Saturday, April 28, 2012

Just Beachy

Surf boards, beach balls, tiki torches, sand, palm trees....these are the things we're dreaming of as we wait for the recent spell of raw weather to pass. But tonight, Methacton students attending the post-Prom event need dream no more as they file into the all-night festivities taking place at Methacton High School.

Jaws, Spongebob Squarepants, and Pirates of the Caribbean also make an appearance. This, the 13th year of the annual event developed to give students a safe place to go and things to do after the prom, kicks off tonight at 10:30 pm and runs til daybreak.  This year's theme is "Life's A Beach - Have a Ball".

I've been attending the big reveal known as the walk-through - where the creativity of the art, props, decorations, and full activity setup is shown off proudly by event planners and student escorts - for six or seven years now, and tonight's walk-through had the biggest crowd I've ever seen at this event. The line literally wound its way all the way from the high school lobby down to what used to be known as the junior high. I even met people in line who don't have any kids attending our prom or the high school, but who came from neighboring areas to see what we do and how we do it.

And, the post-Prom committee did not disappoint. Down halls containing numerous loose beach balls, the tour led parents past a movie theater, casino, arcade, karaoke, dance revolution, miniature golf, laser tag; volleyball and dodgeball tournaments; bounce room with inflatables, including a wrecking ball, sumo wrestling, and a money cash grab; a romantic, quiet cafe for downtime, coffee and conversation; tryke track for racing oversized tricycles around the upstairs floor; and a fully stocked cafeteria which will feed kids a large variety of foods all night. One of the recurring features yearly is a dark hallway decorated in glowing, 3D paint and for which one needs to don 3D glasses to view in all its glory. It's always visually stunning and tonight's version was no exception, replicating a deep sea and its inhabitants.

Other events and attractions included a number of photo opportunities, including a surfer on a wave; old fashioned beachgoers in Atlantic City, a visit to Ocean City, Oahu, Daytona Beach, and Atlantis; a scavenger hunt for treasure, 'cash cab' golf cart donated by the Club at Shannondell, a hypnotist, fortune teller, and massage therapist. If one of the almost 900 teenagers attending the event can't find something interesting and absorbing to do at post-Prom, there's something wrong!

It's also a tradition that each of the elementary schools and the middle school, Skyview, adopt and decorate one of the boys' or girls' bathrooms in a theme that coordinates with the overall theme. They are often exceptionally well done. Tonight, I had the opportunity to view several. Skyview's theme was 'Survivor Methacton"; Eagleville did a VERY nice rendition of Gilligan's Island, complete with custom life preservers hanging on the front of each stall door, and Woodland transformed their assigned bathroom after the show "Lost".

It takes an army of volunteers to plan and put all this together over the course of a year, and another army to staff the event all night - and to pay for it. Each year it costs approximately $40,000, which is donated by individuals and via fundraisers, including a golf outing - and numerous generous corporate, state and local government sponsors. Our community is grateful to all of them (listed in the event program) for their support in keeping our kids off the roads and safe after prom - so please support those businesses when you shop or dine.  Some of the funds go toward purchasing raffle and door prizes, which are awarded to kids who stay all night as an incentive to stay put once the doors are closed.

I worked this event the year my daughter was a junior and I can attest to the hard work all participants put into it (I volunteered to work the 2 am to 6 am shift, traditionally the hardest to fill). Kids are signed up ahead of time and parents indicate whether they'll be attending and if they'll be staying all night. If a child doesn't show up, or wants to leave early, parents get a phone call to notify them. All of this combines to give parents some peace of mind when they send their kids out the door enjoy their prom. Best of all, the kids return home well fed, exhausted enough to sleep all day and stay out of mom and dad's hair. As the volunteer staff says "you're welcome!"

After a bit of bad press last year when a few kids apparently/allegedly showed up at the prom showing evidence of having been drinking, which made the 11 o'clock news and the papers, this years' event seems to have been a quiet, orderly affair. Congrats, Methacton, on a successful and enjoyable event for our students.

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