Whether donning dresses and suits or rocking a pair of pajamas and slippers, anyone can leave the coronavirus crisis behind for a night of music, dancing and memories during a virtual prom this weekend.
Throughout recent weeks, Ketchikan has seen a wide variety of community events and activities use technology in effort to stay accessible while complying with social distancing measures — and prom will be no different.
Hosted by the KFMJ FM99 “The Rock” radio station, the event is the first of its kind, according to the station’s general manager, Michelle O’Brien.
It will be held at 8 p.m. on Saturday live on the KFMJ Facebook page.
During a Thursday afternoon interview, O’Brien said that the idea was spread on social media late last week, and stems from a KFMJ tradition of hosting a 1980’s-themed prom for adults.
After realizing that the event wouldn’t be happening due to social distancing and shelter-in-place guidelines, O’Brien also noticed that there would be no prom for outgoing high school seniors.
“So I did a little nosing around and I got with the kids from the Kayhi Rotary Interact (Club). … They said, ‘This would be a great thing that we could do for our fellow students,’ so they wanted to sponsor it, and then also KPU stepped up,” O’Brien said.
O’Brien said that after reaching out to the Kayhi Rotary Interact Club, “it just grew from there.”
Also last week, O’Brien enlisted the Ketchikan-based 80’s dance music cover band “Woody’s Finest Hour” to provide the music for the event.
The band includes Tracy Brown, Michael “Lunchbox” Martin, Brandon Hoyt, Lee Freeman and Anthony Matthews.
Brown, the guitarist for the band, works with O’Brien at the radio station.
“Michelle (O’Brien), my boss, knows that we’ve been doing the livestreams on our own time and said that we’d be the perfect fit, so we just kind of decided to do it,” Brown said during a recent interview with the Daily News.
The online stage won’t be unfamiliar to the group — Woody’s Finest Hour started performing live on Facebook late last month in response to the closure of bars and other venues that the band would normally play.
Brown estimated that the band will play for around two hours, forgoing their usual 15-song set list in favor of up to 25 songs.
Brown also said that Woody’s Finest Hour will be facing a new audience on Saturday.
“It’s also going to be interesting to play to a younger audience,” Brown said. “Like, before all of this happened, we played bars only, so we’ve never really been in front of an audience of teenagers before, so (we are) kind of wondering what they’ll think about it.”
Even so, “It’ll be similar to our normal livestream show, where it’s a lot of music and talk,” Brown said. “We’ll probably do less talk this go-round and just play music, and then in between we have a bunch of stuff to give away from the radio station.”
In addition to giveaways, there also will be Kayhi and Revilla Blended School trivia composed by Dave Kiffer. A virtual dance contest also will be held during the prom.
Outside of the trivia and the music, O’Brien said that attendees were encouraged to come as they are or dress up — KFMJ organized two tutorial livestreams leading up to the event to help with prom preparation.
Sharolyn Kroscavage held a Facebook Live hairstyling tutorial at 7 p.m. on Friday, and at 11 a.m. on Saturday, Nicole Cable will hold a Facebook Live tutorial with tips for makeup.
For Woody’s Finest Hour drummer Brandon Hoyt, the most important part of the night is the meaning behind the event.
“If we can make it as awesome as we can, I think everyone else can do the same and just add to it and enjoy the night,” Hoyt said.
Hoyt expressed that he believed the lack of a traditional prom was “a robbery of such a classic, memorable night that everyone has.”
However, Hoyt said that he believes the virtual solution is “really important,” and serves as “the whole town’s prom” in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis.
Hoyt said that while the event was “about the night” and not the music, he hopes that people can relax and feel like “everything is OK for just a moment” and “get away from the craziness.”
The prom isn’t just for seniors this year — O’Brien noted that the event is “the entire community.”
“It’s not just Kayhi kids, it’s not just Revilla kids; it’s like, literally, everyone in the community,” she explained.
The KFMJ virtual prom isn’t the only acknowledgement of Ketchikan seniors happening this weekend.
The “Light the Night” event, hosted by Kayhi staff and faculty, aims to provide support for seniors missing out on their traditional prom experience, according to Kayhi Principal Jason House.
House told the Daily News during a Wednesday phone interview that between the hours of 7 p.m. and 11 p.m., people are encouraged to light up their homes in a show of support for seniors.
“It’s kind of a free-form sort of response for each household, but turning on porch lights, stringing up some Christmas tree lights (are ideas),” House said.
House also said that the lights at Dudley Field, the Pt. Higgins Elementary School field and Fawn Mountain Elementary’s School Esther Shea field will turn on for the night.
“Sometimes, we get feeling a little dark and down lately with the challenges that are going on, so just (it’s) bringing a little spirit and a little light and a little recognition for our kids,” House said.
The virtual prom will be held on KFMJ’s Facebook page, and will begin at 8 p.m. on Saturday.