Years after her high school graduation, Mary Ann Badar has attended all but one of the past 15 "senior" proms -- senior citizen proms, that is.
Each year, Mrs. Badar and her husband, Clarence, of Hempfield attend the event hosted by Hempfield Area High School students. It is billed as the Senior Citizen Prom but is, in reality, a catered luncheon with live entertainment, free to those age 65 and older who live in the Hempfield Area School District. It also includes door prizes and, most of all, fellowship.
This year's prom is April 27 at the high school.
With a $5,000 budget, Natalie Fetterman, a Spanish teacher at the high school and faculty sponsor for the prom, works with a team of about 50 students to plan and pull off the afternoon event that attracts about 350 seniors.
"It's just such a pleasure how the high school kids react [to the senior citizens]," Mrs. Badar said. "They are just so polite. They ask to help with plates, bringing coffee and drinks. It's an interesting thing to watch."
Students from a variety of groups take part. National Honor Society and Spanish Honor Society students help decorate and serve the seniors. Hempfield Area students who attend the Central Westmoreland Career and Technology Center design and produce the centerpieces. Entertainment is provided by the high school jazz band, and the musical theater group presents excerpts from the yearly spring musical. This year the group will perform songs from "South Pacific."
The catered luncheon, which includes chicken and roasted potatoes with chocolate and vanilla cake, is purchased, but local businesses also make contributions to the event.
"We get an outpouring of donations from local restaurants and grocery stores for over 100 raffle items," Ms. Fetterman said. For the fifth year, Chick-fil-A restaurant will provide certificates for a free sandwich to each senior citizen who attends.
"Everybody leaves with something, and they just love it," Ms. Fetterman said.
Unlike the prom that the seniors attended in their youth, dress is casual. Promgoers wear mostly sport coats and pants suits -- no tuxes or gowns with layers of tulle.
Mrs. Badar still remembers the coral-colored chiffon gown that she borrowed to wear to her high school prom in the mid-1950s. Just being dressed up made the evening special, she said.
Now, she said, she enjoys "table hopping" at the Hempfield Area prom.
"It's just a really nice community thing. The kids do it without being made to do it," she said.
Tickets may be ordered by sending a self-addressed stamped envelope to Natalie Fetterman, 4345 Route 136, Greensburg, PA 15601. Deadline is April 1. Tickets will be mailed two weeks before the event.
Laurie Bailey, freelance writer: email@example.com.