May 3—After proms throughout the state were canceled due to COVID-19 last year, Cameron Bluhm of DJ Sound Dragon heard complaints from local parents that, with nowhere to go, their kids were throwing their own "backyard barn bashes" in an attempt to create a prom experience for themselves.
Now that restrictions have been relaxed enough to host an event, Bluhm wants to ensure that this year high schoolers get the ultimate prom experience that they missed out on last year.
He's rented out space at Great Wolf Lodge in Grand Mound for two days — June 18 and 19 — for an all-schools prom, open to all students and recent graduates ages 16 through 20.
"I just want to give the kids something they've never had and start to build the name of the independent private prom in this area," Bluhm said.
The dance runs 7 to 11 p.m. and attendees can purchase a ticket to either night.
A standard ticket to "PROM 2K21" is $75 and includes entrance to the dance itself along with an unlimited number of limousine rides around the Great Wolf Lodge campus. Prom attendees will exit the limos at a red carpet where parents, teachers and friends can join the hired photographers and videographers in giving kids a "paparazzi entrance" to the dance. DJ Sound Dragon will have its full $200,000 lighting, stage and sound systems set up inside, and students will have two photo booths at their disposal all night.
Great Wolf Lodge will provide refreshments, possibly including some specialty "mocktails" for attendees to enjoy. And if they don't want to dance, attendees can access some of the attractions at the Great Wolf Lodge, including the water park, ropes course, mini-golf courses and Build a Bear Workshop.
VIP tickets are $125 each and include raffle tickets for giveaway prizes as well as access to a backstage lounge and access to an exclusive limo for the night. Attendees also have the option to book a room at Great Wolf Lodge and access the park's facilities during the day.
"I sat down with my friends who have kids in high school and I said, 'What do you guys want? What's the ultimate prom?' and many of these kids, they don't have a ton of money or they don't have resources to do everything that they see on Instagram and TV ... so this was a way to give everybody a little slice of that pie," said Bluhm.
In the six years since Bluhm started the Centralia-based business, DJ Sound Dragon has evolved from a DJ-ing operation to a full production company. He usually works high-end weddings and corporate events, along with local school proms. He has also worked local charity events, such as the Chehalis Police Benefit and Centralia College's Anything Goes Car Show.
"Now this is my opportunity to get into those bigger events where I create my opportunities. And being the prom DJ and the best one around, I said 'y'know, I've got everything at my disposal to make this happen. This is the time,'" Bluhm said.
Bluhm started planning an all schools prom at the Southwest Washington Fairgrounds last year, but had to cancel the event due to COVID-19 regulations — the start of a dry season that financially devastated DJ Sound Dragon last year.
"This is like my big one: all in, try to make something happen, make something out of it," said Bluhm. "And you know what? So long as I make my money back ... I'm happy. And if this is a success, then this will be something that will be an annual thing."
While Centralia High School, W.F. West High School and Tenino High School have announced plans for limited in-person graduation ceremonies this year, none of the local schools have announced plans to hold a school dance.
Part of the reason for making the event open to students and recent graduates from any school, Bluhm said, is to give kids access to something bigger than school budgets typically allow and to make that experience available to kids in outlying schools.
"This is a way for them to have the ultimate prom experience and share it with all of the other kids in the area," Bluhm said. "They all come together to have one awesome, awesome dance that these kids are going to remember for a lifetime, and that's really what this is about: it's about the community and making memories and then, of course, doing fun stuff for great people."
In Phase 3 of Gov. Jay Inslee's Healthy Washington reopening plan, indoor events can host a maximum of 50% of the venue's capacity or 400 people, whichever is less. In the tighter Phase 2, indoor events can host a maximum of 25% of the venue's capacity.
The Great Wolf Lodge was the only venue in the area that was large enough to feasibly host the all-schools prom with Phase 2 or Phase 3 restrictions in place, Bluhm said.
Attendees are required to follow Great Wolf Lodge's COVID-19 safety protocols, which include wearing a mask over your nose and mouth at all times except while dining or actively using the waterpark, and signing a liability agreement stating that you have been free of COVID-19 symptoms for the last 72 hours. Attendees have to bring this form along with their event ticket, an ID, and a signature page accepting the risks associated with the event and authorizing photos in order to be admitted.
Attendees will each get an online code to access and download photos and videos from the dance taken by the photographers and videographers.
Bluhm is looking for donations to help with the giveaway prizes for the raffles and is seeking volunteers to help with chaperoning, check in, coat check and decorating.
For more information or to purchase tickets, visit www.prom2k21.com/.