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P.R.O.M.

From “promposals” to the promenade, it’s all about the runup to the big night



Pittsfield High’s Max Tabakin (class of 2017) and Grace Heimann (class of 2019)

Photos by Jake Borden

In the 1960s, prom-goers arrived in black tuxes and simple dresses to enjoy a party in the high-school auditorium that celebrated the winding down of that phase of life. It was a relatively simple event, where even last-minute attendees could be accommodated. Today, prom is anything but impromptu. 

Prom became more intricate and illustrious during the ’80s after the wedding of Britain’s Princess Diana and Prince Charles. The ceremony was viewed by more than 750 million people and set the new standard for proms across the Pond. The lavishness hasn’t diminished, spurred by ever-more posh televised awards ceremonies. The extensive glitz and thorough documentation of those events have reshaped prom from a light-hearted farewell to a grand ceremony with its own entourage of spectators and high expectations. 

This is the season for proms in the dozen or so Berkshire high schools—stretching from April 28 at Lenox High and wrapping up June 8 at Pittsfield High—and it keeps getting more involved, more of a commitment, much more than a ticket, a date, a party. It is not only time consuming, but fiscally demanding.

“It’s one of those things where you know it’s expensive and nonessential, but you still want to go,” says Monument Mountain High senior Brendan Chee. Some teens say everything leading up to the event is what’s most important: purchasing the dress, giving or receiving the perfect “promposal,” arriving in a limo or Porsche or pickup truck, and, of course, promenading past crowds and flashing cameras during the walk-in. 

This fittingly termed “promposal” has taken on an increased level of importance. The goal is to come up with a unique way to ask out that special person for that big night, and approaches vary widely. There’s the sports approach (“You intercepted my heart. Will you tackle prom with me?”) or the grand, public gesture (Appearing during band practice dressed in a black suit jacket, he hands a dozen red roses to that special girl as he sings, with instrumental backing, “Cheek to Cheek” ala Fred Astaire, after which a curtain opens to reveal five placards with the letters P-R-O-M-?) or a simpler, more intimate approach (Over dinner, the young man pulls chicken nuggets out of the oven, arranged on the pan to spell, yes, “P-R-O-M-?”). 

Social media has been inundated for months with promposals from across the spectrum, and Instagram is a popular platform and offers up a good reference for those looking for inspiration, or amusement. Once the date is secured, the prom-goers must then pick their attire for the big night. For some, it is as simple as renting a tux or borrowing a dress; for others, it is an intricate and tedious process. There are a few favorite dress shops in the Berkshires, such as Deidre’s in Pittsfield, but many teens find themselves leaving the county, or the state, for Springfield, Albany, even New York City.

Once the fittings begin, young women can expect to try on an average of 40 dresses. Some may opt to order online, a lot easier but a bit riskier—in hand, it may be a completely different color from what appeared on the computer screen, or made with different materials than advertised, or simply not the right fit. Last year, a Facebook page named “MMRHS Prom Dresses” ensured that young women wouldn’t see their doppelgänger at the walk-in. The first post back in February read: “Hey guys! Prom is coming up so here’s where you can post your prom dresses so there hopefully won’t be people with the same ones!”

When all the hair is styled, nails painted, makeup done, corsages pinned, it is finally time to take pictures—as a group, individually, the couple, with friends, with one friend at a time, with mom, dad, with mom and dad, “candids” with a dog, on a bridge, against the red background of a Berkshire barn, leaning casually on a balcony as your boyfriend just happens to pick you up bridal style and you just happen to throw one hand and one foot into the air and smile at the camera. Most of the pictures are never seen again. Squinty eyes, awkward hands, a dress hiked at the wrong angle—deleted immediately the day after. No worries, though, with 800 pictures taken, there are still a solid 75 keepers to post.

The social media aspect of prom shifts the focus from the actual experience to its perfected documentation. “It feels like everyone isgoing just for that,” says Mount Everett 11th grader Shi-Anne Phillips. All of the buildup adds a new level of pressure and glamour, and opinions on the hype break down into two groups: One sees it as a way to showcase the best of their experience; the other sees it as way too superficial.

