Written by Amanda Lee
Prom’s sacred traditions are respected in almost every American high school, but in Principal Dr. Denise Herrmann’s town, they were especially important. Herrmann went to high school in Shabbona, Illinois, a town so small that she only had 33 classmates in her grade.
Despite the small student population, prom was a significant community celebration. “It was a time for everyone to dress up and feel special and then to be acknowledged by the community… I think it’s a really good tradition, and I was really lucky that so many people in my community experienced it with me,” she said.
Herrmann went to prom twice: her freshman year and junior year. For her junior prom, she went with her future husband as her date. “He and I went with a few other couples,” Herrmann said. “We went to dinner, to this really nice steakhouse, and had dinner and everything, and then we came back to the venue. I think that year it was at the small country club that is in our town.”
Due to the town’s close-knit community, Herrmann’s prom had traditions that were unique to her high school. “We had what was called the Grand March,” she said. Similar to a red carpet event, couples would parade around the venue, while parents clapped and took pictures. Herrmann said that they also had an after-prom party, which was held at the YMCA’s pool and lasted until 2 a.m.
Her favorite part of prom was her dress, which her mother made for her. “It was very special, we went to pick out the fabric together and the pattern together,” she said. “I’m very lucky to have such a talented mom. Herrmann says both of her prom dresses, which were both made by her mother, are treasured and kept at her childhood home. “You know how sometimes you leave your special things in your own bedroom back at your mom’s place and stuff?” she said. “[My mom] has some of my high school keepsakes and stuff in her cedar closet in the basement.”
Herrmann advises prom attendees to focus on the bigger picture and have fun. “High school goes by so quickly, and it’s so easy to get caught up in the details, like the corsages and which bus you’re on and all of the things that at the time seem important,” Herrmann said. “It doesn’t matter what bus you’re on, it doesn’t matter if your corsage is perfect or not; it just matters that you’re with your friends and that you’re enjoying every moment of the evening.”