The coronavirus pandemic has caused a wave of closures, reschedulings and cancellations. Among the many casualties was a school function that many cherished, even as adults – the prom.
At the end of this month, Navarre High School is hosting its first prom since 2019, creating a rejuvenated sense of stress and excitement for teenagers in the Navarre community. Except that now a new problem has arisen.
“So my daughter came home and told me she didn’t get a prom ticket because they were sold out,” said Kristen Petersen, mother of a high school student from Navarre.
Petersen said her child’s experience was not unique. She said the school chose to hold its prom at the University of West Florida in a venue that can accommodate about 500 people. But the upper-class population is well above that amount, she said.
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Principal Kasie Windfelder defended the decision and said the prom was organized by the Junior Class Council, which had to work with limited funding due to fewer fundraising opportunities during the pandemic.
“Unfortunately, due to the state of the pandemic in the fall (and) winter when venues were under review, UWF was the only off-campus location we found that had at least capacity of 500,” Windfelder replied in an email. “Before 2020, we would host a ball at New World Landing in Pensacola or Hurlburt Field Soundside on base.
“However, by the time the junior class board sponsors were locating venues in the fall (and) winter, those venues were no longer available or did not meet the minimum required capacity.”
She also pointed out that school tickets were open exclusively to seniors for the first two days of the purchase period.
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Now, Petersen and other parents in the community are coming together to provide an alternative prom for those who can’t get a ticket to school. Petersen said they wanted to mirror the prom experience and chose the same date as the school prom.
“We’ve got a DJ. We’ve got decorations. We’ve got a photographer. We’ve got parents who are ready to chaperone. We’ve got everything,” Petersen said, adding that they’ve also booked a venue — WaterVue in Fort Walton Beach. .
Petersen said they plan to sell tickets to cover the cost of the venue. Everything else – from food to decorations – was given away for free.
“I did it more or less for the kids,” said Ana Dalipovski, a Navarra resident who runs the event decorating company, Its Ur Party Events and Rentals. Dalipovski said she initially heard about the Alternate Ball through Facebook, and then had several people ask her for help. And even though she said she had another event scheduled for the same day, she wanted to step in.
“It actually took me three days (to do),” Dalipovski told the News Journal as she showed off the decorations she was working on for the event.
Navarre High School senior Sydney Rutherford said students were surprised tickets were so limited and said she supported the alternative prom idea.
“A lot of people didn’t really think it was going to be a problem, especially older people, getting tickets. That’s usually not the case,” Rutherford said. “And so a lot of old people have been buying dresses and suits and making plans for prom, only to find out they can’t go.”
Rutherford said she was able to get tickets to the school prom, but considered selling them in favor of the alternative event. She said that ultimately it doesn’t matter where the students decide to go for the evening, as long as they have their friends around.
“I just try to get people to not worry about what they look like on the outside and have fun and do things (that night),” Rutherford said.
Petersen agreed that while the evening may lack some of the traditional elements of a ball, like the king and queen, it will be a good option for the kids to hang out with their peers.
“It’s basically all about hanging out with their friends at their prom, you know what I mean?” said Peterson. “So I know they’re going to have a blast. And I’m thrilled the community has come together and made it happen.”
The organizers have also set up a GoFundMe for donations.