'Seniors need to have their prom experience': Group planning Cherokee prom on Rogersville Town Square

Jeff Bobo • May 4, 2020 at 2:00 PM

ROGERSVILLE — Although school-sanctioned proms have been canceled in Hawkins County, there is an effort underway to allow Cherokee High School juniors and seniors to have an unofficial “night under the stars” on Rogersville Town Square.

The goal for the event is mid-July, but a few things would have to happen first.

On Tuesday, the Board of Mayor and Aldermen said it will consider blocking traffic on Town Square (the intersection of Main Street and Depot Street) and allowing the event to take place under the right circumstances.

The BMA meets again on May 12 at 7 p.m., at which time the subject of a downtown prom is expected to be discussed again. Because the public wasn’t allowed to attend Tuesday’s BMA meeting due to social distancing requirements, Alderman Mark DeWitte served as a liaison between the board and Cherokee prom organizers.

“Seniors need to have their prom experience”

DeWitte noted that last month Scott Laster, who owns Jim’s Service Center in Rogersville, planted the seed for the alternative prom, which has now taken root in the minds of students and adults alike.

“He felt like the seniors need to have their prom experience, so he put a post on Facebook that he would be willing to donate $1,000 and get a fund started for them to have some sort of prom,” DeWitte told the Times News Thursday. “He said he didn’t know how to get it started, and in the post he tagged me and said, ‘Maybe my friend Mark can get us some information.’ He said, ‘I don’t want to plan it, but I do want them to have something and I want to give some money.’ ”

Next they approached Cherokee Student Council President Cooper Bolton to get input from student leaders.

“They would have to take it in front of the BMA”

In the meantime, Pam Jenkins, who is the mother of a graduating senior as well as a co-sponsor of the Heritage Lights local youth group, joined the effort, noting that she had always wanted to hold prom downtown on Town Square, and this would be the perfect opportunity.

“I hooked up some financial aid with some folks who can get it started, and I told them they would have to take it in front of the BMA to get approval for it be be on Town Square,” DeWitte said. “I know the BMA, at the very least, is going to ask for additional liability insurance on the event, and I gave them the name of a person who does event insurance.”

The BMA’s response to the proposed event was encouraging, but members said a specific date must be requested before the board can take action.

Last week Bolton answered some questions for the Times News about the possibility of holding a prom event on Town Square.

What needs to happen to make your prom on Town Square happen, and what steps are you and others involved in the effort taking to make this happen?

“We are currently in the preliminary rounds of planning, so there are still several things left unanswered. We are hoping for social distancing guidelines to be lifted by July so we can actually have our prom on Town Square. We are aiming towards a date in mid-July, so we still need a date set in stone. Safety, of course, is our No. 1 priority, so we are monitoring the updates as Tennessee begins reopening the public sector and when gatherings are allowed again. I, fortunately, am working alongside amazing people that are more than willing to get every detail aligned perfectly to make this happen. I would be remiss if I didn’t recognize Pam Jenkins for her endless wealth of knowledge and planning, Mark DeWitte for his leadership and guidance, Scott Laster for his generous donation and vision for a prom, and the community for their outpouring of support and love to the Class of 2020. Without all these contributors, this would never be a possibility.”

Why it is important for you and the Class of 2020 to make this happen and have one more event together as a graduation class before you all go off your separate ways.

“Prom is a pinnacle event in seniors’ high school careers because it is one of the last times in which we can all celebrate the end of a school year and spend quality time together making memories that will last a lifetime. There are traditional events that seniors partake in. This year, many of those events will not be able to happen due to the circumstances. However, we are working our hardest to have a normal prom together in a town we all love. When I began asking people where they would like to be held, it was almost a unanimous that people wanted it outside on Town Square. I believe downtown is important to the Class of 2020 because it is the epicenter of our childhood. I am hopeful that this event will propel the Class of 2020 into a new chapter full of memories.”

If you had a prom on town square, what do you think would be the theme?

“Wow. The theme as of right now hasn’t been discussed. As I mentioned earlier, there are a lot of things that are still up in the air, so we are focusing on the foundation first. I believe it would be centered around the idea of ‘Home.’ The Class of 2020 is a tight-knit group that loves their community. The outpouring of community support has truly demonstrated the perks of living in a town full of love and celebration. The particular theme hasn’t been decided, but I am excited to hear feedback from fellow classmates.”

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