PENNSBURY >> In a celebration of glitz and glamor that culminated with a high-powered performance by DJ Pauly D, Pennsbury proved once again on Saturday why it holds the title of the “Best Prom in America.”
Renowned for the scope and magnitude of its senior prom, the 2021 event was no exception, beginning with an arrival parade featuring all different modes of transportation, from boats and fire trucks to floats and even a DeLorean “Back to the Future” car.
Hundreds of cheering family members and fans lined the parade route between the east and west campus, some capturing the moment on camera like Rick McGanisch of Yardley who had every float doing “the wave.”
“I try to get them to realize that this is the best time of their life - right here, right now,” he said, yelling out to another float as it passed by and encouraging everyone on board to smile and to “wave.”
At the entrance to PHS East, the students walked across a red carpet flanked by Oscar statues and into a school transformed into a visual celebration of “Hollywood Nights,” this year’s star-studded prom theme.
Once inside the doors, they knew they weren’t in Fairless Hills anymore standing in a lobby saluting one of Tinseltown’s greatest motion pictures, “The Wizard of Oz.”
Couples walked through Munchkinland, past talking apple trees and posed for pictures in front of a mural of the famous Emerald Castle.
Throughout the high school, hand-painted murals and 3D art transformed the familiar building into an imaginative, colorful environment tailored just for these students by the Prom Committee as well as parents and loyal alumni.
Inside the cafeteria, students sat down to dinner surrounded by colorful murals celebrating the Oscars, the Emmys, the Grammys and the Golden Globes. And in the hallway just outside the cafeteria, a tribute to Hollywood’s scariest creations, from Freddy Krueger and Poltergeist to the Shining and the Ghostface killer from Scream.
The walk to the gym led couples around a life-size replica of Star Wars’ antagonist, Darth Vader; below a threatening sand worm from “Beetlejuice,” which snaked its way across the ceiling; and through a black light hallway tribute to the Home of the Stars.
Just outside of the auditorium, a full length Sweet Shoppe snack bar offered students drinks and treats while inside the auditorium the Faculty Band was jamming out the tunes, including “Sweet Home Pennsbury.”
This year’s rendition of the Faculty Band included many familiar PHS names, like John Sanders, Mark Cherepko, Jamie Rivera, Steve Myers, Evan Altieri, Jim Moyer and Scott Stout.
Just steps away from the gym, students passed through a hallway dedicated to Hollywood’s greatest - its Oscar winners.
Golden Oscar statues stood ceiling high, flanking a hallway decorated with murals of Tinseltown’s most legendary films. One humorous depiction showed a Falcon swimming on the surface of the ocean with the killer shark from “Jaws” swimming up from below.
Inside the gym, the energy level was palpable as rap music rocked the house, lights pulsated and a Phoenix-like creature circled overtop of a crowded dance floor, something that would not have been possible just a few short months ago.
Around 10 p.m., DJ Pauly D, best known for his role on MTV's reality show, "Jersey Shore," and its spin-off, “The Pauly D Project,” took over the controls, ratcheting up the energy level to the extreme and sending the dance floor into a frenzy for an unforgettable show and an unforgettable night.
This is not DJ Pauly D’s first performance at the Falcon’s Nest. In fact, he has become a regular at the event, spinning his tunes and jamming out in DJ Pauly D style.
No doubt, this prom will go down in Falcon history as the Prom that weathered a global pandemic and beat the odds.
A few weeks earlier, Pennsbury officials had planned a far different experience, one that was limited to a prom parade, dinner outside, masks and no dancing. But thanks to an aggressive immunization campaign and rapidly falling COVID infection rates, officials were able to update and change its safety protocols to allow for a more traditional prom.
“We’re happy to be able to provide this for the students this year,” said PHS East Principal Reggie Meadows. “It’s good to see the students gathering and to see everyone so happy. This is something we desperately wanted to provide for them.”
Planning for a very different event began in January and has morphed and changed over the months with various iterations, from just a parade to an outside event to the event that unfolded on Saturday.
Meadows gives the Prom Committee and its many faculty, student and community advisors and volunteers credit for being adaptable to the constantly changing circumstances.
“They did amazing work in terms of being able to pivot so many times along the way. With so many iterations, it was amazing they were able to pull this off,” said Meadows. “And look at the result. The creativity blows me away. That’s what makes this so unique and makes this the ‘Best Prom in America.’”
PHS East Assistant Principal Laura Tittle served as the Senior Prom building administrator. Staff advisors included Terry Poulton, Tara Bellman, MaryAnn Daley, Dan Mahoney, Curtis May, Shannon Poulton and Maggie Weber.
The 2020 PHS Senior Prom was cancelled due to COVID-19 mitigation restrictions in place last spring. However, an invitation was extended at the time to the Class of 2020 to attend this year’s event. According to the high school administration, about 125 of the 2020 seniors expressed interest and were invited to this year’s Senior Prom as guests of the Class of 2021.