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Port Jefferson Prom

Parents and community members were treated to a special preview of this year’s surprise prom theme, The Royal Manor, just hours before the graduating Port Jeff seniors celebrated their prom on Tuesday, June 28.

After 10 months of planning and secrecy, the Port Jeff prom committee finally unveiled its spooky creations. From the lobby to the ballroom to the bathroom stalls, every inch of The Meadow Club was tied together into this year’s theme. Randi DeWitt, trustee of the Port Jefferson board of education and member of the prom committee, detailed how these plans came together. 

At the beginning of the school year, the executive board of the prom committee made the difficult decision to move the annual prom from its regular venue, the high school, to The Meadow Club in Port Jefferson Station.

“Everything used to be at the school, but because of COVID — because of that mandate at the beginning of the year — when we sat together as an exec board for the prom, we had to make the decision of where we were going to have it,” DeWitt said. “We decided to have it here at The Meadow Club because there wouldn’t be a mask mandate. We wanted to bring the theme here, which they graciously allowed us to do.”

The committee put together several unique interior designs throughout the banquet space. Part of the prom tradition is that guests are welcomed to a large foyer area. Each student had his or her own mailbox, where parents and visitors could leave special handwritten notes.

“This area we’re very proud of,” DeWitt said. “Every student has a book and it’s a tradition that the parents and other people come and leave messages for the kids.”

Another custom is the intricate decoration of the bathrooms. Both bathrooms contained elaborate displays that featured unique wallpaper, props and even digital audio to create an ambiance of both fun and fright. “This is a big tradition, the bathrooms, because they just get totally transformed,” DeWitt said. 

She described the sense of relief and accomplishment that the committee felt after nearly a year of preparations came to fruition. For her, the event represents the culmination of effort, ingenuity and love on the part of committee members, parents and other volunteers. 

“We had to raise an insane amount of money to pull this off and we did,” DeWitt said. “This is the culmination and it’s great because we know the kids will have so much fun.” She added, “That’s really why we do this — we do it for the kids.”

The Port Jefferson senior prom, a community tradition dating back over half a century, returned on Tuesday, June 28, after two years of disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Although the event itself was held off premises at The Meadow Club in Port Jefferson Station, a red carpet celebration was successfully conducted at the school, viewed by a sizable turnout of family, friends and community members.

Couples arrived in a wide array of vehicles — fire trucks, sports cars, hot rods, just to name a few. Spectators cheered and honored the students as they arrived and walked up the steps of the high school for what may have been the last time as high school students.

This year, nearly 100 guests attended the prom festivities. This local tradition is alive and well once more.

Members of the 2022 prom committee are working tirelessly behind the scenes to bring this local tradition back to life. (Left to right) Janet Stafford, Danielle Friedman, Randi DeWitt and Pauline Spiller. Photo by Raymond Janis

The Earl L. Vandermeulen High School prom, a decades-old local tradition for the Port Jefferson community, is returning on Tuesday, June 28.

Since 1958, the prom has brought community members together in a spectacular send-off of its graduating seniors. The tradition includes a secret theme decided upon by the parents, along with a complete transformation of the school around that theme.

The COVID-19 pandemic disrupted this tradition. Due to the lockdowns and social gathering restrictions put in place at the time, the event was severely limited in its scope and scale. The world is opening up again and so is the prom.

“This year, we’re doing a hybrid version,” said Randi DeWitt, a trustee of the Port Jefferson board of education and member of the prom committee. “Last year, it was just at The Meadow Club. This year, we’re going to do a traditional drive up at the high school as has always been done, but instead of going into the school, they’re going to head to The Meadow Club.”

An open invitation to the public

Reigniting this tradition will require active engagement on the part of the public. Community members are invited to view this year’s theme at The Meadow Club as well as the drive-up ceremony and red carpet event held at the high school. 

“The tradition is that the whole area is filled with community members,” DeWitt said. “Not just the parents of the kids who are graduating, the whole community comes to view it.” She added, “That’s what we wanted to bring back: The sense of community because that is what has been lost for a couple of years due to COVID.”

DeWitt hopes for a large turnout to reward the monumental efforts of parents and the prom committee who brought this tradition to life once again. “We want [the community] to see what we’ve done here — all of our hard work — and then be here for the kids when they walk up,” she said.

A viewing of the decor and theme will be held from 2 to 4 p.m. at The Meadow Club, 1147 Route 112, Port Jefferson Station. Photos of the attendees will begin at 4:15 p.m. at the Village Center. The red carpet event will start at 6 p.m. at the high school, after which the students will head to The Meadow Club for prom night. 

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Photo from Kathianne Snaden

The high school prom — a tradition that has been alive for over 55 years — has finally made a comeback after a difficult year of dealing with the pandemic. 