Finally, the red-carpet moment arrives with the walk-in, focusing the spotlight on decked-out teens. Underclassmen, families, and prom groupies from around the Berkshires line up to watch. The audience claps as the couple walks by and, at a turn in the path, the couple stops to pose for a photo. In fact, the selection of a prom venue is often based on the availability of an ideal walk-in location—the Cranwell, Crowne Plaza, the Mount, Hancock Shaker Village all fit the bill.

For Pittsfield and Taconic high schools, some couples bypass the traditional limo and arrive at their destination in a sports car. For smaller schools, walk-ins are somewhat anticlimactic, with fewer spectators and lower attendance. “There’s no need for a limo when I can show up on my bike,” says Mount Everett High School junior Abby Busch. 

It all happens now, from simple dresses to elegant gowns, a private night to a public affair, an intimate photo album to full, uncensored coverage on Snapchat. But prom itself stills holds the same significance. It’s a rite of passage, a final stretch to graduation, a celebration of high-school achievements and memories—and future successes. The extensive preparation and new additions are all done with the same traditional intent: to make an unforgettable night even more unforgettable.


STEPPING OUT  on the firetruck, Rosaliz Hernandez (left, PHS ‘18), Lauryn Rogers (Taconic ‘18), Mark Brites (left, PHS ‘18), and Mark Puskey (PHS ‘19); Emma Wheeler (in truck, PHS ‘18); Caitlynn Drosehn (left off truck, PHS ‘17), Mackenzie Ellis (PHS ‘17), Luke Dallembach (left, PHS ‘17), Hunter Phair (Taconic ‘17); (Laura Burgess (PHS ‘16) with David Desjardins (PHS ‘17);and Jon Bile (PHS ‘17) helps his date off the school bus.


RED CARPET –– A look back at last year’s prom as we look forward to this year’s. The two photos directly above are from Monument Mountain Regional High School. All other photos from Pittsfield High School’s walk-in.

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Blending nature and spirituality, Connecticut artist Lori Barker explores the rhythms of life in a new collection of mixed media works on display at the Gunn Memorial Library Stairwell Gallery from...

Cost: Free

Where:
Gunn Memorial Library Stairwell Gallery
5 Wykeham Rd.
Washington, CT  06793
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Sponsor: Gunn Memorial Library
Telephone: 860-868-7586
Contact Name: Sharon Morrissey

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The Bruce Museum is organizing an exhibition of small artworks created entirely by the public for the public. We invite art lovers of all ages, interests, and abilities to submit a depiction of...

Cost: Free

Where:
Bruce Museum
One Museum Drive
Greenwich, CT  06830
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Sponsor: Bruce Museum
Telephone: 203-869-0376
Website »

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In this key moment in our national history and the struggle for women’s equality and freedom of expression, the Fairfield Museum’s exhibition “Flappers: Fashion and...

Cost: Free

Where:
Fairfield Museum and History Center
370 Beach Road
Fairfield, CT  06824
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Website »

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Zachary Zaitzeff is a painter living in the Hudson Valley who has incorporated his extensive world travel, including his 2011 summit of Mount Everest, into his artwork. Zachary spent 2018 studying...

Cost: free

Where:
RT Facts Gallery
8 Old Barns Rd
Kent, CT  06757
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Sponsor: RT Facts
Telephone: 860-927-1700
Contact Name: Natalie Randall
Website »

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Here’s a holiday idea for the whole family – a private tour of the Peter Parley Schoolhouse! The Ridgefield Historical Society maintains and operates the 1756 Schoolhouse, also called the...

Cost: Suggested donation $10 for adults, kids are free

Where:
Peter Parley Schoolhouse
Intersection of West Lane and CT Rte 35
Ridgefield, CT  06877
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Sponsor: Ridgefield Historical Society
Telephone: 203-438-5821
Contact Name: Peter Parley Schoolhouse
Website »

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We invite families to drop-in and enjoy interactive pop-up activity stations, gallery games, and art projects around the KMA.  Get inspired by Outrageous Ornament: Extreme Jewelry in the 21st...

