Sauk Centre High School’s prom will be the first for both junior and senior students. The prom is back May 1 after the school’s 2020 prom was canceled.

“Students and adults, whether they be parents or staff, we kind of all took (prom) for granted; it was just a staple,” said Sandy Nelson, SCHS prom adviser. “You always did prom in the spring, and then it didn’t happen last year. This year, I think we’ll appreciate it more.”

The garden of love-themed prom will have a different venue than usual. In previous years, the grand march was at the Sauk Centre Public Schools auditorium, the prom was in the school’s multi-purpose room and dancing continued at an offsite venue.

All of the events of the 2021 prom, though, will be at the Sauk Centre Civic Arena, giving attendees the space they need to socially distance.

“Our guidance from the Department of Health recommended that communities find the biggest venue,” Nelson said. “Originally, we had talked about possibly doing it at the Sinclair Lewis Park, but with it being May, of course you’re dealing with the elements, so we decided to move it to the civic arena.”

Prom planning has been ongoing since January. Along with Nelson, the planning team includes 15 students and a number of parents.

The planning team does not have to worry about decorations; they have the decorations they ordered for 2020 but never used. However, they had to adjust what they have so the display works in a much larger space.

“We usually always have (prom) in the auditorium,” Nelson said. “The set we purchased fits perfectly on our stage. It’s massive and it looks beautiful, but you bring that into the arena, and the arena just gobbles it up. We’ve had to be creative; decorating a space the magnitude of the arena is challenging, so we’ve had to order more supplies and think about how we’re doing it.”

The upstairs area of the civic arena will be set aside for serving food and for tables; more tables will be downstairs on the main arena floor along with the grand march promenade, the DJ, the dance floor and games.

“We’ve never had games at prom before, but we are trying to give opportunities since there is so much space to do other things,” Nelson said. “We’re trying to keep that social distancing piece in mind, so if we provide more things, there might be fewer issues.”

So far, 62 couples and 11 singles have registered for prom, a total of 135 students. To maintain both socialization and social distancing, students will be assigned to pods of up to six people apiece, and each pod will have its own table and not have to socially distance from each other; students’ prom registration forms included a section where the students could indicate whom they would like in their pod. These groups will be required to maintain 6 feet of separation from other pods, and masks will be required throughout the event except during eating and when going through the grand march.

For Nelson, the 2021 prom is an opportunity for the students to celebrate and have normalcy back in their lives.

“It’s going to be beautiful, and for the kids who have not experienced prom – the juniors and seniors – this will be their first experience,” Nelson said. “It’s a huge undertaking, but there’s a good group of parents who are really committed. I think it’s going to turn out nice.”

The grand march will be streamed live at 7:30 p.m. May 1 at https://www.midmnsports.com.