Winter Formal planning aims to overcome setbacks amid ongoing pandemic restrictions

November 4, 2021 — by Sarah Zhou and Victoria Hu
Photo by SHS Dance Commission via Instagram

Although this year’s dance commission faced challenges planning for Winter Formal due to COVID-19 restrictions, they rose to the occasion. Hoping for an off-campus formal — the first in four years — junior head commissioner Avani Kongetira, juniors Elsa Blom and Jackie Ryu, sophomore Skyler Dyal and freshman Haasika Thammaneni began planning well in advance.

“We’ve been working on Winter Formal since before homecoming,” Kongetira said. “Finding a venue takes a long time to get approved by admins.” 

The commission was initially interested in an indoor venue. However, the administration asked them to find an outdoor site in anticipation of a surge of COVID-19 cases before holiday break. 

While looking at outdoor venues, the commission took factors such as space, catering availability, security and clean-up services into consideration, before finally settling on the Gilroy Gardens Event Plaza. They booked the venue for Dec. 4 from 7-10:30 through email in mid-September.

During the search, the dance commission often consulted activities director Kristen Cunningham and ASB secretary Anna Ybarra for guidance and budget confirmation. After the commission settled on the venue, the administration helped handle official logistics, like contracting.

As Kongetira, who served as the class of 2023 class representative last year, is the only member of the dance commission with prior experience in leadership, the team occasionally felt overwhelmed during the planning process.

“I feel like we’re all learning as we go,” Kongetira said. “Planning an off-campus formal in my first year on commission is scary because all of us are so inexperienced.” 

On top of searching for venues, the commissioners worked on finding catering, a DJ and busing services to and from the dance — as well as decorative details such as centerpieces and linens. Inspired by the lighting and songs from the 2016 musical movie “La La Land,” the commission decided on the dance’s theme of “City of Stars.”

Prior to the dance, students will arrive at SHS and board buses for the one-hour commute to the event venue. The buses will also make the return trip to SHS after the dance. 

In order to ensure student safety, guests are required to show proof of full vaccination, and masks are required for all attendees.

At the event, catering will serve a three-course dinner with a wide variety of both meat and vegan options, such as steak, pasta, salad and churros. The commission hired DJ Mike Bowns, who DJ’ed at last year’s prom. Students will also receive full access to a photo booth and all of the theme park’s rides and concessions. 

To pay for formal, the commission is relying on extra revenue from last year’s ticket sales. This year, ticket pricing will start at $120 per person with an ASB package and $130 without — a $65 increase from the 2019 on-campus formal ticket.

Kongetira and Ryu attribute this year’s expensive ticket pricing to the high cost of booking the off-campus venue, catering,  entertainment and transportation services. Due to poor student reception, the commission is slightly worried about hitting their target of 400 ticket sales.

“With people complaining about how $25 was “expensive” for a homecoming ticket, I don’t know how they’ll respond to the formal prices,” Ryu said. “It’s as low as we can get it, so I really hope people can just be understanding about the prices.”

Despite facing COVID-19 restrictions, hitting roadblocks in finding a venue and having a general lack of experience on the commission compared to previous years, Kongetira is optimistic that the Winter Formal will be a memorable dance. 

“I’m really lucky because the commissioners are really reliable and have great input. Dance commission is kind of like a little family,” Kongetira said.

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