NORTH PORT, Fla. (WFLA) – The ongoing coronavirus pandemic has forced school districts across Tampa Bay to cancel prom for the second year in a row. In Sarasota County, prom will go on, but with masks, social distancing, seating charts and no dancing.
“I was a little bummed,” said North Port High School senior Angelina Anderson. “Especially since I am a girl, I like to get dressed up with my friends and dance and have fun.”
“There’s no reason why they can’t do this if other places can have bands and DJs and football games and hockey games, why can’t they have a prom,” questioned Angelina’s mother Catherine Anderson.
The North Port community is banding together to put on a prom of their own. It is unaffiliated with the school district and will give kids a chance to dance.
“This is about spending time with your friends, being safe, having that one last get together where you can be with the people who have helped shape you into the person that you are,” said organizer Justin Willis.
Willis is with When All Else Fails, a local nonprofit organization helping organize the alternative prom at Plantation Golf and Country Club in Venice. The venue can hold more than 1,000 people but organizers say they’re expecting capacity to be around one-third of that.
“We are organizing all the fundraising, we have secured the venue, secured the DJ, secured the photographer,” said Willis. “We also have a photo booth coming and we’ve got all of the food prepped and ready to go,” he explained.
The goal is to make the event affordable for seniors so they can also attend North Port High School’s senior formal dinner event. The nonprofit is accepting monetary donations and formalwear donations.
“Whether it is dresses, men’s clothes, suits, tires, shirts, slacks, please donate your used formalwear or new formalwear for the kids,” said Willis. “Kyle Kurtis is going to send some of their employees down, they will come down and help the girls get dressed up and the gentleman get dressed up, make sure that they look good, all at no cost,” he explained.
Students are excited for the chance to dance after missing out on junior prom last year.
“I think it is a great thing because we don’t really get to have anything with COVID. We don’t really get to have grad bash, we don’t really have a lot of senior activities, we don’t really get to do anything the other seniors got to do in the past years, so I feel like putting together a prom is a good thing,” said Angelina Anderson.
Not everyone is on board with the makeshift prom event, especially with the ongoing pandemic.
“We did get a couple of people the older people who said, ‘how can you be doing this in the middle of this pandemic’ and we basically said we are doing it as safe as possible,” explained Anderson.
Organizers say there will be temperature checks, masks, and plenty of space.
“I understand where they’re coming from, you want your children to have that experience. That is one of the milestones that you want your children to experience, but just be vigilant because we are still in the midst of this pandemic,” said epidemiologist Dr. Mohammed Reza. “At this point, large gatherings are just not a good idea. If you are going to have gatherings, do it outside and if the children are 16 or older, getting them vaccinated is really important to decrease the risk of transmitting,” he explained.
Willis says they’re asking students to be safe and respectful at the alternative prom.
“It is just finding the alternatives — wear a mask, wash your hands, use the hand sanitizer on the tables. The venue offers 12 air scrubbers that are running full-time so that is a huge benefit. The buffet that we are doing for the kids, there will be barriers between the servers and the kids, they will not be making their own plates, it will be made for them. We are limiting the amount of contact the best that we can,” said Willis.
The alternative prom will be held on May 22. Tickets go for sale on April 20.