Almost Paradise: A night at Fossil’s 2018 Prom

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Almost Paradise: A night at Fossil’s 2018 Prom

Prom attendees slowly dance the night away.
Photo Credits: Liam H. Flake

Prom attendees slowly dance the night away. Photo Credits: Liam H. Flake

Prom attendees slowly dance the night away. Photo Credits: Liam H. Flake

Prom attendees slowly dance the night away. Photo Credits: Liam H. Flake

Liam H. Flake

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When students stepped into Fossil Ridge High School’s prom at the McKee Building on Saturday, May 5, they entered a scene straight out of Van Gogh’s Starry Night. The DJ’s booth rested on a platform at the far end, with circular tables on the left, white leather couches adorning the edges, and the eponymous work itself projected onto a silken white backdrop. Blue, purple and red spotlights circled the room from above, giving each attendee their chance in the spotlight. Students flooded in with tuxedos and sparkly dresses, arriving via SUV and party bus, and filling in the dance floor. The crowd started to gain energy at 8:45, dancing frenziedly to Usher’s “Yeah”, and slowed down for the iconic slow dance at 9:20 pm to Ed Sheeran’s “Perfect.”

Students begin their prom experience dining at Austin’s in Old Town.
Photo Credits: Liam H. Flake

Students approach the door to the prom.
Photo Credits: Liam H. Flake

Out of the prom’s myriad attendees, one pair included seniors Ariella Banta and Xander Johnson. Banta and Johnson attended the prom as a pre-existing couple, having dated previously for three years. “We met through swim team, actually,” Johnson explained, recounting how the couple came to be. “I walked up to him, actually and asked ‘how’s your toe feeling?’, because I remembered he broke his toe earlier,” Banta elaborated, “and I said ‘would it be really awkward if I asked for your number?’” Three years later, the two remained together for their senior prom. Leading up to the dance, Banta and Johnson prepared by assembling their outfits. While Johnson stuck with renting a fitted tuxedo from Mens’ Wearhouse, Banta travelled further in order to obtain her blue Victorian style dress for the occasion. “I actually got my dress in Broomfield, in the dress district. It was either that or order one online,” Banta explained. “I was just shopping around, and I found this one. I tried it on, and it was the best one I had tried, and I was like ‘Yeah. That’s it. No question.’” Commencing their evening, the couple began prom night with steaks at The Still, before continuing to the dance. While they looked into renting a limo, the pair decided it was too expensive per person and elected instead to simply drive Banta’s 2014 Subaru. “He likes to drive it. Every single time, he’s like ‘I love your car, you know that, right?’,” Banta commented regarding Johnson. Ultimately, the couple enjoyed their night at the prom. “Honestly, I go mostly for fear of missing out,” Banta concluded.

Guests to prom fill the floor, dancing and chatting amongst the multicolored lights.
Photo Credits: Liam H. Flake

A party bus departs after dropping off students.
Photo Credits: Liam H. Flake

In the backdrop of the dancing and the technicolor lights, the prom was run and assisted by various volunteers, who worked behind the scenes to ensure the night was as seamless as it was supposed to be. One such group of volunteers was the band of girls, hailing from Student Council, who ran the coat check over the course of the night, handling students’ jackets and spare garments. Included in this group was Lily Sherman, a sophomore at Fossil Ridge. “We’re the coat check girls,” Sherman stated, summarizing her role in the event. “We have these bags, and when people come in, they come to our station and put in their shoes and their jackets, and we protect it for them.” During the dance, while other students occupied the dance floor, Sherman and the other volunteers monitored dozens of numbered brown paper bags with students’ belongings. Doing so, the group was given free entry to prom. However, the position was not without responsibilities. “It’s sometimes stressful,” Sherman shared, explaining the nuances of the job. “Last year, we lost somebody’s stuff.” Thankfully, this past incident was quickly resolved, and said student was able to locate their belongings. Besides manning the coat check, the volunteers also managed the water station and maintained the Hershey’s Kisses scattered across the tables. “I think there’s about 1000 pieces,” Sherman provided, estimating the number of candies provided.

