As well-dressed youth stepped out of their cars and into the rain, they were welcomed under umbrellas to the 15th annual Mormon Prom, hosted for the very first time by the Woodbridge Virginia Stake. The excited youth lined up outside the Woodbridge Stake Center of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to await their turn to enter “Wonderland.”
After being greeted by the Queen’s card attendants, they walked through a dizzying vortex tunnel of twirling darkness and colored lights, similar to Alice’s journey of falling down the rabbit hole. Like Alice, they landed in Wonderland, a place of imagination, whimsy and fun.
On Saturday May 16th approximately 700 youth from nine stakes across the Northern Virginia area visited the magical “Wonderland” inspired by Lewis Carroll’s famous book, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. The Stake Prom Committee, headed up by Lisa Haight, planned the event for nearly a year. Creative Director, Keeta Hammond, worked hard to create magic using recycled materials, including three-tiered chandeliers crafted from hundreds of brightly-colored water bottles. Chicken wire and paper machѐ were used to make huge props—giant trees, huge curled-leaf figures, oversized mushrooms, a whimsical Cheshire cat, and a menacing dragon—come to life.
Countless volunteers stake-wide donated their time and talents making these and other decorations, designing posters, sewing costumes, preparing food, and working to ensure the church’s electrical and technological systems were up to hosting an event of this size. This has been a monumental effort. Just the decorations themselves have taken many hands and many hours of sewing, tying, paper machѐ, and all types of crafting.
When asked how she thought the youth would react Saturday night, Kelli Weir, a Mormon Prom co-chair said, “I think they’ll be really surprised.”
And they were. They loved the surprise of the rabbit hole. Several youth mentioned that they really did have the feeling of falling. They raved about the decorations. Frank, a young man from Fredericksburg said, “The decorations are definitely up to par to Alice in Wonderland.”
The youth loved the variety of activities that fit in with the theme including karaoke in The White Rabbit’s House, movies in The Cheshire Cat Theater, treats at The Mad Hatter’s Café, and games and shaved ice in The Shrinking Alice room. Outside in the Queen’s Garden they could play lawn games like croquet and human checkers. Guests could touch up their hair and makeup in the Queen’s Closet or get photos taken in The Looking Glass room.
This massive transformation of the stake center occurred during the week before the event. Committee members and volunteers from all over the stake were at the building, sometimes past midnight, turning the church into a Wonderland. They strung lights, hung chandeliers, constructed walls, covered ceilings and decorated rooms.
Volunteers at the stake center during the week peeked into the rooms being decorated and were heard saying things like, “This is so cool.” “This is amazing.” The Shrinking Alice room for games and shaved ice drew a lot of attention. Two or three people came in, saw the bright colors and small chairs and tables and said, “Oh you should leave this up for the nursery kids.” When Jolene Houston, a member of the Stake Young Women’s Presidency, came into the game room she said, “This is the happiest room I’ve ever seen.”
And on Saturday night it was a happy room. It was full of smiling youth enjoying themselves. They flocked to the shaved ice to cool off after dancing and being in the crowds. There was hardly a lull in the line for shaved ice, which was often served by Alice in her blue and white dress. Groups sat in mini chairs at mini tables playing games like Candy Land and Chutes and Ladders.
Asked what they thought of everything youth said things like, “This is awesome.” “This is amazing.” “I love it all.” Another favorite room the youth often mentioned was the Karaoke room, where they sang on a stage made to look like the White Rabbit’s bed. They also loved the creative treats in the Mad Hatter’s Café.
The cultural hall held the main event of the night, The Queen’s Ball. Majestic walls of purple-framed windows surrounded the dancing youth. Shimmering yellow fabric hung from the ceiling and cascaded down the walls. Three-tiered brightly-colored chandeliers accented the ceilings and sent bright colors dancing across the youth. The Mad Hatter, Justin Smith, was on hand to work the crowd, and the Queen of Hearts, Michelle Hale, ruled over the dance from her stately throne, complete with a Jabberwock flying above.
The Queen floated through the crowds accompanied by her “cardsmen” attendants, looking for trouble and threatened guests with her trademark punishment, “Off with your head.” She was even found in the line for shaved ice, screaming, “Off with her head. There is no red.” Little Alice was sometimes found causing a bit of trouble with the queen, wandering through the rooms, and even dancing a bit.
The Prom Committee was inspired by a scene from Lewis Carroll’s classic book, in which Alice asks the Cheshire Cat for directions:
“That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,” said the Cat.
“I don’t much care where–” said Alice.
“Then it doesn’t matter which way you go,” said the Cat.
“–so long as I get SOMEWHERE,” Alice added as an explanation.
“Oh, you’re sure to do that,” said the Cat, “if you only walk long enough.”
Haight said, “Unlike Alice, these youth know where they are going. They know that their choices make a difference. We love and appreciate our youth and who they are. We want them to seek out and celebrate the good things in life.”
The entire evening was a happy celebration, a fun and elaborate evening with a clean dance atmosphere. The youth were truly enjoying themselves: smiling, laughing, dancing and playing all while keeping the high standards that are important to them.
“This remarkable event allowed hundreds of youth from around the region to draw closer to the positive values of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and through a common faith in Jesus Christ strengthened them individually to follow the Lord in every aspect of their young lives,” said Woodbridge Stake President Clark Price. President Price added, “The Woodbridge Stake Presidency sincerely thanks the Prom Committee and the hundreds of sisters and brothers who volunteered their time and talents to make this event a great and memorable success.”
By Camille Kerr
Writing Specialist on the Woodbridge Virginia Stake Public Affairs Council for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints