FALCONER - For more than two decades, Falconer Central School's prom attendees have been provided with a safe and supervised school-sponsored alternative for spending the remainder of prom night when the event draws to a close.
This year will mark the 25th consecutive after-prom celebration hosted by the district.
On Saturday, approximately 200 students will participate in the festivities, which will take place from midnight to 5 a.m., and will include prizes for everyone. This year's theme is "Under the FCS Big Top," featuring a variety of circus-related props, decorations and activities.
Given the village's history with circuses, it is fitting that the after prom party would choose to commemorate its 25th anniversary with a circus theme. According to Steve Penhollow, Falconer superintendent, the atmosphere of the celebrations will hearken back to a time when bigtime acts, such as Barnum and Bailey and the Ringling Brothers, would come to town and set up shop in what is now the athletic field area between the school and Interstate 86.
"It's a good theme, for the 25th anniversary of this, to tie into something that was a big part of Falconer's history for many, many years," he said.
"I tried to get an elephant, but it didn't happen," said Rosie Digirolamo, after prom coordinator, who instead settled for a full-sized prop elephant.
Each year the Falconer after-prom honors someone who has went above and beyond to help out for the party. Here is the list of honorees:
1997: Memory of Mike Marucci
1998: Donna Eskeli
1999: Jane Fosberg
2000: Mary Weiler
2001: Rober Minton
2002: Karne Cotten
2003: Tony & Jeanne Conti & Kathy Hedstrand
2004: Tina Duliba
2005: Sylvia Schrader
2006: Stephanie Buccola
2007: Susan Conti
2008: Rosie Digirolamo
2009: Sharon Berg
2010: Maryann Whitney
2011: Keith Kresconko
2012: Pat Walker
2013: All previous
honorees will be recognized
Other attractions will include a casino area, in which students can win "funny money" with which to purchase prizes. There will also be a Chinese auction, and a grand prize giveaway of a TV, a laptop, a GPS system and an Ed Shults advantage card. Numerous gift cards have also been donated from several local businesses, and will be distributed through a drawing.
As the longest running high school after prom party in Chautauqua County, hosting an event of this caliber requires months of planning. Digirolamo, who began planning this year's event in September, said the average cost of hosting the after prom works out to be approximately $15,000 each year; and is made possible through two annual fundraisers, and the generous giving of the community and surrounding area.
"The amazing thing about this is, year after year, it happens. And it happens because so many people believe in it, and there's so many people supporting it," said Penhollow. "Not only the faculty and staff and the kids, but it could not occur without the support of the community, (or) without the local businesses, the donations and the time that people are willing to put in to provide quality entertainment for the kids, as well as a safe environment for them to be at."
He added: "If you look at my high school career, we didn't have these types of opportunities. And that's what makes Falconer neat is that we provide so many opportunities for our kids."
The success of the after prom event is so palpable that, according to Jeff Jordan, high school principal, the district ended up modifying the prom night process.
"We've changed the prom hours in the last couple of years because students would start to line up early so they could get to after prom," Jordan said. "They're thinking about the after prom sometimes more than the prom itself."
The prom hours are now from 8:30-11:30 p.m., giving students time to change and make the trip from the Grandview of Ellington to the high school. Although the majority of the after prom attendees are coming directly from prom, Digirolamo said the event is open to any students who want to come, and it is provided for them at no cost.
"And the good thing is that everybody gets to go home with something," she said. "There's enough there for every person to take home two things."
Annually, the event transforms the building's gymnasiums, cafeteria, hallways and media center into a voluminous party complex. It is supervised by between 70 and 100 parents and staff volunteers.
Prior to the event, there will be an open house from 7-8:30 p.m. for parents to witness the effort that has gone into planning and decorating, as well as survey the atmosphere in which their children will be spending the morning following prom. Digirolamo said that a writing wall is provided for parents and staff to leave messages for the students in advance, which are to be seen upon the students' admittance to the party. The open house will feature refreshments, and taffy, candy apples and wax hands will be available for purchase.
The content of the after prom party is, perhaps, best summarized by a flier from the district's 2011 celebration-which guarantees free admission, items and food to juniors, seniors and guests. The flier goes on to indicate that for participants 22 years of age and older, affectionately referred to as "senior citizens," the price of admission will be one sleepless night and one week to recover.
To make a donation to the Falconer-After-Prom, send it to the high school in care of Rosie Digirolamo. They also have an account set up with Don't Trash It on Everett Street in Falconer, where people can drop their cans and bottles off and tell them they go to Falconer After-Prom.