Prom attendees slow dance to Ed Sheeran’s “Perfect.”
Photo Credits: Liam H. Flake

Eden Senay was awarded the honorable title of prom queen,
Photo Credits: Liam H. Flake

Around 10:00 pm, the prom culminated to a much anticipated climax: the crowning of the venerable prom royalty. As the crowd fell silent and watched, the sashes and plastic symbols of high school success were awarded to Danny Kovak and Eden Senay. “I’m super humble and really grateful to be able to represent my class,” Senay shared excitedly. “I’m just really grateful.” Senay completed the night with a common prom experience, eating at the Bent Fork before and attending with a large group of friends. “It’s been really fun to dance and have a last hurrah with my friends before we graduate,” she finished.

DJ Omar Nuñez orchestrated the music for Fossil’s 2018 Prom.
Photo Credits: Liam H. Flake

The prom was arranged by many parties and individuals, relying on a plethora of moving parts in order to run smoothly; however, at the heart of any good school dance is a DJ, mixing tunes and reacting to the crowd. For Fossil’s prom of 2018, that DJ was Omar Nuñez, who owns NuFusion Productions. Nuñez has been disc jockeying for 13 years, and has done so for the Fossil Ridge Prom for the last four years. “I always get excited when I get called back,” Nuñez provided, explaining his history with the school. Throughout the night, Nuñez worked to coordinate and curate the song selection in reaction with the crowd. “I mean, a lot of the time I don’t know what I’m going to play. Maybe I have an idea of what songs or what genres I’m going to play for that event, but I won’t know specific songs until I’m actually there,” Nuñez explained, elaborating on his methodology. “I play a few songs and see where it goes from there.” This process is expedited when students make requests. During his time DJing for Fossil’s prom, Nuñez has started to pick up on the nuances of the musical tastes of the student body. “One thing that surprised me, and that has surprised me every year that I’ve done this, is that they like the classics,” Nuñez noticed. During the night, the crowd danced with zeal to older songs, such as Footloose or Come on Eileen, sprinkled throughout modern hits. “When I play it, I’m not sure how they’re going to react to it, but as soon as I play it, they go bananas for it.” In the end, school dances are an event particularly enjoyed by Nuñez. “Thank you for letting me rock with y’all,” he concluded. You can find Nuñez at www.djnunez.com or on Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook at djnunez1.

DJ Omar Nuñez deliberately mixes tunes for the crowd.
Photo Credits: Liam H. Flake

Travis Turner and Nikky Haabestad attended prom with coordinated outfits to fit the theme, depicting Van Gogh himself and the eponymous artwork.
Photo Credits: Liam H. Flake

To pull off an event on this scale, all parts must pull together and operate in harmony. Masterminding this process, and overseeing the efforts to organize this event, are Jen Smela and Martha Cranor, teachers at Fossil Ridge. Smela and Cranor have pulled together each aspect of the prom – choosing the theme, reserving the space, and contacting all businesses required to piece together the event – for the last seven years. For the bulk of the decorating and setup, the pair has found consistent quality in the Caldera Event Group. “Every year they just work really well with us, and we have a really great collaborative team that puts things together,” Smela elucidated, explaining the experience Fossil has had with the company. Caldera provided an abundance of accessories and decorations to the prom, from the couches lining the wall to the custom made lighting rig that hung overhead, setting up almost all decor. Smela and Cranor declined to provide the specific cost of this service, but mentioned that the company was generous in price. “They work with us, and they’re very, very amazing to work with. They

High heeled shoes are set aside for the night.
Photo Credits: Liam H. Flake

manage to stretch our money,” Smela explained. The decorations, however, are not random – this year’s decor was built around the chosen theme of Starry Night, based on the ubiquitous painting by Van Gogh. To arrive at this motif, Smela and Cranor worked with a board of students to brainstorm. In doing so, the goal was to select something unusual. “We really tried to choose something that was unique, that wasn’t being done in other schools. We tried to get out of the usual themes that we’ve seen over the last few years and try to do something that’s pretty unique and different,” Smela stated. To achieve this effect, the painting itself was projected onto various surfaces throughout the room, and was reflected in the lighting. “It was mainly supposed to be like stepping into the painting,” Smela cited, providing insight into the design. Despite their efforts for the last few years, these year marked the end of the duo’s run as prom organizers. “It’s bittersweet. It’s always fun to do,” Smela remarked. “We like working together. We’re a good team,” Cranor concluded.