Parents of the Port Jefferson Prom Planning Committee have spent months trying to configure an ideal prom for the students in spite of the continually changing COVID-19 guidelines New York was enforcing.

Although the prom took place at The Meadow Club in Port Jefferson Station rather than at the high school, the committee was still able to go above and beyond while staying consistent with their selected carnival theme. 

“I feel like this has been a bright light at the end of a long tunnel, and to be able to give the kids and the community a chance to get together to make this happen has just been a gift,” said Kim Muffly, a member of the prom planning committee. “It really has been an incredible experience.” 

Since 1958, Port Jefferson has held their prom at the high school and has been fully orchestrated by the parents who rely on funding from donors and sponsors, as well as countless volunteer hours. 

Each year the prom has a different theme, each one lavishly decorated by the parents to make the students feel fully immersed in their prom experience. The first prom in 1958 was themed “April in Paris” and this year the committee decided on a carnival theme.

Stilt walkers, tarot card readers, jugglers, contortionists, caricature artists, clowns, carnival games, and smokey Moroccan-themed areas with couches were set up inside, and outside the venue. All topped off with a striped carnival tent to make students feel as if they were really at the circus. 

“I tried to think of a theme that would be a little more flexible because we weren’t sure what the COVID restrictions would be like,” Muffly said. “No matter where we had the prom we could keep the carnival theme, even if it was outside in the football field.”

Since a fire damaged in The Meadow Club banquet hall in 2018, inevitably shutting the building down for a few years, the venue has since revamped its space with brand new reconstruction and an elegant design.

According to Kiran Wadhwa, owner of the Meadow Club, the senior prom is just one of a few recent events the venue has taken pleasure in working with. The members of the Port Jefferson prom planning committee and the students were extremely grateful for the venue’s support and welcoming atmosphere. 

“I don’t think I realized what a big deal this was until guests just kept coming up to me consistently saying thank you, thank you, thank you,” Wadhwa said. “I thought it was such a beautiful thing to see how the community really comes together.”

 

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The Port Jefferson Prom Committee. Photo by Drew Biondo

With current state mandates and guidelines, Port Jefferson’s prom committee announced it will no longer be putting on the annual, parent-run extravaganza this year. Instead the Prom Committee announced Thursday it would instead be holding an event at a local restaurant.

While tentative plans had the prom going on in August, after the Port Jefferson School District hosts its tentatively scheduled graduation the first weekend of that month. On its Facebook page, the Port Jefferson Prom Committee announced it will be unable to host the traditional prom at the high school or even at the Village Center, where the district is planning its own graduation celebrations.

“This decision is not ours alone — it is based upon guidance from New York State regarding social distancing requirements due to COVID-19,” the original post reads.

On July 16, the committee announced on its Facebook page it would be holding an event at Insignia, a steakhouse and sushi restaurant in Smithtown. The committee wrote it will be able to host all 85 seniors in a socially distanced way over a four-course dinner. The date is set for Aug. 3 from 7 to 10 p.m. Parents should receive an email with additional details and a chance to RSVP.

“We also have some surprises planned for the evening,” the post added.

This is the first year since the tradition started in 1958 that district parents will not be hosting a prom. Normally, members on the committee vote on a theme, then parents and volunteers spend the next 10 months building the sets and fundraising to host the event. Last year’s theme of Royalodeon transformed the high school gym, hallways and bathrooms into a kind of late ’90s and early 2000s wonderland, featuring characters from many children’s cartoons and shows.

The cars lined up along the drive to Earl L. Vandermeulen High School, and besides the sounds of running motors, the graduating seniors could express nothing but awe. The entire front face of the high school was dressed in a shawl of ’90s and early 2000s nostalgia. Above the entrance, dressed on a large orange blimp calling back to the classic Nickelodeon channel logo, was a sign reading Royalodeon. 

The parents of the Port Jeff graduates and members of the prom committee spent hour upon hour of their own time to help construct the pieces to the prom in the months leading up to graduation, and the entire final construction, bringing it to the high school, was done over the previous weekend.

Port Jefferson residents got to experience their efforts the evening of July 1, before the students saw it for the first time. Inside was a splattering of ’90s cartoons, from “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” to “The Wild Thornberrys” to “Rugrats,” and the entire dining area designed around “SpongeBob SquarePants.” Lanterns were dressed like jellyfish, hanging from the gym ceiling, and to one side a fully stocked glass case filled with candy was accompanied by cardboard stands of the characters from “Drake & Josh.”

Students arrived awed, not only by the design of the prom but also the number of parents who came to watch their kids walk the red carpet. Kids came ferried in sports cars, but some came in more outlandish style, arriving via boat, the Port Jefferson Jitney, a Qwik Rides Car and even a rickshaw.