Students anxious for BHS prom, now at Sanford Center
BEMIDJI - Bemidji High School senior Brianna Neumann never expected to be asked out to prom so publicly.
A few weeks ago she received a text from her high school senior boyfriend, Nick Gorick, asking her to meet him at Uff's Hometown Take & Bake Pizza, where he worked.
"I was like, OK, and was a little confused," she said.
When she arrived, she saw Gorick and his mother, holding a camera, standing by the store's sign.
Neumann looked up at the sign and read the words, "Brianna will you go to prom with me? Nick."
"She got really red in the face," Gorick said. "She was really happy."
"I thought it was creative," Neumann said. "I wouldn't think he would do that. He really surprised me."
Over the next few days, "Brianna said yes," was displayed on the sign.
Bemidji High School's junior and senior prom, themed "A Splash of Color," will be Saturday evening and event coordinators are expecting around 400 students and guests to attend.
This year's event is relocating to the Sanford Center arena, a much larger space than the facility's ballroom where it was held last year.
Junior Erik Sorensen, a member of the high school student council's prom planning committee, said he isn't sure what students will think of the larger dance space, but said the arena won't look as open as it does during hockey games.
"A black curtain will hang down that will cut the space in half, creating a more intimate environment," said Roger Swanson, executive director of the Sanford Center. "This will still give them space. It will be a fun thing for them."
Junior Steph Frey, also a member of the prom planning committee, said having prom at the Sanford Center is what sets Bemidji's dance apart from other formal events in northern Minnesota.
"It's easy to clean up and it provides good security," she said.
"A lot of proms are held in sweaty gyms so it's nice we don't have to use that anymore," Sorensen added.
Traditionally, the junior class is in charge of decorating the high school gymnasium for the grand march before the dance and the sophomore class is in charge of decorating the prom dance floor. This comes as a relief to Sorensen, who is looking forward to being surprised by the décor of the dance floor on prom night.
"My favorite part of prom is actually not being at prom, but more the before party and hanging out with friends after the event," he said. "It's one big, long hangout session."
Prom is one of two formal dances Bemidji High School students can attend.
A winter formal held in December traditionally has girls asking boys to the dance. Before prom occurs in the spring, boys traditionally ask girls to the dance and also pay for the couple's dance ticket, flowers and dinner.
While Bemidji offers prom goers a variety of dinner venues, making advanced reservations is usually necessary.
Earlier this week, more than 50 prom goers had reserved seats at the Green Mill restaurant, according to restaurant supervisor Alyssa Basset, who added prom night makes for an exciting restaurant atmosphere.
"It's fun to see the girls with their hair all fancy and the guys in their tuxes," Basset added. "Everyone usually has a good time."
The tradition of taking a prom date to dinner before the dance is a good way for students to socialize before "all the chaos," said Sue Teigland, owner of the Ground Round restaurant.
"It's also the one night where our other guests in the restaurant are oohing and awing over what students are wearing," she said.
Neumann said she and Gorick plan to go to Diamond Point Park for pictures before going to a friend's house for homemade barbecue.
High school student Frey is anxious to dance with friends at prom this year, but is also looking forward to taking pictures.
"This is one of only two times when you can get really dressed up and your hair's all done," Frey said. "It's fun taking pictures when it's like that."
This year, however, no professional photographer was hired to take pictures at prom.
"Most students take hundreds of pictures before the actual event, so we didn't see a reason to hire one," Sorensen said.
Throughout this week students in grades 9-12 have also been submitting nominations for prom king and queen, to be voted on during the dance. Students who can be nominated must have good academic standings and may not have already been crowned Homecoming or Snow Week Queen and King.
"It's going to be a good time," Sorensen said.