wanting to do something for the kids and they thought this would be the perfect setting with the Gorge and the kids could be outside playing cornhole or sitting around the fire if they wanted. Right from that first initial phone call from both the Walhalla parents and Langdon parents, I just knew I wanted to do it for the kids. They have had so much taken away from them these last few months with sports, graduations, proms....it was all for the kids.”
Ouellette took both events under his care on behalf of Frost Fire Park to make them happen while still following the guidelines that were in place during both events. He kept Frost Fire Park General Manager Natalie Grebur and the Frost Fire Park board up-to-date on what was happening with the events.
“We wanted to build those relationships with the communities and families in these communities that have already given us and shown us so much support out here. I basically told them that I would like to take them under my wing and go forward with these [events],” Ouellette explained.
Frost Fire Park did not charge for the event and also donated some hot hors d’oeuvres for the kids to enjoy while they danced and played the night away. Frost Fire Park was not the only generous business for the event. Nature’s Best in Walhalla also donated table and chair coverings for the 'Not Prom' to dress up the event and provide that formal vibe.
“We wanted to make sure to do this for the kids to provide a safe environment for them and a fun environment and give them a little bit of that experience of having prom. In 10 years from now, they can look back and say ‘I’ll remember Prom 2020 forever’. It was completely different,” Ouellette shared.
The effort to bring 'Not Prom' to life is a lesson in working together with donations coming from several different areas. From Nature’s Best of Walhalla providing table and chair covers to Delvo and Bob Mostad assisting with decorations and balloons. Kelly and Amanda Thompson provided the music for the party, with Amanda playing DJ. Larry Stokke of Picture This Photography was present and took photos in an area set up for just that. The party had several chaperones present including Delvo, who had nothing but praise for the teens behavior.
“What I witnessed out there that evening was 61 kids relaxed and having the time of their lives. They were totally relaxed. We kept on eye them but didn’t hover over them. We let them have their fun, and we would walk around, but we didn’t want to be intruding. We wanted them to have their own time. It was their party,” Delvo said.
Delvo explained that with the costs of everything being covered through donations that the $610 that was raised from the event will be donated to Frost Fire Park in appreciation for their assistance. This donation has the potential to double through matching donations according to Ouellette.
The diverse atmosphere of Frost Fire Park and the 'Not Prom' is one that many of the attendees want to recreate for future proms. Delvo shared that during the night many of the kids in attendance said how much fun the atmosphere was and provided something for everyone rather than the static setting of a high school gym.
“I think it went absolutely great. There was something for everyone. For those who didn’t want to dance, there was cornhole outside and a bonfire. I had people come up to me and say ‘This is the best prom I’ve ever been to or experienced because I wasn’t forced to dance’. There was more than just the dancing there. There was just something for everyone,” Hodek commented.
Despite 2020 causing a lot of disruption and ending the school year on an incredibly low note, the efforts put forward by Frost Fire Park and those determined to give one normal memory to the year came through. The 2020 'Not Prom' is one memory that area youth will talk about for years as the best event they attended during high school.