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Gossamer, Glitter And Face Masks: Unalaska High School Hosts Prom 'Viewing'

Maggie Nelson/KUCB

Walking into the Unalaska High School gym on Saturday was like stepping into a glowing, gossamered prom dance straight from television.

The theme was "Golden Fairytale." A colorful light display bounced off pillars of white flowers and bouquets lining the dance floor, while early 2000s music throwbacks poured through the speakers. As students flooded in, dressed to impress in sparkly gowns, chic tuxes and flashy rhinestoned face masks, they stopped to strike a pose in front of elaborate dreamy castlescape backdrops, while family members snapped photos. 

In Unalaska, it's custom for community members and family to gather prior to the high school prom to take photos and celebrate together. But because the COVID-19 pandemic made gathering impossible last spring, last weekend was the first time in two years the community could come together for its annual high school prom "viewing."

After a long year of canceled or virtual events due to the coronavirus pandemic, the high schoolers at the dance said they were more than ready to return to some sense of teenage normalcy.

Jadrey Reynon, a high school junior said she was most excited about just being a normal teen at a dance, enjoying her peers' company and showing off her outfit that she'd been preparing for about a month.

The junior class was in charge of hosting and decorating for the dance. They'd covered the ceiling with silky drapes that cascaded down the walls and shimmered in the twinkling lights. In the foyer, elegant yogurt cups and decorative flutes for punch sat on lavish snack tables next to a ballot box for prom king and queen.

Reynon said as a junior, she was happy to help put the decorations together and make this a memorable night for the seniors, whose prom was virtual last year.  

"It means a lot, especially for the seniors, because last year, they didn't get [a prom]," Reynon said. "And it feels really good for us to be able to do this for them this year."

Prior to the actual dance, Unalaska high school hosts a "viewing", where community members and family can come see the students and decorations and take pictures.

This year, while the viewing was limited to family members to keep capacity down, the room still felt packed as groups continued pouring in.

Elsa Bucaneg had just gotten off work and came over to see her daughter and take pictures. She said it wasn't her first time coming to a viewing – she has two other kids. But it was her daughter's first prom.

"This is my youngest," Bucaneg said. "So I'm so excited for her."

Another parent, Margo Peters said the viewing is a unique experience for her – it's not something she did growing up, but she was happy to have the chance to participate and take photos of her daughter and her friends.

"I love it," Peters said. "I love that they invite the community to come in and take pictures of the kids. They're gonna kick us out at 10 o'clock, which is appropriate, but it's really wonderful that we get to share in this experience with our kids." 

The teens practiced their Tiktok dances for family members and posed with cousins, parents and friends. They beamed at the chance to show off their clean looks and latest hairdos. 

Senior Bao Be said this was his first prom, but he had come prepared.

"I got my hair done this morning so it would look much more fresh for the dance," Be said. 

Family members got to watch students also participate in the "Grand March." The evening's DJ, high school teacher Rainier Marquez announced their names as they walked front and center on stage to pose and have more photos taken.

At 10 p.m., it was time for parents, grandparents and aunts and uncles to clear the gym. But for the students, a long and memorable night was just beginning. 

For seniors, the dance marked a night to remember their high school careers by. For everyone in attendance, it also marked a return to normalcy after a trying year. 


Hailing from Southwest Washington, Maggie moved to Unalaska in 2019. She's dabbled in independent print journalism in Oregon and completed her Master of Arts in English Studies at Western Washington University — where she also taught Rhetoric and Composition courses.
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