For many American teenagers, prom is more than just a sweat-tinged dance floor, raging hormones and lukewarm fruit punch. It's seen as a rite of passage, a milestone of sorts, a memory maker.
But for others, including Scott Mayer and Mitch Kelly, prom is better off forgotten.
Local event producers and former co-workers, Mayer and Kelly grew up gay in small Midwestern towns. They both went to the dance with girls, but wished their experiences could have been different. Thinking about asking another boy to prom wasn't even in the realm of possibility, said Mayer.
"How cool would it be, I thought, to someday go to an event like that with someone that I wanted to?" Kelly said.
Now he can.
Mayer and Kelly, lead creative director at an advertising and branding agency, are producing Promenade — an opportunity for adults to have the prom they never had.
The Saturday event will be held in the Dayton's Project in Minneapolis. In true prom fashion, there will be a photo backdrop, a live DJ, dancing and even a punch bowl— with the addition of a full bar, since you have to be 21 or older to attend.
Promenade welcomes people of all identities, but Mayer and Kelly expect that it will resonate particularly with other LGBTQ adults who might have had similar prom experiences.
"For the most part, if you're older than your mid 20s, you probably didn't take your same-sex boyfriend or girlfriend to the prom," Mayer says.
Such is the case for Ben Meents, who plans on attending the event with his husband, Chet Ritchie. Like Mayer and Kelly, Meents went to prom with a girl before coming out later in life.
"So many of us were in such challenging times during high school," he said. "We were not being authentic to who we were, and so those experiences probably didn't live up to their potential for us."
To Meents, Promenade represents an opportunity to recapture "the spirit of youth" and connect with others in a meaningful way. Additionally, he said, it brings attention to the importance of having a safe and inclusive space to come of age.
"Embracing an event like this kind of acknowledges that these moments are important, and creating a space where we can all go together in equal ways and celebrate who we are is really exciting," Meents said.
Doing good, dressing up
R.T. Rybak, former Minneapolis mayor and CEO of the Minneapolis Foundation, attended five consecutive proms when he was in high school. Going to a sixth isn't necessarily on his priority list. But he and his wife, Megan O'Hara, will attend Promenade to raise awareness and funds for YouthLink, which works with youth experiencing homelessness across the Twin Cities. (A portion of the evening's proceeds will be donated to the nonprofit organization.)
"This event is a good way to call attention to the fact that a lot of our kids in schools are worried about things a lot more important than prom," Rybak said. "They're thinking about massive traumas, life and death issues and homelessness. So, let's go have fun, and let's use it to remind people that we have to help those without the privilege to be thinking about prom."
Promenade's historic venue was a major selling point for Jahna Peloquin. The local writer, owner of Rosella Vintage and co-founder of Fashion Week Minnesota remembers visiting Dayton's with her mother for the annual holiday displays.
"It just felt like this kind of magical place," Peloquin said.
Her sense of nostalgia, combined with her love for fashion and experimenting with vintage styles, made Promenade something she couldn't pass up.
Peloquin said she's going for a dress that might have been popular at proms in the 1980s — with sequins, fringe and big shoulders to boot. For her, an event like Promenade is the perfect opportunity to be bold with style choices and she encourages others to do the same.
"It's that exciting moment to just go all out and wear that dress you've had in the back of your closet," she said.
But if formalwear isn't your thing, fear not. Promenade is for everyone, emphasized Mayer and Kelly, who said they hope to create an atmosphere that allows for self-expression.
"We want to make sure that people feel really comfortable presenting themselves as they want to present themselves," Mayer said.
If you go
When: 8 p.m.-midnight Sat.
Where: The 12th floor of the Dayton's Project, 700 Nicollet Mall, Mpls.
Cost: $20 for general admission. VIP tickets cost $150 and include a pre-fixe dinner at Fhima's Minneapolis and four beverages throughout the event. There's also a $10 after-event, a prom-themed drag performance at Lush Lounge & Theater, 990 Central Av. NE., Mpls.
Macy Harder (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a University of Minnesota student on assignment for the Star Tribune.