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Willmar prom decorations do double duty

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News Willmar,Minnesota 56201 http://www.wctrib.com/sites/default/files/styles/square_300/public/fieldimages/1/1130/20120505050312promsetup03.jpg?itok=hLpuW7XW
West Central Tribune
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Willmar prom decorations do double duty
Willmar Minnesota 2208 Trott Ave. SW / P.O. Box 839 56201

WILLMAR -- Willmar's Senior High Prom has gone green in a big way.

"We don't throw anything away," said prom co-coordinator Lyle Hovland this week, and better yet, the decorations brighten two big events before they are packed away for next year.

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The prom's theme Friday night was "Cities of Light," featuring Venice, Paris and New York.

Tonight members of the school's National Honor Society and other volunteers will host the Arc Spring Dance at the high school for members of The Arc Kandiyohi County. More than 500 people, from 12 years of age into the 60s, are expected to attend the dance from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m.

The idea of high school students helping with Arc dances goes back to when he was a Willmar student, Hovland said. The mother of a special education student in his class asked him and some of his buddies to DJ an Arc dance. They had a lot of fun doing it.

He picked up the idea again when he returned as a teacher and adviser of the National Honor Society. For a time, Jodi Neis was the prom coordinator, and he did the Arc dance.

A few years ago, they started working together on the events.

Hovland, who is also a leader in an effort to bring one-to-one iPads to the high school, said the goal is similar in both projects -- "We're giving the same opportunity to everybody."

The high school students "have a blast" at the Arc dance, Hovland said. "I have kids say they enjoy the Arc dance better."

When people ask why Willmar has a Friday night prom, he said, part of the reason is the two dances.

"This (Arc) dance couldn't be done on Sunday night," he said.

The high school students who host and clean up on Saturday night have a busy weekend, he said. They go to their own prom and post-prom party Friday night, sleep during the day on Saturday, then host the other dance. They wouldn't miss either dance, he said, but he knows many of them are exhausted by Sunday.

People attending the Arc dance also have to go to work or school on Monday morning.

"As long as I'm the adviser, that dance is not going anywhere," Hovland said.

No school district money is used for the dances. Decorations and food for the prom are funded by ticket sales.

In the past, the prom committee might have filled a small dumpster with discards after prom. Now, almost nothing goes into the trash until it's worn out and needs to be replaced, Hovland said.

"We make sure we can reuse everything," he said. That goes for everything from twinkle lights to a huge ceiling parachute that hides the not-so-pretty gym ceiling and provides a more intimate setting.

A huge curtain on one wall shows a Broadway scene. Some of the greenery comes from artificial trees that are kept in storage from year to year.

Area businesses help with prom decorations, too. Stacy's Nursery in Willmar loans fresh trees and plants for the weekend of the prom. They went into place Thursday afternoon.

Small footbridges have been built with wood donated by Perkins Lumber and labor donated by Lehman Construction.

This year, the decorating crew built streetlights to carry out the prom theme. They'll go into storage along with everything else.

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Linda Vanderwerf

I cover education issues for the West Central Tribune and have worked for the paper since 1995. I have worked in journalism since 1981.

Follow me on Twitter: @lindavanderwerf

(320) 214-4340
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