While Tempe Union High School District is making plans for in-person graduation for the Class of 2021, an Ahwatukee resident has laid the groundwork for another milestone in seniors’ lives – the prom.
The district has ruled out sponsoring proms, citing concerns over COVID-19, but is planning May 20 commencement exercises at its seven campuses – including a final one at Compadre High School, which is being closed at the end of the current school year.
Kim Horn, whose daughter Alexa is scheduled to graduate from Desert Vista High School and enter the University of Arizona this fall, has planned the Masquerade Prom 2021 from 8 p.m. to midnight May 8 at the Arizona Grand Resort Ballroom.
The ballroom’s 20,000 square feet of space allows ample room for 1,000 people and the deadline to buy tickets is April 25. Ticket prices also will be going up from their current $50 at staged intervals, so Horn is advising kids to get them as quickly as they can. They can be purchased at masqueradeprom2021az.rsvpify.com.
Rather than limit attendance only to her daughter’s soon-to-be alma mater or even just Desert Vista and Mountain Pointe high schools, Horn said she “wanted to be inclusive for other students that are in that same predicament” as her daughter faced – missing out on a prom like the Class of 2020 did.
Last year, both in-person graduations and proms ran afoul of the pandemic, which forced the governor to ban large gatherings out of concern for social distancing.
Now that the governor has lifted those restrictions and more people are getting vaccinated, Horn bristled at the prospect of a repeat of 2020, when proms and other end-of-high-school events went up in smoke.
Horn has implemented virus-safe protocols to keep attendees safe while easing parents’ minds by providing a chaperoned event – for which she’s already paid Arizona Grand to provide their security guards around the premises.
“We will be taking temperatures when they come in,” Horn said. “A COVID waiver will have to be signed. They will have to purchase a ticket to be able to get in. No tickets will be sold at the event.”
And naturally, masks are as mandatory as tuxes for young men and gowns for the ladies at the formal event.
The price of admission includes more than a DJ and the chance for Tempe Union seniors to share one of those never-to-be-repeated moments in their young lives that some other neighboring school districts are hoping to provide to members of their Class of 2021.
Light beverages will be served but there will be no food, since most promgoers like to strut their stuff with a pre-dance dinner at a local restaurant.
A photographer will be on hand with variously priced packages, depending on whether a couple want pictures of only themselves or with a group of friends.
And there will be raffles at various times throughout the evening with prizes that, at least for now, are top-secret.
In addition, every couple will get a memento they can take home. That too is a secret for now.
The mementos and door prizes are being provided by various businesses in the community that Horn is still lining up.
Horn also is lining up parents to provide chaperone, ticket-checking and temperature-taking services.
And a group of students, led by Desert Vista senior Michael Adamick, is handling the marketing since, Horn said, “I don’t really have a budget for advertising.”
While some parents in the district are reportedly planning private dances to fill the prom void, the Masquerade Prom likely offers the biggest gathering of its kind in Tempe Union this year.
As for spending the night at the resort, attendees will have to work that out on their own with Arizona Grand – and more likely, with their parents as well.
“They definitely can do that,” Horn said, “but we didn’t wrap in ticket prices based on room sales because that’s a whole 'nother thing, knowing that we will have minors there."