It was definitely a night to remember.
While many schools are for a second year skipping their end-of-senior-year dances amid the pandemic, Palos Verdes Peninsula High School made it happen with a “traveling” prom Saturday, May 15 evening at the South Coast Botanic Garden.
“If this hadn’t have happened I can’t imagine how we would feel right now because we feel responsible to make sure these kids get some kind of a senior-year experience,” said Season Pollock, Peninsula’s director of student activities.
There just weren’t any options for last year’s seniors as the coronavirus crisis trigged sweeping lockdowns, she said. So all the extracurricular activities that graduating student usually enjoy simply faded away. The class of 2021, though, got a bit lucky, as restrictions are slowly easing up amid the fading pandemic.
The 450 students were split into seven groups of 70 and dusted the trail together from station to station through the botanic garden. A new cohort of students started on the journey every 15 minutes from 7:15 through 9 p.m.
“It’s got a lot of prom-esque stuff,” Peninsula principal Brett Kuykendall said, “but we’re still in a pandemic so we’ve got to make it safe.”
The students were required to wear face coverings and to stay distanced from each other.
About the same number of teens from Palos Verdes High were at the garden the previous night for their prom, Kuykendall said. Staff from both schools collaborated to create the experience for their students, he added. The students signed up for their preferred time slots upon buying their tickets, Pollock said.
“We were worried in the beginning (the groups) would have to be assigned,” she added, “But as things opened more we could have them with their friends; that was the game changer.”
A DJ set the mood near the first stop before prom-goers reached the dance floor at the end where another one spun louder tunes.
Met by an Alice in Wonderland cosplayer on stilts, student arriving at the first stop could get metallic marker “tribal markings,” and laser-printed tattoos.
Then, a stilted White Rabbit ushered attendees along the path past the rose garden, where the kids snapped pictures of one another. Mystical mushroom cutouts, dancing lights and a tree canopy later guided them to a Cheshire Cat statue for selfies.
The Mad Hatter — also standing tall on stilts — finally welcomed them to the grass field of a dance floor.
The last photo spots were illuminated by by a “2021” sign and two backdrops — covered in silver sequins and white flower — for professional photos .
At the exit, mechanical arms served students mini bundt cakes from a shrub-lined wall.
Surviving another year of uncertainty, the prom-goers were happy to have this part of their final high school moments realized.
Lucas Jimenez attends Hawthorne High. His school cancelled prom this year, but Lucas got to attend the event with their partner who goes to Peninsula.
“This is better than any other prom because you’re constantly moving,” said Lucas. “I’m just glad my partner got to go to prom.”
Peninsula senior Siddhi Jain said she didn’t expect prom to happen at all, but enjoyed the unconventional spin.
“It’s nice to finally have a social outlet, be able to meet people again, see other faces and have some kind of normality,” Peninsula student Charlotte Evler said.
“I didn’t expect a prom,” she added, “but it’s a lot better than I thought they’d pull off given the circumstances.”
Evler’s sibling, Gracie Evler interjected: It’s good to “get out of PJs.”