After a tiresome year of Zoom classes, masks and social distancing, the Pennsbury High School class of 2021 ended their senior year on a “normal” note with prom.
But at Pennsbury, this affair is far from normal, even during non-pandemic times.
On Saturday, June 5, the teens convened at the PHS East Campus in Fairless Hills for the “Best Prom in America,” as deemed by Seventeen and Reader’s Digest.
Following tradition, the class arrived in parade fashion on lavishly decorated floats, each boasting the theme “Hollywood Nights.” Family and community members cheered them on as they walked the red carpet.
Upon entering the building, they were greeted with intricate murals and 3D imagery depicting favorite movie scenes from The Wizard of Oz, Star Wars and horror flicks like Halloween and Child’s Play. There were Oscar statues, a 22-foot-long retro movie theater concession stand and a replica of the Grauman’s Chinese Theater entrance. Even a set of bathrooms were transformed into Tinseltown.
Throughout the evening, students enjoyed dining, dancing, a hypnotist show and the crowning of the prom king (Alvin Wang) and queen (Suzy Hludzinski).
Of course, a Pennsbury prom wouldn’t be complete without its resident disc jockey Paul “DJ Pauly D” DelVecchio, who is best known for his upbeat persona and catch phrases like, “Yeah buddy!,” on the hit MTV show Jersey Shore.
“From Vegas straight to the biggest prom in America,” he wrote on Instagram.
PHS principal Reggie Meadows praised the star for returning to Pennsbury and giving attendees a night to remember.
“He has an affinity for the prom. It’s a great partnership,” said Meadows. “I think he likes coming here and we like having him. It’s something that the students enjoy. He puts on a show. He’s a professional.”
When prom preparations first started, Pauly D was not in the picture. That’s because, due to COVID-19 restrictions, the event was scheduled to take place outdoors on Falcon Field. The Faculty Band was slated to be the only musical entertainment. However, when Gov. Tom Wolf announced that restrictions on gatherings would be eased on Memorial Day, the Pennsbury community switched gears.
“Probably within 48 hours, we had shifted back inside,” said PHS East assistant principal Laura Tittle.
Since the original plan was to have students take a brief walk through the building and exit onto the field, decorations for the main hallway, front lobby and one set of bathrooms were already in the works. Volunteer parents stepped up to help complete the back half of the school that leads to the gym.
Ticket sales, which took place in early April, were reopened for another day and a half.
“When we made the announcement that we were coming back in the building, there automatically was interest,” said Tittle, who extended an open invitation to the class of 2020. These students only took part in the arrival parade last year and didn’t get the full Pennsbury prom experience.
It was at this point that the administration reached out to Pauly D. Luckily, with live shows slowly starting up again, his schedule was free.
According to Tittle, it was a joy to host the three main parts of prom this year – the arrival parade, artwork and performance. Each is something students in the district anticipate from their elementary and middle school days.
“We’ve all been through the ringer the last year and a half,” she said. “It was so nice to give this sense of normalcy to our students and wrap up what has definitely been a challenging year for everyone.”
Plans are already underway for the class of 2022’s prom. This year’s advisers included Terry Poulton, Tara Bellman, MaryAnn Daley, Dan Mahoney, Curtis May, Shannon Poulton and Maggie Weber.
Samantha Bambino can be reached at email@example.com