A New Prom Experience


Growing up in West Salem with four older siblings, I have heard a lot about prom from a very young age. I knew that it was an opportunity to dress up with your friends or a date, go out to dinner, take photos, and enjoy a night at the dance. Every time I pictured these future experiences, I purely imagined them based within our school, even when I was younger. I wasn’t even sure it was possible to have such diverse experiences at prom until I experienced one for myself.
Now, during my senior year, I had the chance to go to anther prom. Prior to the West Salem 2022 prom, I went to Vernon Hills, Illinois to attend the Vernon Hills High School prom alongside my future roommate, Emma, and three of her friends.
Immediately after arriving, I knew that this event would be different from the image I had engraved into my head for years. After dressing up with curled hair, makeup, and a sparkly dress, Emma and I headed to her friend’s house to pick up our bouquets. This was a surprising difference for me. From what I had seen, it was normal for girls to wear corsages and boys to wear boutonnieres. However, girls in Vernon Hills prepared themselves with a handmade bouquet.
After picking up our flowers, our group of five headed to take our prom photos. I was expecting us to stumble upon some large park flowing full of students from their school, similar to ours. Nevertheless, I was taken by surprise once again. Each group had an organized location where they would go to take pictures. This was a vast difference as opposed to the mass pile of students we accumulate at Riverside Park in La Crosse during the day of our prom. I think that the most foreign part of the photo taking process was the sheer fact that we were the only ones there. At West Salem’s prom photos, there are people from our school, and surrounding schools, who have prom on that designated day. Although this can get chaotic and crowded, I, personally, like the way that West Salem does it better because we have a wider option of who we can converse and take photos with. However, both options have pros and cons in their own way.
Once we finished our photos, we swiftly made our way to the school. Unlike at West Salem, the students at Vernon Hills all eat together at the hotel that the dance is held at. Yes, the hotel that it is held at (an immensely fancy one by the way.) This year, prom was held at Hyatt Regency O’Hare Chicago Hotel in Chicago, IL. Arriving at the school, we were greeted with a herd of students waiting to be checked in. Everyone had to show proof of identification before entering the school to ensure that everyone had paid and was safe to enter the building. Once everyone had been checked in, the students separated into 8 designated buses that would transport us to the hotel (did I mention that they were coach buses? Coach. Buses.) Luckily, students had registered themselves with their group so no one was separated.
On a hot, Chicago day, one would hope that we would have air conditioning on the way there, especially since we were taking nice coach buses. Well, anyone who hoped for this was severely disappointed as each of the buses air conditioning systems were broken. Additionally, we couldn’t open the windows because they had large windows as opposed to individual ones in each seat. However, we moved past this and rode the buses for 40 minutes until we arrived at the hotel.
Upon arriving, each bus filed out individually to ensure that everyone was accounted for. We were then greeted with a ballroom full of lighting decor, designated tables, and a dance floor in the center. Our group found our table, after looking through the bunch that were still open, and all sat in front of a freshly made salad placed at each seat. After our appetizer was done, the hotel chefs brought each of us a dish to eat that consisted of either garlic herb roasted chicken with mashed potatoes and asparagus or the vegan/ vegetarian lentil penne with beyond meat bolognese and an assortment of roasted vegetables. I had the first option, which for a school prom was surprisingly good. To complete our three course meal, we were served with a dessert of raspberry cheesecake.
Comparing this to our dinners at West Salem, there are few similarities between the two. Here, all individual groups will go off on their own path after photos to eat dinner at various, typically high-end, restaurants. I think that eating with the school as a whole can create a bond within the grades, but also takes away a piece of intimacy within your group during prom.
Finally, the time had come for the dance. The overhead lights became dim as colorful disco lights began flashing around the music speakers. The dance floor swarmed with students quickly as they eagerly waited for the music to begin.
Honestly, the entirety of the dance was a blur. Half of the time I felt like I was lost in a movie and the other half was pure shock as to the sheer difference between my past experience and this brand new one. The DJ was playing “party music” that made the students mosh together within the center of the floor (the boys typically took over and stepped on all of the girls’ feet, but – another difference! – we all wore our shoes the whole time so it was okay.) After an hour though, we were tired of letting the guys genuinely step all over us and decided that we might as well join them. Our group successfully shoved ourselves into the “mosh pit” during every song and had an amazing time.
Sadly, the dance came to an end at 10:30pm, leaving the whole school in a state of tired sweatiness. To our surprise, the buses now had their top windows opened which allowed us to have at least a few breaths of fresh air.
All in all, the Vernon Hills High School dance was a completely different experience than what we have here at West Salem High School. Which was better? I honestly don’t think I could tell you. Vernon Hills offers a new adventure that could not be possible at West Salem. Coach buses, a fancy hotel, three course meals, and a very aggressive mosh pit serve for a highly rated experience. On the other hand, here, we get to experience a close, communal feel with school wide photos at Riverside Park, solo dinner reservations, and a less aggressive mosh pit. Opportunities open with each experience and, honestly, I think the only way to truly understand the vast differences would be to be immersed in both scenarios.