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Paynesville Press - May 7, 2003

Parent-run after-prom party turns ten

By Michael Jacobson

Saturday's prom marked the tenth year that parents have volunteered and organized an after-prom party for Paynesville Area High School students. The party was started to give high school students a safe alternative on prom night.

Clothes pins - photo by Susie Swyter No serious accidents and no lives have been lost among Paynesville students since the party began, and - knock on wood - that trend will continue.

Junior Trisha Wendlandt attempts to put as many clothes pins on her face as possible during the after-prom party watched by volunteer parent Diane Nelson, at left. The male winner put a reported 43 pins on his face; the female winner had 22.

"Proms are a high-risk event. Not a year has gone by where there hasn't been a serious accident somewhere in our state. The after-prom party has helped keep ours safe and free of accidents," said high school principal John Janotta. "A huge thanks to all the parents and concerned citizens who have made this event possible and have made it safer for our kids."

The after-prom party actually started in 1993 by the Jaycees, who organized the event for one year.

Starting in 1994, a volunteer parent committee has organized and raised funds to have the all-night party. "The Jaycees had started it, and we wanted to keep it up," said Barb Koehn, who served on the initial parent committee and served for nine years on the committee, including many years as the chair.

The party - which is open to all juniors and seniors at PAHS as well as all prom goers - starts when the prom goers return from the dinner and dance. After the bus returns from prom, students are given a chance to go and change clothes and then come back to the high school.

Sumo wrestlers - photo by Susie Swyter The doors are typically "locked" around 1 p.m. After that, if anyone wants to leave, their parents are called. Or if someone signs up for the party and does not show, their parents get called. In most cases, students simply get tired, but the calls are part of the safety program. Students typically can enjoy games in the gyms, lots of food, having their caricature drawn, and music. In years past, there have been open gyms, deejays, casino games, and even a dunk tank.

The all-time favorite game at the after-prom party is sumo wrestling.

Koehn said the all-time favorite for entertainment has to be sumo wrestling, where two competitors don heavy suits and try to topple their opponent by pushing. "We try to get different things every year because kids go two years in a row," said Koehn.

This year, for the first time, the party included live entertainment, a comedian, at 4 a.m., followed by the main prize giveaway. This year's theme was from the 1950s: "Shake, Rattle, and Roll."

While prizes are given away throughout the night, the large prizes are given around 5 a.m., just before the doors are opened and the students head for home. This is done to try to give students an incentive to stay at the party throughout the night.

Typically, the after-prom party gives out over $3,000 in prizes, which are either donated directly or bought with donated money. Each student usually gets at least a $20 prize, said Corrine Lieser, who is in charge of fundraising and prizes for the after-prom party.

Typically, work for the after-prom party starts a year in advance with the booking of entertainment and games. Most of the real work starts in January and February, when a fund-raising letter is sent to local businesses and when the committee starts to meet regularly.

It costs around $6,500 to pay for the after-prom party, much of that coming from donations from local businesses. "The businesses in this town are fantastic," said Koehn.

"The community is very supportive," agreed Gretchen O'Fallon, a school board member and long-time committee member in charge of the decorations. "Everything that was given out this year was purchased locally."

Caricatures - photo by Susie Swyter According to Gretchen and her husband Jim, who has supervised security for years during the after-prom party, the students who attend the after-prom party are generally very appreciative and very well behaved. Though the security crew checks the school doors regularly, Jim thinks the biggest security risks are not the students but people not attending the party.

Junior Maureen Flanders and senior Josh Price had their caricature drawn as part of the party's festivities.

It generally takes 50 to 60 parents to volunteer at the party, which typically attracts about the same number as the prom. Usually, 20 to 30 prom goers will opt not to attend the after-prom party, said Koehn, and about the same number of juniors and seniors will attend the party but not the prom.

Parent organizers for the after-prom party this year are: chair DuDonne Andrie; prizes Corrine Lieser, Patty Stalboerger, and Vicki Jenniges; food Sheryl Fuchs and Cindy Gerding; games Sharon Glenz, Mary Mackedanz, Claudette Nietfeld, Julie Schlangen, and JoAnn Weidner; decorating Gretchen O'Fallon; and security Jim O'Fallon.

Koehn said the party always needs parents who don't have kids attending the prom to help because it is very hectic to get ready for the party and to get a child ready for the prom. The O'Fallons started working at the after-prom party before their children were old enough to attend prom because they believe in the party so much, and Lieser has continued to work with the after-prom committee since the youngest of her four boys graduated in 2001.

"I firmly believe thatÉit's a good cause," said Lieser. "No one has died in 10 years, and that's my goal to keep kids safe," continued Corrine. "It's a lot of work, but it's worth it."

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