The circus was in town Friday night as the Class of 2015 from Paul D. Schreiber High School in Port Washington celebrated its prom.
As families waited outside Castle Gould in the Sands Point Preserve for the seniors to arrive, they snacked on popcorn, waved to a costumed woman on stilts and watched a pair of acrobatic performers execute stunts reminiscent of Cirque du Soleil.
The prom, known to locals as the "Gambol," is known for its over-the-top themes, and this year's "Le Cirque" concept did not disappoint students.
As each student arrived at the castle, they walked down a red carpet while school officials announced their names and provided witty commentary on their fashion similar to a big Hollywood awards show.
Then, once inside, the students entered a colorful circus tent where there were funhouse mirrors, a fortune teller, magicians and acrobats performing tricks while hanging from the ceiling.
"It's amazing," senior Courtney Conway said. "This is not your typical prom."
In addition to dining and dancing, prom-goers also had their choice of a slew of activities to engage in throughout the night, including air hockey, pool and foosball. Or they could try their luck in the "casino" section, where they "gambled" for coins that could later be redeemed for raffle tickets.
Senior Jesse Epstein said the circus theme was fitting for his class.
"We're a bunch of clowns," he said. "We like to have fun."
For instance, for their senior prank, Epstein said that he and his classmates threw a tailgate party on the last day of school inside the teachers' parking lot.
"We got up at like 5 a.m. and parked in all the teachers' spots and had a huge tailgate," Conway added.
When the teachers arrived at school that morning, they found the students had overtaken their lot and were playing a version of beer pong. (Soda, not alcohol, was in their cups, Epstein said.)
But their time at Schreiber wasn't all play, he said.
Epstein, an honor student, said he studied three different languages, including Spanish, Latin and Chinese. He also helped organized the school's Relay for Life fundraiser to benefit the American Cancer Society, and took many of the school's 26 Advanced Placement classes.
"I do feel like Schreiber has prepared me," he said.
In August, Epstein will head to Skidmore College in upstate Saratoga Springs, but he won't stay there for long. After two days on campus, he'll fly to London where he'll spend the first semester mainly studying theater through the college's First Year Experiences program.
As for his major, Epstein says he's considering pursuing childhood psychology or environmental science. He's also interested in linguisitics and religious studies. He might even do a pre-med track, he added.
"I want to keep my options open," he said.
And as for Conway, she's so eager to start college that she's actually leaving Sunday for Penn State University where she'll spend the summer taking two courses in advance of the fall semester.
"I've wanted to go there since I was 7, so I was ready to go," she said.
As he looked around at the circus that was his prom, Epstein said he was still processing the idea that high school was over.
"I'm going to miss everyone," he said, "but I'm excited to move on."