Western Hills High School is moving its annual homecoming dance out of the cafeteria and into the greenhouse.
The senior class sponsors decided to take a new approach to the old tradition when they noticed its slipping popularity.
“It seems like the kids aren’t going to dances as much as they used to,” said Lorrie Fraley, school media special and one of 10 senior class sponsors.
“I kept saying that we have got to do something that is different this time to make more money.”
That’s because the dance is one of several fundraisers for the prom, which Fraley said has cost between $8,000 and $15,000 in the past. Students pay $6 for a single ticket to the homecoming dance or $10 for a couple.
So Fraley emailed the team of class sponsors for ideas. Agriculture teacher J.R. Zinner showed up in the school library soon after and offered the greenhouse as an alternate site for the dance.
Fraley said she was immediately on board, with visions of lush botanical gardens in her mind. But the teenagers were a little tougher to convince, she said.
They worried that it would be too hot or too cold inside the structure, that the greenhouse didn’t have a dance floor, and, above all, that it had never been done before.
“That didn’t stop the Wright brothers,” Fraley joked Wednesday afternoon, as kids worked to string lights nearby, lay tarps and move equipment out of the area.
They plan to continue through Saturday afternoon in time for the dance that night.
“I think they (dances) are just getting really repetitive, too similar,” senior Sydney Bratcher said Thursday, as she handed a string of lights to her classmate Tyler Nix.
“Our school has always done it in the cafeteria, so I think it’s definitely going to help a lot and get people to come a lot more to do something different. It will be outdoors, and I think it will be a lot prettier.”
And the greenhouse does have air-conditioning, Bratcher said, a fact that came as a surprise to some students.
Nix said last year’s homecoming dance was a flop because it wasn’t planned as well. He spent most of Thursday afternoon making sure the twinkle lights looked just right.
The theme is based on “Wicked,” the popular Broadway musical inspired by the classic “Wizard of Oz” story.
Fraley said the goal is to spend very little money to throw the homecoming dance. Nearly everything is donated or reused from previous events; the only cost so far is for the DJ.
Tables set up outside the greenhouse will be draped with white and silver tablecloths and decorated with glowing green centerpieces and old high heels covered in red glitter.
“The Wizard of Oz” will be projected silently on a white garage door at the back of the school building.
A painted scene of the Emerald City – with real bricks spray painted gold leading up to it – will serve as a backdrop for photos. The school is borrowing trees and flowered plants from Lowe’s to line the yellow brick road as in the film.
Large wooden flats borrowed from the drama department will create a dance floor in the greenhouse over the gravel that typically covers the ground. Students will paint the flats shades of green and wrap them in rope lights so they glow, Fraley said.
The ferns that now line the ceiling of the greenhouse will be moved out, and the room will glow from green and white twinkle lights. Tanks of koi fish that sit along the walls will be lit from inside with underwater lights, and one will be turned into a fountain, Fraley said.
Also new this year is a special tent for WHHS alumni. Fraley said she hopes it starts a trend of including alumni in school events.
The dance is 9 p.m. to midnight Saturday. Students should park in the student lot or the overflow lot, and parents should drop off students by using the bus drop lane behind the school.