The COVID-19 pandemic put a halt to all regular graduation celebrations but for 13 lucky graduates, one Lake Country woman decided to give them something special to remember.
A mini prom was planned for a Lake Country woman’s younger sister, Alexis, and 13 of her close friends.
Organizer Danielle Harshenin said her sister’s dress, purchased before the pandemic, is what sparked the idea to plan a mini prom.
“The dress already had alterations done, so there was no returning it,” Harshenin said. “I knew Lexi’s girlfriends were in the same boat — beautiful dresses and nowhere to wear them.
“I was determined to create a special night for them to wear those dresses,” she said. “My fiance and I love hosting small events and our home is well-suited for entertaining, so the idea evolved pretty naturally.”
The graduates, donning their formal wear, toured Lake Country on a rented school bus with plenty of stops for photo opportunities to mark the milestone.
“We wanted to simulate a prom experience as closely as possible, only on a smaller scale,” Harshenin said.
Dinner with views overlooking Okanagan Lake, glamours photographs and dancing until midnight was essential, she said.
“The original plan was to hire a limo to pick all the grads up at their homes and bring them to the party, but we ended up renting a school bus instead, which I think turned out even better,” she said. “It was a symbolic, ‘last bus ride.’”
Upon arrival to the final destination, the graduates were greeted by parents, a celebrity-style photoshoot and a surprise grad-parent dance.
The organizer said her favourite part of the evening was watching the grads parade off the rented school bus in their formal gear.
“Their faces lit right up,” she said. “It made all the hard work and planning worthwhile.”
The weather was the only hurdle standing in Harshenin’s way. Original plans called for an outdoor event, but Mother Nature had something else in store moving the event indoors.
Compared to her 500-plus graduation party, Harshenin said she “would have preferred something like this for my own grad.”
“The mini prom was much more intimate and relaxed,” she said. “For kids who have a smaller group of friends, or perhaps a little social anxiety, smaller events can be much more enjoyable — but every bit as memorable.”
Games, a candy bar and dance followed “bringing many smiles and laughter to the honoured guests,” mother Shirley Harshenin said.
“A well-deserved, magical night.”
The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way events are planned, from limiting guests to under 50 to ensuring there are appropriate safety measures in place to protect the well being of the entire community. Harshenin was sure to include these in her invitations.
Only 13 grads were invited so, with parents included, there were less than 40 people in attendance.
“For the parent-grad dance, we broke the group into two so there wouldn’t be more than 20 people in the room at one time,” she said.
Plus, the family runs Kahuna cleaning and Harshenin said the home was “thoroughly cleaned and disinfected before the party.”
“Masks and hand sanitizer were supplied for use at the guests’ discretion,” she said. “Everyone was very respectful of one another.”
Harshenin said she was worried some grads invited wouldn’t be able to attend as a result of the pandemic, but she was surprised the response was “overwhelmingly positive.”
“All the parents were so grateful that their son or daughter had an opportunity to celebrate this huge milestone in their lives in a quasi-traditional way,” she said.