With the state’s COVID-19 containment restrictions, it’s impossible to hold a prom of nearly 500 teenagers indoors, or even in one particular dedicated outdoor area.
So the idea being explored is to throw a spaced-out prom along Main Street.
However, everyone involved is stressing, the process is fraught with logistical issues, stemming mostly from one key concern:
How to host a sort of private event in a public space.
“It’s like trying to have a wedding on Main Street,” it was said at a chamber meeting this week where preliminary plans were discussed.
All those involved seem determined to make something happen in the village for the students.
That includes Mayor Paul Pontieri, who laments the fact that this particular class of Pat-Med students has very few cherished memories from this past year.
“And we have the opportunity to give them a memory that’s different from everybody else’s,” he said. “We can put something together that brings the Patchogue and Medford communities together, and make something great for these kids.”
“We’ll do whatever we can that’s within our realm to make this the most memorable experience of their senior year,” he said.
The ideal date would be Monday, June 21, with possible rain dates being the 22 or 28. Patchogue-Medford High School’s graduation is already set for June 24.
The current vision is this, in the most general of terms: a special night outdoors, and one that feels as if it’s just for the students.
“The priority is making sure this is as exclusive an event as possible,” said the Greater Patchogue Chamber of Commerce’s executive director, David Kennedy. “This is all about [the seniors] and celebrating their years together — and one last kind of night before they head off.
“But it’s a public setting, so that’s where the challenge lies.”
Right now, the district and village are eyeing some section of Main Street to close for outdoor festivities, similar to Patchogue’s “Sundays in the Street” outdoor dining campaign of last summer.
“Everything is on the table right now on where it could happen,” Kennedy said.
The plan also involves restaurants having to close to regular patrons so they can quite literally cater exclusively to the students’ needs.
This is also another issue that needs to be figured out.
But they’re working on it.
“The restaurants are excited and willing to come together to give the seniors a great event,” said James Bonnano, chair of the chamber’s restaurant committee and a Tap Room co-owner. “We’re working with the village and the school on the details on how we can execute that.”
No matter how the prom plans take shape, Pontieri is urging the community at large to “understand that this is a special event for a special group of kids.”
“And respect it,” he said. “Is it a private event? Only in so far as people respect it as such.”
He said people can expect closures on Main Street, and implored them to sacrifice a bit if it means not going out to a bar or elsewhere on a Monday night.
“Treat it like a snow day,” he said. “You’re looking at about four hours where you can’t go on Main Street.”
“My hope is that the community understands how important this is,” he added, “and that this becomes the students’ event for their time.”
File Photo: A scene from the Ward Melville senior prom in 2018. Credit: Andrew Theodorakis/Yellow House Images