Belated Prom in park turns out ‘really well’

By Sarah Brown
Lebanon Local
Luna Carnahan wasn’t too worried about her white gown as she descended down the embankment at River Park.
She had removed her heels so her toes could better grip the rocks and dirt. Her friend, Casey Henderson, followed behind, making sure not to trip on her long, red dress.
The two spent only a few minutes at the riverbank while Henderson dipped her feet in the water. Friends Chris Moreno and Mariah Burris stayed above, watching.
After some light conversation, the four returned to the park, where more than 80 young adults gathered in formal attire to enjoy a belated prom.

Couple Michael Bustillos and Sawyer Brubaker dance atop playground equipment.

Parent Christopher “Squid” Douglass coordinated the July 24 Saturday night prom with other parents in an effort to give the kids something they’d lost due to COVID-19.
The Class of 2020 had no senior prom. The Class of 2022, no junior prom. The Class of 2021, however, lost both.
Douglass had joined a group of parents to coordinate an all-night party for this year’s graduating class, but wanted something more for his daughter, Julianna.
“One of my goals when I joined that parent group was I wanted a prom because of my daughter,” he said. “She didn’t get any prom, and I wanted her to have that prom.”
One of the parents, Samantha Miller, had shared a story via social media in May about a Kentucky community in Lawrenceburg, which put on a prom in the middle of town because the coronavirus prevented it from being held indoors.
The response she received from the post was positive, so Douglass volunteered to take the lead in making something similar happen in Lebanon.
“We wanted to make sure that all three classes that lost a prom, we wanted the community to give them a prom,” he said.
Kids from all three classes attended, including some who had already graduated and were preparing to leave for college.
One of them, a Class of 2021 graduate who would only go by the name “Santos,” said it was a good idea for the prom to be held in the summer, after things with COVID were safer.
“While a July prom is not the greatest situation, being stuck in a pandemic isn’t the greatest situation,” they said. “It’s great that I got to have this one last opportunity before I went off to dorm to another city.”

Photographer Kali Gradberg snaps a photo of friends from the Class of 2021.

Parents built a balloon arch and decorated a tree with lights for photo backgrounds. Photographer Kali Gradberg provided professional photos for free.
Ironically, Gradberg and her two assistants had all missed out on prom themselves for different reasons. One was home-schooled, another graduated as a junior, and a third attended a small school that didn’t hold a prom.
Most attendees agreed having any sort of prom was good. Many said it was nice to be outdoors instead of inside a small, hot gym.
Class of 2021 graduate Maya Garregos hung out in an open field with her boyfriend, taking advantage of the space by spinning and twirling her full ballgown.
“I’m really happy that it’s not too crowded,” she said. “I don’t love being smooshed. It feels more chill-axed.”
In another part of the park, attendees danced to DJ-provided music.
At dark, Christopher Douglass and others passed out glow sticks, and dancers put on headphones for “silent disco.” The dance “floor” lit up with neon-colored rings and lighted headphones while dancers moved to music only they could hear.

Andrew Vandehey and Rylie Miller light up the dance floor.

Longtime couple Andrew Vandehey and Rylie Miller spent a lot of time dancing together.
They said they only got to have one dance together when they started dating, and now that they’d graduated, it was nice to have one last high school dance.
As for Julianna Douglass, who would’ve missed her prom if it wasn’t for her dad and other parents, she said, “It turned out really well.”