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Tonopah transforms building into prom venue

It’s a busy time at Tonopah High School as students prepare for the annual prom.

This year’s prom, set from 7:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. Saturday, April 1, features a new look. It’s being held on campus in the former woodshop building, which is being converted to a prom venue for the first time.

“We decided this would be cool so we cleaned it all up,” said Karen Whelan, arts teacher at the school and junior class adviser. “I just love this building, with the advantages of doing it here is that we have been working on it for a month,” she said.

In prior years, the prom had been held in the Tonopah Convention Center near downtown.

“At the convention center, you had to get in there in the morning and fix (it up), and get in there the next day and take it down,” Whelan said, referring to the prom decorations and related items.

“This way, we have been working on it for a month, and I’ve got all the kids working on it at various levels,” she said. “So we have come really far because you couldn’t even walk in here. Nobody had been in here for six years now.”


The Nevada Division of Forestry’s local conservation crew helped start the efforts so that the building could be made into a prom venue.

“They were down here and spent a day down here moving all of the heavy stuff and getting it out of the way,” Whelan said.

Since then, students have been busy painting, decorating and assembling picnic tables for the big night.

Planning began in December for the prom, which carries a masquerade ball theme. Tickets are $5 each or $7 for a couple.

The menu includes burgers, cheeseburgers, pulled pork, apple slaw, mac and cheese, chips and beverages. A root beer float bar also is planned.

Prom preview

As students worked to create the venue, Whelan previewed what prom-goers and visitors will see on the big night.

“That’s going to be the dance floor,” she said. “We are going to have a DJ up top.”

Then she pointed to the outdoor gated courtyard. A food vendor, the Chew Chew Express BBQ, plans to set up there.

“They smoke meat, they do burgers, pulled pork, really good,” Whelan said, adding that the vendor had been at the school’s homecoming football game and homecoming parade this past fall.

“So they will be able to sell food and kids can go inside and outside,” Whelan said of the prom’s new venue. “A lot of time in the past, the kids would go out to eat first, and then by the time they go to the prom, they were full …I kind of feel if the food is here, they can eat throughout the night whenever they want to and dance for an hour or two.”

Plenty of space

Though on the Tonopah High School campus, the former wood shop building is not physically attached to the main high school.

“It’s actually an ideal location because not only does it give us all the time to set up and take it (prom decorations) down, but the kids can’t go outside at the convention center. For safety reasons, if they leave, they are not allowed back. Here we have the big gated courtyard.”

Whelan describes the building as “totally self-sufficient” with bathrooms, heat and lighting.

“This is really nice and contained. It is a very safe environment because we can see everyone. We will have a little game room. We bought pingpong tables.”

As the prom nears, the excitement is building.

“We’re going to the turn the prom a little bit more into a party,” Whelan said. “I want to entice every student (grades 9-12) to come to the prom.”

“I’d like to get 100 kids at the prom,” she added. “If any parents want to come check it out, they are more than welcome to come check it out.”

Contact reporter David Jacobs at djacobs@pvtimes.com

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