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Senior citizens feel at home during annual prom

March 23, 2006

KALAMAZOO--Area residents who grew up with typewriters and rotary telephones will be in familiar territory when Western Michigan University holds its 18th annual Senior Prom from 7 to 10 p.m. Wednesday, March 29, in the East Ballroom of the Bernhard Center on WMU's main campus in Kalamazoo.

This semi-formal event transforms the traditional senior prom into a fun-filled nostalgic evening by bringing hundreds of senior citizens together with WMU students, faculty and staff for a night of Big Band music and swing dancing.

Students typically prepare for the prom by teaming up with senior citizen tutors in mid-March to learn the fox trot, waltz, Lindy and other dance steps popular in decades gone by. The seniors also are able to brief younger dancers on the hairstyles and fashions that were in vogue when these dances were all the rage.

The theme for the 2006 prom is "The Elegance of the Twenties: Tonight We're Puttin' on the Ritz." Admission is free, and those who arrive early will be able to "warm up" by participating in Early-Bird Bingo from 5 to 7 p.m.

In keeping with previous years, refreshments, photo keepsakes, dance contests and prizes also will enliven the evening. Music will be provided by the Phoenix Big Band, a 15-piece ensemble from Kalamazoo that has been providing music for the prom since the event's inception.

"Senior Prom is by far one of the best programs held on campus each year. It's a great way to bring together different generations in a fun atmosphere," says Meghann Meeusen, a senior from Romeo, Mich., majoring in English who is helping coordinate the event. "In 17 years, no one has ever walked away without having had a great time. What could be better than free food, music, dancing and great company?"

The Senior Prom began in 1989 as a way for older WMU alumni and area residents to share an evening of fun and reminiscing with current students. The event gradually grew in popularity and last year, attracted some 350 senior citizens and members of the University community. This year, the prom committee is expecting 500 attendees.

Early-bird activities were introduced in 1993 to accommodate the many seniors who prefer to arrive before the dancing starts and spend their entire evening on campus.

The 2006 prom is being coordinated by the Draper/Siedschlag Residence halls with assistance from a half-dozen committees and scores of volunteers. Area businesses are again donating prizes.

Financial assistance is being provided by several WMU organizations, including the Office of Residence Life Office, the Residence Hall Association, Auxiliary Enterprises and various residence hall councils.

To get the word out about the event, organizers rely on mail invitations, announcements at area senior citizen centers, and newspaper advertisements and stories. A personal invitation is not necessary to attend, and there is no need to RSVP.

For more information, contact Chris Sligh, director of Draper-Siedschlag halls, at (269) 387-4790 or contact Sarah Hurd, prom planning committee member, at sarah.e.hurd@wmich.edu or (269) 387-6801.

Media contact: Jeanne Baron, (269) 387-8400, jeanne.baron@wmich.edu

WMU News
Office of University Relations
Western Michigan University
1903 W Michigan Ave
Kalamazoo MI 49008-5433 USA
(269) 387-8400