The staff parking lot at Cloquet High School was an unusual sight as approximately 130 students celebrated prom the evening of Saturday, May 8.
This was the first prom experience for most of Cloquet’s students, both juniors and seniors, after the cancellation of last year’s dance due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
From roughly 8-10 p.m., a DJ blasted music while unmasked juniors and seniors danced in the center of the lot.
Lights and white tents illuminated the space, with teacher chaperones and a Cloquet police officer forming a protective border around the small area.
Cloquet senior Ethan Wilton shared that while this unusual night would be his first and last prom, he was still having fun.
“It’s different, but I’m glad we had one,” Cloquet senior Miranda Weber said.
While the dance was originally planned with strict COVID-19 guidelines — including masks and limiting student interactions to pods of six — the recent loosening of restrictions by Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz led to a more traditional dance structure.
“It’s been about as normal as possible," Cloquet senior Cade Anderson said. “We’re really lucky to have it in the first place.”
Senior Brenna Mattson shared that she was wearing the dress originally planned for last year's prom. She said she was happy to be able to have an occasion to wear it this year.
The dance was held outside without food, drink or a photographer, but students were allowed to mix and mingle unmasked. The Grand March preceded the dance and was livestreamed, with limited audience members permitted in person.
For most students, this was their first time seeing their classmates in person, without masks in over a year.
“It’s weird seeing all these people without face masks on,” Cloquet junior Rylee Burkhart said. “I feel like I haven’t seen … their faces in over a year.”
Burkhart shared that her prom group went to Duluth before the dance to eat and take photos. She said the students were willing to work with anything at this point in the year, so long as they got to have a prom of some kind.
“This is probably the most school fun I’ve had in a long time,” she said, emphasizing that Cloquet teachers deserve a lot of credit for helping provide a fun end to the school year.
Cloquet teacher and junior adviser Chandra Allen helped coordinate the event with the junior class and said everything went very smoothly.
Allen explained that the main concern with planning was possible bad weather, but with clear skies and mild temperatures, it ended up not being much of a problem.
Smiles were seen on the faces of everyone in attendance, with the only complaint being that 40 degrees was a little cold for those wearing dresses.
Cloquet Choir Director Larissa Donnelly, who has been teaching at Cloquet for about three years, volunteered to chaperone Saturday’s event. She said she was happy to see everyone together again, including some full-time distance learners whom she hadn’t seen in over a year.
“It’s so good to see them happy,” she said. “I’m so glad for them.”