Dazzling July farm prom for CEC’S class of 2021 after tough COVID year
CHELSEY GOULD TRURO NEWS chelsey.gould @saltwire.com
Farm prom to remember UPPER ONSLOW - It was a night to remember for students in Truro in a celebration uneclipsed to any experience during the past 16 months of the COVID pandemic in Nova Scotia. Into the field at Riverbreeze Farm entered prom-goers from Cobequid Educational Centre. Directed to a parking lot, they lined up to check-in and were then ushered to a staging area of photographers and videographers, with a picturesque farm backdrop. Drone footage captured attendees live as they entered and partied, with prom-goers excitedly seeing themselves broadcasted onto a large digital screen. A slideshow also played with pictures submitted by the students. “With the mask mandate being dropped by Dr. Strang earlier this week, kids are feeling more back to normal,” said Jim Lorraine, farm owner and co-organizer. “They are actually celebrating together, and that's really what this is all about.” Under sparkly tents, several tables of snacks with boxes of Timbits, chip bags and bottled water were spread out for attendees to grab and sit with at colourful picnic tables. The event followed Nova Scotia’s Phase 4 restrictions by designating two “zones.” Once attendees chose and entered a zone, they could not exit unless they were leaving the prom. Plenty of clean, crisp porta-potties were on the side – a fun challenge for those with poofy dresses. Just two months ago, during the height of COVID’S third wave and a provincewide shutdown, hopes for a year-end prom celebration seemed to be dashed. After graduation on the farm was denied by the province, the team thought a July prom would be better late than never. “I didn’t think they were going to pull it off for a while, honestly, but it’s awesome,” said student Sheridan Campbell. Students elsewhere have shown off their prom attire throughout their communities and at vaccine clinics. Before the farm prom was announced, friends Hannah Lewis, Kennedy Campbell and Madilynn Collier planned to show up at Walmart in their dresses. Thrilled to be at the farm, they were looking forward to the fireworks and grabbing pizza after. “I was really glad to have one actually, instead of just nothing,” said Collier. “I was pretty sad thinking that we spent all this time getting our pretty dresses, and then like, 'oh guys, there’s no prom.'" Valedictorian Hayden Payson told the crowd that COVID during school “sucked.” “We all lost something, but I honestly, I had the time of my life over the past three years, and I wouldn't change a thing,” said Payson. “Some of the best days of my life are on days when we could only have 10 people indoors and masks were necessary.” “What I'm going to say about COVID is you can persevere,” he added. “You all graduated under these difficult circumstances and life's going to bring you more difficult circumstances. You can get through them all … take the cards that are handed to you and play your best hand. Play one that you'll be proud of. In the words of the Tragically Hip, ‘There is no dress rehearsal. This is our life.’” Carmen Payson is proud of her son and all the students. “It's beyond words for me, I'm so excited for these kids,” said the co-organizer. “I've cried a few times today, just out of sweet happiness, that it's actually happening. And to see them all out there dancing is probably the best feeling I've had in a year-and-a-half.” The event was not possible without the 100-plus volunteers who helped, including police and firefighters, and several sponsorships. Tickets were priced at $15 and limited to Grade 12 students and a plus-one. After the prom, Lorraine said they are looking at eight or nine $1,000 bursaries coming out of the fundraising efforts. Even after the event became fully fundraised, community members were still looking to support students. “It's been such a struggle for these kids, and the community isn't behind me – it's behind these kids,” Lorraine said. “And everybody that got involved ... there's a lot of parents here that do not have a child graduating this year. But they wanted to see these kids have something to celebrate about.” At 10 p.m., what was claimed to be the “biggest fireworks show in Colchester County” provided a spectacular display. It was a lot of work to pull off, but Lorraine said things went "awesome.” The farmer laughingly added he’d be sleeping overnight next to the rented big screen valued at $70,000, with volunteers returning the following day to tear down the rest.