By MADDY VITALE
It was more like watching the Academy Awards than a red carpet event, a prelude to dancing, dining and socializing at the high school prom Saturday evening.
There was glitter. There was glitz. Bow ties and sequins, too.
There were solos, couples and three prom-goers walking arm and arm down the runway into the Ocean City High School, down the hallway and under tents at Carey Stadium.
For the 325 students and their guests, it was not only a night to remember, but it was about enjoying a milestone that was not possible the year before due to the COVID-19 pandemic gathering restrictions.
And the night would be topped off with an After Prom celebration at Gillian’s Wonderland Pier from 10 a.m. to 1 a.m.
Jake Stryker, 17, and his date, Rachel Bacon, 18, and Brooke Stell, 17, and her date, Vinnie Gullo, 18, all from Ocean City, all said they were elated to have a prom this year. They spoke moments after they left the red carpet and walked into the prom.
“It was definitely a nice opportunity to have a prom,” Jake said.
“I’m just so happy to be able to come to the prom,” Brooke noted.
For four months, students, parents and faculty worked together to create the prom and After Prom, explained High School Principal Dr. Matthew Jamison.
“I think the significant part about it is being able to have a prom after these kids have been through so much for over a year,” Dr. Jamison said as he greeted students walking down the aisle. “They have persevered.”
He also credited the students for all of their hard work, saying the culmination of their planning made the prom possible.
“The kids planned this over four months. They showed maturity and fortitude to persevere,” Dr. Jamison said.
He also expressed gratitude toward the city and Mayor Jay Gillian for supporting the school district in its plan to host the prom.
“A heartfelt thanks goes out to the city. They have been nothing but supportive of us,” Dr. Jamison said.
The mayor looked around and watched as the prom festivities began.
“It is all about the community,” Gillian said. “The parents, students and business community and the After Prom group really are the unsung heroes in all of this.”
Rows of people sat in bleachers and chairs as they watched their sons, daughters and relatives sashay down the runway.
Some people took videos and others photos. All seemed to have a sense that after a tough year dealing with a pandemic life was slowly returning to the new normal.
“I am so happy my daughter got to go to the prom this year,” Pam McDonnell, of Ocean City, said as she awaited the red carpet appearance by her 19-year-old daughter, Tarren.
After the runway, students walked down to the stadium, where tents were set up ornate table settings.
Some prom-goers sat at tables to wait for dinner and chat. Others took advantage of the warm breezes outside of the tent as a DJ played music.
For Chloe Prettyman, 19, of Ocean City, who will be entering her sophomore year in college in the fall, it was a long overdue night.
There was not a prom when she was a senior at the high school because of the pandemic. But this year was different and she attended the affair with her boyfriend, Reed Lindsay, 18, who is in his senior year.
Chloe summed up the sentiment of the students.
“It is exciting to finally get to go to the prom and to be together,” she said. “To be here and to get to do the red carpet and see everyone is what it is all about.”