After a Florida high school's prom is overbooked, some 30 to 40 students were put on a waiting list. But then, one of Palm Beach County's finest hotels, Eau Palm Beach, stepped in.
Six teens whose plans to dance the night away at their high school prom were derailed by an overbooked venue and waiting list to get in, found themselves instead at an impromptu Prom Saturday — this one thrown together by the staff at one of the county’s swankiest hotels.
And it’s hard to tell who is more happy about it, the Park Vista High students or the staff at Eau Palm Beach Resort & Spa in Manalapan who slammed together a prom in secret and in the span of a meal.
“For me to say, ‘Welcome to your prom — there were tears in their eyes; there were tears in our eyes. I don’t think there was a dry eye in the room. Just to say it gives me goosebumps,” said ballroom manager Liz Schmidt.
“We were taken by surprise,” agrees Connor Edmonds, a junior in the group unexpectedly escorted after dinner to a ballroom filled with balloons, low lights and the steady beat of music.
“It was totally unexpected. We thought we’d eat and go back home,” said senior Walter Braithwaite. Instead, the students had the dance floor to themselves until about 11 p.m.
The Eau staff spotted the students before they ate their meal mugging for photos, Schmidt said.
As the decked-to-the-nines students dined at the Temple Orange restaurant, the staff determined they were not connected to the two events booked at the hotel that evening, but were Park Vista High kids. And while the young men and women were dressed up, they had no particular place to go after their plates were cleared.
Schmidt immediately recalled the headlines earlier in the week declaring Vista’s prom overbooked, leaving 30 to 40 students on a waiting list days before the big event.
The school had issued repeated warnings that tickets were limited to 500 thanks to a smaller venue this year and were going on a first-come, first-served basis. Buying a ticket online was no guarantee in this multi-step affair. Ticket sales were due to run through April 3, but the last ticket sold on March 28.
Edmonds said he didn’t even bother trying to buy a ticket once he heard it was sold out.
Braithwaite didn’t make the wait list either. “It’s my fault,” he said, admitting to not having completed other requirements necessary to land a prom ticket. “I had some stuff I didn’t finish from school.”
Four others in the group were on the list, Braithwaite said. His girlfriend’s mom wanted to see the teens have a special evening regardless and recommended the restaurant at Eau, formerly a Ritz-Carlton hotel.
They dressed up and prepared to splurge on $47 filets and $29 fried chicken or $23 pork loin. The meal came, but the bill never did. (Braithwaite estimates the managers comped at least a $300 dinner.) Instead, a waiter told them that they should prepare to stick around for about half an hour after they finished, Braithwaite recalled.
That anyone could be locked out of prom qualified as heartbreaking for Schmidt. “I said, ‘We’ve got to turn this night around.’"
It turned out that one of the resort’s oceanfront ballrooms was not being used.
Schmidt collaborated with Ian Kirby, the restaurant manager on duty, and with their colleagues they rounded up some desserts, a punch bowl and sparkling cider, and blew up some balloons to scatter on the floor. Down went the lights, up went the notice: “Private Event.” Voila, prom.
They even gave the students beach bag totes filled with swag.
“It was something very simple that we did,” Schmidt said. “But the expression on their faces was just priceless.”
This story originally published to palmbeachpost.com, and was shared to other Florida newspapers in the GateHouse Media network.