Local ballroom tradition returns to Port Jeff

The Earl L. Vandermeulen High School Ball, a decades-old local tradition for the Port Jefferson community, returns on Tuesday, June 28.

Since 1958, the ball has brought together members of the community in a spectacular send-off of its senior graduates. The tradition includes a secret theme decided by the parents, as well as a complete transformation of the school around this theme.

The COVID-19 pandemic has upended this tradition. Due to the closures and social gathering restrictions put in place at the time, the event was severely limited in scope and scale. The world opens up again and so does the prom.

“This year we’re doing a hybrid version,” said Randi DeWitt, Port Jefferson School Board administrator and prom committee member. “Last year it was just the Meadow Club. This year we’re going to do a traditional high school drive like it’s always been done, but instead of going to school they’re going to go to the Meadow Club.

An invitation open to the public

Reviving this tradition will require active public engagement. Community members are invited to view this year’s theme at the Meadow Club as well as the driving ceremony and red carpet event held at the high school.

“The tradition is that the whole area is filled with community members,” DeWitt said. “Not just the parents of the kids graduating, the whole community comes to see it.” She added, “That’s what we wanted to bring back: the sense of community because that’s what’s been lost for the past few years due to COVID.”

DeWitt hopes for a large turnout to reward the monumental efforts of the parents and the prom committee who have revived this tradition. “We want [the community] to see what we’ve done here – all of our hard work – and then be there for the kids when they come,” she said.

A set and theme tour will be held from 2-4 p.m. at the Meadow Club, 1147 Route 112, Port Jefferson Station. Photos of participants will begin at 4:15 p.m. in the center of the village. The red carpet event will begin at 6 p.m. at the high school, after which students will head to the Meadow Club for prom night.