PENNSBURY >> When adviser Tony Napoli said this year’s Prom would be “the best evah,” he wasn’t kidding.
From the arrival parade and the giant Falcon suspended above the gym floor to rap singer Desiigner, DJ Pauly D and the CEO of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the event lived up to its billing as “the Best Prom in America” - and then some.
The parade across the high school campus set the tone for “Prom to the Music,” with students arriving in everything from flatbed trucks and stretch limousines to high end sports cars, fire engines and even a trolley.
Rock and Roll Hall of Fame President and CEO Greg Harris, a 1983 graduate of Pennsbury High School, led the parade driving a Jeep Wrangler Sahara.
He was followed by a lineup of vehicles, many decorated in music themes from “Promma Mia” (celebrating the music of ABBA), to Kanye West, Justin Timberlake and the immortal Blues Brothers.
The Beatles’ Yellow Submarine also surfaced for the parade. So did Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. A Beach Boys float added some sand, sun and surfboards to the parade while the Jimmy Buffet float kicked back and relaxed with Margueritaville.
Other floats celebrated the Grammy Awards, Aerosmith’s Rockin’ Rollercoaster, the Sydney Opera House, Lollapalooza, the PHS Record Store, Green Day, Jazz Greats, Woodstock, Soul Train, Old School vs. New School, High School Musical, That 70s Float, Ultra, “Peace, Love and Prom,” the Music of Philly and more.
Following their ride across campus, the students walked down a red carpet and into the school where they found themselves immersed in everything music.
A baby grand piano and harp, both made out of Styrofoam, decorated one corner of the lobby on a floor made out of records and with musical notes decorating the wall.
Nearby, couples were trying out the foot piano from the movie “Big,” starring Tom Hanks. No word on whether anyone tried to play “Chopsticks.”
Further into the lobby, floor to ceiling murals paid tribute to jazz great Louie Armstrong and singer Beyoncé and a jaw-dropping tribute to Pink Floyd’s “The Wall” included a 3-D moving arm reaching out.
Senior DJ Tomalin was marveling at the transformation that had taken place at the school.
“Everyone puts so much work into this. It’s really a blast to come in here,” said Tomalin. “It’s like it’s not even our school anymore. It’s like a new place. It’s really cool.
“And it’s like they say. This is the Best Prom in America,” said Tomalin. “It’s really crazy how every year they keep raising the stakes higher, but they do every year.”
Inside the nearby auditorium, the Faculty Band was jammin’ out on stage with music from the 60s and 70s. And inside the cafeteria a team of community volunteers stood ready to serve dinner and sweet snacks to the Prom goers.
The centerpiece of the night, however, was inside the gym where members of the Class of 2019 were moving to the beat below a giant Falcon clutching a boom box in its talons.
The dance floor was flanked by a pyramid representing the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland and a wall mural featuring the logos of every band and musician inducted into the hall.
At the opposite end of the gym, another mural stretched 53 feet across the wall containing thousands of kisses, an 18 foot guitar and a 3-D sign spelling out the words “Rock Music.”
The mural represents Pennsbury’s attempt to break a Guinness Book of World Records for lip prints, which was set in Brazil in 2012 and currently stands at 13,316 kisses.
Pennsbury is hoping its Prom attempt shatters the record with over 40,000 lip prints glued to the mural and lands the "Best Prom in America" a world record. The school’s carefully-documented attempt to break the world record has been nearly a year in the making.
Just before 8 p.m., Greg Harris stepped onto the stage before a sea of pumped up and energized seniors and their dates.
“I am so honored to be here with all of you. I’m honored to be back here at Pennsbury High School. You guys are terrific,” he told the students, to a loud cheer. “The floats were amazing. The parade was great. And you all look wonderful.”
Harris, a 1983 graduate of PHS, had the honor of introducing this year’s Prom Court and crowning the King and Queen of the Prom - Dan Cherepko and Tori Petry.
“It’s pretty exciting,” Harris told BucksLocalNews.com of being back at Pennsbury for the prom. “This is a far cry from what we had in 1983. It’s great. And to see all the work that was put into this by students, parents and the community it’s really remarkable. The school looks terrific. The parade was incredible. Just the energy and enthusiasm of the students is just wonderful.”
Remembering back to his prom, Harris said it was a lot different. “I kind of remember tissue paper roses in orange and black in a lot of places, but it was nothing to this scale. This is off the charts,” he said.
“I love the fact that they used music as their theme and that they gave Rock and Roll so much recognition,” Harris continued. “And to do the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame was just terrific. They did a great job.”
Harris, who has not been back to Pennsbury since the 1980s, said his visit brought back a lot of memories, especially seeing the orange and black lockers again.
“Pennsbury gave me a great foundation to go onto college and a love for history, storytelling and telling the history of every day people. It was an important time in my life. And it’s an important time in everybody’s life. And you really tend to take it for granted until you come back and visit.”
His message to the Class of 2019 is simple. “Don’t be a spectator. Get involved and really work hard. And then be very kind and be helpful to each other. Our world is very fragmented. If the students here tonight can keep the enthusiasm that I just saw and experienced, they can accomplish great things.”
Bringing the evening to a crescendo were performances by rap singer Desiigner who took the stage around 8 p.m. and DJ Pauly D who spun his music at midnight.
Hundreds, if not thousands of hours of work by students, staff, parents and community volunteered went into creating this year’s Prom.
“It’s amazing to see it all come together after putting so much time and hard work into it every single night,” said Delaney Weed, who was one of more than 60 student prom chairs. “Just to see everything up, it’s amazing.”
Her escort for the night, Ryan MacElroy, said this was the first year he’s walked into a Pennsbury Prom without having mm prior knowledge of what it was going to be like. “I was blown away. I couldn’t focus on everything because there is so much going on. I spent a good half an hour gawking at everything.”
While Delaney liked the glow hallway the best and its sixties theme, for Ryan it was the giant Falcon inside the gym.
“Having everyone come together and create something this amazing, it makes you feel very proud to be part of Pennsbury,” said Ryan.