The bleachers by the red carpet were occupied before 8 a.m. Thursday for the 9 p.m. show in East Setauket.
But these “squatters” were not there for a concert or for a celebrity gala -- they were there for Ward Melville High School’s senior prom.
“The only way to get a good seat is to come really, really early,” junior Victoria Weissbach said.
What they waited for was a spectacle that involved more than eight months of planning, 5,000 man hours from 100 parent volunteers, and 75 cans of gold spray paint. The result was an Aladdin-themed “A Whole New World” prom entrance at the high school.
Reminiscent of the opening scene in the Disney movie, the red carpet rolled into the front entrance of the school, which had transformed overnight into a brightly lit facade resembling the Cave of Wonders. Students arrived at the high school as early as 7 p.m. to line up before rolling up to the red carpet at 9 p.m. in antique cars, limousines, party buses and horse-drawn chariots.
Though students had selected the theme by November, the physical decorations had to wait until less than a week before prom, when students took their last tests.
“As soon as those chairs and tables came out, we started Friday night,” parent volunteer Diane Monteleone said. “Basically, it’s been nonstop since then.”
The interior of the high school took students from the Cave of Wonders into a marketplace, which morphed into the sultan’s palace, the inside of Genie’s lamp and Jafar’s lair. Each room had its own theme of deep colors and satin decor. Parents who put at least 40 hours of work into decorating and planning for the prom received tickets for the bleachers to the left of the red carpet, guaranteeing them up-close seats for the students’ arrival, prom adviser Terri Herly said.
“That way they can take the whole day, they can run around with their kids and take pictures and everything, and they’re still guaranteed a seat when they get up there,” she said. “It becomes as much a labor of love and determination as it is to get your seat.”
The other side of the red carpet is the section for squatters, many of whom pay younger kids “50 bucks and a deli sandwich” to save seats for them until prom time, Herly said.
From the flying carpet–themed invitations to the caterers, all of the prom’s expenses come from ticket sales, Herly said. This year, with a class of about 635 students, there were nearly 700 tickets sold at $120 each.
These students walked the red carpet under a spotlight to the tune of classic songs from Disney movies and Broadway soundtracks, while a full crowd of community members — regardless of whether their own children were attending prom — filled the bleachers on all sides, spilling out onto the sidewalks.
“I have a neighbor, her youngest daughter is 26 — they still come,” parent volunteer Lisa Radesco said. “And then, you know, moms that have kids in kindergarten, they come and say, ‘This is what’s ahead.’”