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After a year without a prom, donation makes it free for Detroit Lakes students

COVID canceled last year’s prom at Detroit Lakes High School, so to make it extra special this year, an anonymous donation was made to cover the cost of kids' prom tickets. Prom will look a little different than usual, with kids in masks and no slow dancing allowed, but the social distancing rules haven't damped students' excitement about this right-of-passage event.

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Detroit Lakes High School seniors Jen Tracy, left, and Sammy Collins shop for prom dresses in late March 2021. The two are also featured in the Laker Live video segment about prom, linked at the bottom of this story. (Submitted Photo)
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“Just imagine an explosion of sequins and tulle,” says Nikki Caulfield, owner of Skirting the Rules dress and tuxedo shop in Detroit Lakes. “I go home and I’ve got tulle in my hair and I’ve got sequins on my shirt. My poor dog has sequins on her by the end of the day! All you can do is laugh about it.”

With the Detroit Lakes High School prom coming up in less than three weeks, there’s been a steady stream of teen girls at the shop, trying on dress after dress before finding that perfect one, getting fitted and then trying it on all over again. The boys have started coming in, too, to find and get fitted for their tuxes.

“The kids are excited,” Caulfield said. “And the really funny thing is, the parents are almost more excited than the kids.”

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Glittery dresses wait on the rack at Skirting the Rules in downtown Detroit Lakes. They'll soon be taken home by local high school girls to be worn at this year's prom, happening at Detroit Lakes High School on Saturday, May 1. (Marie Johnson / Tribune)

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There’s always an air of excitement around prom, but the feeling is amplified this year. Kids weren’t able to have a prom last year because of COVID-19, and there was uncertainty right up until last month about whether or not they’d be able to have one this year.

When it was announced that prom would, in fact, be happening, a group of anonymous donors from the community gave a $5,000 gift to the school to cover the cost of kids’ prom tickets as well as other prom expenses like decorations and door prizes that will be given away throughout the night.

“The donors wanted to make sure that every student could come to the DLHS prom, and that there were some enticing incentives to make sure students would stay for the whole prom, to make sure they would have a safe and fun night,” said Sam Link, a ninth grade teacher and prom advisor at the school. “The kids feel so grateful about this donation, about ticket prices being taken care of. It’s just another stressor taken off of them.”

Prom tickets typically cost about $50 per student. Thanks to the donation, they’re free this year.

“The community has been incredible in helping this event happen, and their donations are very appreciated,” wrote Kaitlin McConkey, a DLHS senior and member of the prom planning committee, in an email to the Tribune. “We’re so glad to be able to have prom this year!”

The event will look a little different than usual, due to the lingering pandemic and ongoing social distancing restrictions. The kids will need to wear masks inside, and slow dancing will not be allowed. There will also be two Grand Marches instead of one, with the kids split into two groups so that every prom-goer can have two spectators come and watch them march, without exceeding the school's capacity limit.

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Still, those added rules haven’t dampened the mood around this right-of-passage event.

Parker Quam, a senior who’s on the prom planning committee, said, “I know that a lot of my classmates and friends, along with myself, are very excited we’re able to have a prom for our senior year. We are also super thankful for the anonymous donation and their efforts to make our prom a safe and memorable event.”

The committee has been running at full speed since getting the go-ahead in March to start preparing for prom -- a process that would normally start in December. Link said, “It’s been the talk of the school… It’s three weeks away now, so it’s getting intense. But it’ll be fine. It’ll be fun.”

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DLHS seniors Sammy Collins, left, and Jen Tracy pose for a quick picture while trying on prom dresses at Skirting the Rules dress and tuxedo shop in Detroit Lakes in March 2021. (Submitted Photo)

She said the committee is taking a scaled-back approach to prom decorations this year, given the short amount of time they have to put everything together.

“They’re doing a lot of planning to make sure it’ll look good and be a fun and easy night for the kids, to hang out with their friends, but still as a formal dance,” Link said. “There will be a garden theme in the décor, with metal accents, lots of flowers and fairy lights. Just pretty, simple, and elegant, is what we’re going for.”

The theme only applies to the decorations; there’s no pressure on kids to try to match their outfit to the theme.

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Prom is happening on Saturday, May 1, from 7 p.m. until midnight at the Ralph Anderson Gym at Detroit Lakes High School . The first Grand March will start at 7 p.m., and the second at about 7:35 p.m. The dance begins at 9 p.m. Tickets are available for DLHS juniors and seniors, who are allowed to bring a date from the younger grades or up to age 20.

Until the big night, Caulfield says she expects her shop to remain a revolving door of excited young customers, and she’ll be busily working to make sure they all make it to prom looking their best.

“If I don’t sleep, then I don’t sleep, that’s just how it works,” she said with a laugh. “It’s like this every year.”

Watch the video above, made by seniors in the Detroit Lakes High School Laker Live video production class, for more information about prom. The prom segment starts 9 minutes, 15 seconds into the video. For more Laker Live videos, visit the DLLakerLive YouTube channel .

PromMAIN.JPG
Glittery dresses wait on the rack at Skirting the Rules in downtown Detroit Lakes. They'll soon be taken home by local high school girls to be worn at this year's prom, happening at Detroit Lakes High School on Saturday, May 1. (Marie Johnson / Tribune)

PromMAIN.JPG
Glittery dresses wait on the rack at Skirting the Rules in downtown Detroit Lakes. They'll soon be taken home by local high school girls to be worn at this year's prom, happening at Detroit Lakes High School on Saturday, May 1. (Marie Johnson / Tribune)

A writer, editor and mom of four (two kids, two dogs), Marie's been in the newspaper business for over 20 years. She started at the Detroit Lakes Tribune in 2017 after working just down the road at the Perham Focus for several years. Before that, she was at the Herald-Review in Grand Rapids, Minn.
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