- Associated Press - Monday, May 19, 2014

MUNCIE, Ind. (AP) - Nick Richards was the first one on the dance floor.

Southside High School’s prom had barely begun and Richards, 18, had already taken off his tux jacket and was jumping around to Daft Punk, his baseball cap turned backward, his “Prom Court 2014” sash on display.

“One more time/Music’s got me feeling so free/We’re gonna celebrate/Celebrate and dance so free.”

It wasn’t long before others joined him.

“I just want everybody to have fun!” the jovial senior told The Star Press (http://tspne.ws/1jvbtn8 ), adjusting his purple bow tie. “We want to go out with a bang, you know? We want to say we had the best prom in Muncie.”

That’s because it would be the last.

This fall, the school will merge with Central High School.

But behind the glittery masks at this masquerade themed “Save the Last Dance,” there were no tears. There were only smiles, laughter and some sweet dance moves.

“Introducing Maya Doss, escorted by Braxton Kirby.”

As couples made their way Saturday night into the ballroom at Cornerstone Center for the Arts, their names were announced over the music. They stopped, in the middle of a white wooden bridge in front of a flower fountain, for a quick photo, the young men steadying their dates on new higher-than-usual heels.

Doss, 16, is a junior at Central.

“I am really honored to be at this event,” she said, holding onto the arm of Kirby. “It’s really something special.”

A record number of students snagged pre-sale tickets, according to dance sponsor and Southside choir director Nathan Jones.

“We had 320 students get tickets,” he said. “It’s the highest number of tickets sold in 11 years.”

That’s a lot of prom dresses, up-dos and satin vests. Not to mention photos.

Jamie Linton, Southside teacher and another dance sponsor, was snapping dozens of them as students arrived.

She said planning the event “was a lot of pressure.” ”But we just wanted to give them the best experience, something they would remember forever,” she added, watching the students “wobble” on the dance floor.

Students, she said, were part of every decision, right down to the song list. Organizers put out a list of 192 songs, and students picked what they wanted to hear.

They chose - by consensus - the “classy masquerade” theme. Several came wearing masks, from sleek Phantom of the Opera to glittery golden cat eyes.

The decorations were simple and elegant. The tables were draped in black tablecloths, a single tall glass vase with flowers in the center, shoes that proved too painful taking the place of plates. A snack table offered two chocolate fountains with strawberries, pound cake and marshmallows for dipping.

Lighted blue columns framed the dance floor. A large screen flashed disco balls and crowd shots.

“It’s all about the kids,” Southside Principal Rebecca Thompson said as she looked on. “All I can hope is that they are having fun, that they had fun at Southside. I hope they take great memories with them tonight.”

It will certainly be a night senior Schaivon Nevings, 17, will never forget.

When he arrived with his date, Kashala Meadors, 17, he had no idea that just a few hours later he would be king.

“This is amazing,” he said, adjusting his red and gold crown, just minutes after it was placed on his head. “I’m the last king. Just think of that . the last king of Southside High School. After 52 kings, I am the last one. It’s awesome!”

Nevings said he wasn’t going to take the crown off all night long. He planned on savoring every second of this night.

Thompson made the announcements of the prince and princess, king and queen, from the mezzanine of the ballroom.

Austin Jones and Molly Williams, both juniors, were named the prince and princess. Senior Jamie Speece 18, screamed and jumped up and down when her name was announced as the last prom queen.

“I’m just in shock!” she said later. “This is a huge deal for me. It’s something I am always going to remember. Sure, it’s sad, but it feels good that we get to be a part of the last one.

“You just have to enjoy yourself, create some good memories.”

Letia Golston was soaking up some good memories from behind one of the large pillars on the mezzanine overlooking the ballroom.

“He would be shocked if he knew I was here,” she said, checking to see if she could spot her son Anthony, in a white suit with a turquoise vest, on the packed dance floor. “He would say, ‘Mom, get out!’”

Truth be told, he already said that once.

“We took some photos when they were going in and then we were supposed to leave,” she said. “We just couldn’t.”

“We” included her daughter, Alicity Golston, 14, and her best friend, Alicia Huggins.

“This was just something so special, something I never did,” she said. “I just had to look.”

She leaned out farther from the pillar. “There he is,” she said, pointing toward the DJ booth.

“Get back, Mom,” Alicity whispered. “He’s going to see you!”

Her mom smiled and positioned herself behind the pillar again.

For most of the three-hour prom, the dance floor was the place to be. In fact, so many students were busting moves, they busted into the seating area.

Often circles would form, with some showing off their skills in the center. There was fist pumping. There was cupid shuffling.

About 25 couples were still on the dimly lighted floor when DJ Jon Sipes made the announcement.

“This is the last dance everyone,” he said as the first few notes of the ballad “All My Life” filled the room.

Those words hung in the air. The. Last. Dance.

The color-coordinated couples held tightly and moved slowly. When the music ended, many stayed there a few moments, holding on.

“I’m a little sad right now, but it’s been a great night,” prom prince Austin Jones, 17, said as the lights came up. He couldn’t help but look ahead to next year, when his senior prom will be at another high school.

It will be memorable too, he noted. “By that time, everyone will be settled in. . It will be fun,” he said.

As the remaining prom-goers made their way to the exits, they grabbed silver gift bags.

Inside was a custom “Rebel” 2014 prom cup and an empty picture frame, ready for a photo that will “Save the Last Dance” for years to come.

___

Information from: The Star Press, http://www.thestarpress.com

Copyright © 2016 The Washington Times, LLC.

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