Cost: Member price: Free Non-Member price: Free with Museum admission

Where:
Katonah Museum
134 Jay Street
Katonah, NY  10536
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Sponsor: Katonah Museum of Art
Telephone: 914-232-9555
Website »

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Calling all fans of Scottish food and Diana Galbaldon’s Outlander series. Don your tartan, make like Jamie’s clan motto and be ready! You’re invited to an amazing Outlander...

Cost: 100.00

Where:
Hunt Hill Farm
44 Upland Road
New Milford, CT  06776
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Telephone: 860-355-0300
Website »

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Friday, Jan. 25 Wilton Library Mini Golf Tourney for Adults, 6:30 – 9:30 p.m. The kids had so much fun at last year’s Mini Golf fundraiser, that Wilton Library is holding one for adults only...

Cost: $50 and up

Where:
Wilton Library
137 Old Ridgefield Road
Wilton, CT  06897
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Sponsor: Wilton Library
Telephone: 203-762-3950
Contact Name: Wilton Library
Website »

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Original members of the Billy Joel Band featuring Liberty DeVitto on drums, Richie Cannata on saxophone and Russell Javors on rhythm guitar. The band recorded and toured extensively with Billy Joel...

Cost: $40

Where:
The Ridgefield Playhouse
80 East Ridge
Ridgefield, CT  06877
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Telephone: (203) 438-5795
Website »

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Born from humble beginnings in the Black Rock section of Bridgeport, CT The Alpaca Gnomes cut their teeth in the neighborhood bar scene by playing marathon shows filled with originals and a wide...

Cost: $15.00 - $20.00

Where:
Wall Street Theater
71 Wall Street
Norwalk, CT  06850
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Sponsor: Jeanne Moore
Telephone: (203) 831-5004
Contact Name: Jeanne Moore
Website »

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Are you a lifelong with a passion for sharing history? Find out about becoming a Museum Docent! Docents are trained volunteer educators who present guided tours and other education programs to...

Cost: Free

Where:
Fairfield Museum and History Center
370 Beach Road
Fairfield, CT  06824
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Bring the baby and enjoy a lively conversation inspired by the art on view. Enjoy light snacks while socializing with newly-made friends. Crying babies welcome and activities provided for older...

Cost: Member price: Free Non-Member price with Museum admission: Free

Where:
Katonah Museum of Art
134 Jay Street
Katonah, NY  10536
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Sponsor: Katonah Museum of Art
Telephone: 914-232-9555
Website »

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Heather Gaudio Fine Artis pleased to present “Jae Ko: 漂流 Drift,” the artist’s first solo exhibition at the gallery.   In addition to showcasing...

Cost: Free

Where:
Heather Gaudio Fine Art
66 Elm Street
New Canaan, CT  06840
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Sponsor: Heather Gaudio Fine Art
Telephone: 203-801-9590
Contact Name: Rachael Palacios
Website »

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In this key moment in our national history and the struggle for women’s equality and freedom of expression, the Fairfield Museum’s exhibition “Flappers: Fashion and...

Cost: Free

Where:
Fairfield Museum and History Center
370 Beach Road
Fairfield, CT  06824
View map »


Website »

More information

Blending nature and spirituality, Connecticut artist Lori Barker explores the rhythms of life in a new collection of mixed media works on display at the Gunn Memorial Library Stairwell Gallery from...

Cost: Free

Where:
Gunn Memorial Library Stairwell Gallery
5 Wykeham Rd.
Washington, CT  06793
View map »


Sponsor: Gunn Memorial Library
Telephone: 860-868-7586
Contact Name: Sharon Morrissey

More information

Winter Guided Hike @ Woodcock Nature Center Saturday January 26th, 10-11:30am, FREE ​ Join Mr. Sam for a hike where we'll investigate whats going on in nature in the winter season and...

Cost: Free

Where:
Woodcock Nature Center
56 Deer Run Road
Wilton, CT  06897
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Sponsor: Woodcock Nature Center
Telephone: (203) 762-7280
Contact Name: Sam Nunes
Website »

More information

The Bruce Museum is organizing an exhibition of small artworks created entirely by the public for the public. We invite art lovers of all ages, interests, and abilities to submit a depiction of...

