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Generations share prom moments

Music from a bygone era drifted through the gym doors at New Richmond High School Friday.

Inside, area senior citizens were mingling with excited teenagers as part of a first-ever event -- a Senior Citizen prom.

Organized by Mark Neumann's public speaking class and the student-volunteer Key Club, the prom was an afternoon extravaganza for area senior citizens.

A good crowd of seniors was on hand, with quite a few students encouraging the older prom participants to hit the dance floor.

A handful of brave dancers eventually got up to cut the rug. The rest sat enjoying the whole scene, many with big smiles on their faces.

"This is really quite the thing," said Muriel Stecker, 86, as she enjoyed some punch and snacks at a table. "I didn't really know what to expect. It's quite nice, and the music is good, too."

Tunes from the 1930s, '40s and '50s were the main fare for the day. The dance selections were dominated heavily by polkas, which seemed to delight young and old alike.

Leonard Olson, 82, hardly got a rest as he shuffled across the dance floor with ever changing partners.

"I was really surprised when I came and saw all the people here," he said. "It's really nice ... we're having fun anyway."

Olson admits that he's had more than enough practice dancing over the years. He still attends the weekly dance at the St. Paul Moose Lodge.

"Every Sunday for three hours," he said proudly. "I'm still kicking."

Jackie Waalen, activities director at The Deerfield in New Richmond, said the event was a wonderful mix of generations. She said the seniors appreciated all the hard work done by the high school students.

"We'd love to have this as an annual event," she said.

High schoolers Paige Vergin and Kristie Harrington were among the coordinators for the prom.

They, along with other students, sought donations from area businesses and decorated the gym in anticipation of the prom. They were able to secure 16 donated prom dresses from a former downtown business, The Grand Affair, to help add to the fancy atmosphere.

Harrington said organizers also appreciated the donation of food and drinks by EconoFoods, County Market and Wal-Mart, which added a lot to the day's event.

Harrington admitted that the final couple days prior to the event were stressful, but the students were happy with the outcome.

They were especially surprised that so many senior citizens actually got up to dance, she said.

"We weren't expecting them to dance too much, but it's been pretty good so far," Harrington said. "I think this was a great turn-out, and it's good we have so many kids so we can mingle. It's more lively that way."