The dancefloor lies empty and shrourded in fluorescent light after all guests have left.
Photo Credits: Liam H. Flake

Students fill the dancefloor, colored spotlights above. Photo Credits: Liam H. Flake

The dance floor awaits guests.
Photo Credits: Liam H. Flake

After the lights turned on and the last song ended at 11:00 pm, students gradually filed out the doors, grabbing belongings and departing with lingering conversations. However, for most, this was not the end of the prom experience. After changing into t-shirts and sweatpants, students drove over to After-Prom at Fossil Ridge. Here, they found events ranging from bubble soccer and an amazing surplus of donuts to caricatures, a photo booth, and a magic show.

Two students find refuge at the tables lining the sides of the room.
Photo Credits: Liam H. Flake

Among attendees to this midnight event was senior Abby Davis. “I just wanted to hang out with people and get to know them more,” Davis stated, citing her motives for attending after-prom. For Davis, the event offered a nice getaway to follow up prom itself. “People are coming more, and just taking time out of their schedule to come.” During the after-prom, Davis participated in various activities, such as the photo booth and the raffle. However, ultimately, the best aspect offered for Davis was just the chance to relax and hang out after the formal dance. She stated, “the best part is just to wear whatever you want and not be suffocated.”

Students enjoy complimentary midnight snacks in the commons.
Photo Credits: Liam H. Flake

Students at After-Prom sit and wait while guest artists sketch caricatures.
Photo Credits: Liam H. Flake

The After-Prom featured a variety of guests, including parent volunteers, caricature artists, and poker dealers. One such guest to the event was magician Mitchell Harwood, who performed a live magic show for a small audience in the performing arts center. Following a raffle drawing for various prizes, Harwood entertained a sprinkling of students in the wee hours of the morning with tricks from card magic to appearing doves to floating

A Fossil student tries a virtual reality system provided at After-Prom.
Photo Credits: Liam H. Flake

tables. However, Harwood’s act was not the initial choice for the event. “Actually, they were going to have a kid named Teagan who went here, but Teagan has a fever of 102 degrees, so he called me at the last minute to fill in,” Harwood explained, recounting how he came to perform at a high school after midnight. For Harwood, this type of performance is not uncommon – he performs often at after-proms, corporate events, company picnics, and more. Fossil, however, did not fall short as an audience for Harwood. “They were great. I wish there were more of them, and that more people stuck around for the show, because it’s a fun one,” he concluded. “You know, I’m from Denver, and I’ve been out here in Colorado for 25 years, and it’s fun to perform in a nice place like this.”

Magician Mitchell Harwood wows the cowd with stage magic.
Photo Credits: Liam H. Flake

Ultimately, from magicians to teachers, DJs to students and chauffeurs, Fossil’s prom was an iconic cultural event that encompassed the community as a whole, providing a memorable night for Fossil students while bidding seniors adieu. To each involved, the experience represented various purposes and meanings. For students, the experience typically entails a celebration. “I think prom to me means getting together with my best friends and having a really good night,” explained Bryce Henry, a senior attendee. For Vincent Chimblo, another student, the reasons are much the same. “It’s a fun tradition. Everyone should at least go during their senior year,” he remarked. Even for the organizers of the prom, the experience is an attempt to celebrate the students, particularly the seniors. “For us, it’s really about trying to put on something meaningful for the students, especially the seniors,” Smela stated. “It’s kind of like their last formal event and we want it to be something that’s kind of fun and memorable.”