Cost: Free

Where:
Bruce Museum
One Museum Drive
Greenwich, CT  06830
View map »


Sponsor: Bruce Museum
Telephone: 203-869-0376
Website »

More information

Heather Gaudio Fine Artis pleased to present “Jae Ko: 漂流 Drift,” the artist’s first solo exhibition at the gallery.   In addition to showcasing...

Cost: Free

Where:
Heather Gaudio Fine Art
66 Elm Street
New Canaan, CT  06840
View map »


Sponsor: Heather Gaudio Fine Art
Telephone: 203-801-9590
Contact Name: Rachael Palacios
Website »

More information

Saturday, Jan. 26 Mini Golf Family Day in the Stacks at Wilton Library, 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. Wilton Library will hold its 2nd mini golf fundraising event. There will be food (each paid admission will...

Cost: $5

Where:
Wilton Library
137 Old Ridgefield Road
Wilton, CT  06897
View map »


Sponsor: Wilton Library
Telephone: 203-762-3950
Contact Name: Wilton Library
Website »

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  Touchon transforms verbal language into handsome geometric compilations, to reveal the beauty and musicality of language characterized by warmly colored shapes, interlocking irregular grids and...

Cost: free

Where:
Canfin Gallery
39 Main Street
Tarrytown, NY  10591
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Sponsor: Canfin Gallery
Telephone: 914-332-4554
Contact Name: Jean-Claude Canfin
Website »

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Zachary Zaitzeff is a painter living in the Hudson Valley who has incorporated his extensive world travel, including his 2011 summit of Mount Everest, into his artwork. Zachary spent 2018 studying...

Cost: free

Where:
RT Facts Gallery
8 Old Barns Rd
Kent, CT  06757
View map »


Sponsor: RT Facts
Telephone: 860-927-1700
Contact Name: Natalie Randall
Website »

More information

Here’s a holiday idea for the whole family – a private tour of the Peter Parley Schoolhouse! The Ridgefield Historical Society maintains and operates the 1756 Schoolhouse, also called the...

Cost: Suggested donation $10 for adults, kids are free

Where:
Peter Parley Schoolhouse
Intersection of West Lane and CT Rte 35
Ridgefield, CT  06877
View map »


Sponsor: Ridgefield Historical Society
Telephone: 203-438-5821
Contact Name: Peter Parley Schoolhouse
Website »

More information

Saturday, January 26th from 1:00 - 2:00 PM, Ages 4+ Attend for groovy crafts, snacks, games, and more in celebration of the Pete the Cat book series. This event is free and no registration is...

Cost: Free

Where:
Keeler Library
276 Titicus Road
North Salem, NY  10560
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Sponsor: Keeler Library
Telephone: 914-669-5161
Contact Name: Carolyn Reznick
Website »

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Hudson Chorale, the area’s largest mixed voice chorus, is poised to please.  The group will begin its 2019 season with two matinee concerts on Saturday, January 26, 2019 at 3:00 pm and Sunday,...

Cost: Advance Sale-$25; Door-$30; Students-$10.

Where:
The Chapel at Maryknoll
55 Ryder Rd
Ossining, NY  10562
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Sponsor: Hudson Chorale
Telephone: 1-800-838-3006
Contact Name: Anne Norum
Website »

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Join us for a very special evening of music from these four accomplished singer songwriters: David Ray, Mike Latini, Dave Goldenberg, George Mallas.  

Cost: 20.00

Where:
Hunt Hill Farm
44 Upland Road
New Milford, CT  06776
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Telephone: 860-355-0300
Website »

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Join us for another incredible evening of music featuring four local singer songwriters performing original music! Doors open at 7pm in New Morning’s handicapped accessible Community Room on the...

Cost: Free

Where:
New Morning Market
129 Main St North
Woodbury, CT  06798
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Sponsor: New Morning Market
Telephone: 203-263-4868
Website »

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