If you live in Omaha, Nebraska, you're never too old to go to prom...not if it's the annual Groundhog Prom, that is. I know, I know, you're all furrowing your brows in puzzlement.
"The Groundhog Prom? What the hell is that? Some kind of heartland hoedown or something" Any east- or west-coasters are especially thinking that. Don't lie.
Well, let me educate you, if you aren't already hip to the Knights of the Groundhog and their annual soiree (that's French for "late night shindig"). First, you're all aware of what a debutante ball is, right? That's one of those fancy dances put on by Wealthy, High-society, Influential, Tight-assed, Elitist (W.H.I.T.E) people in large communities to show off their daughters and announce to the world that they were ready for politically advantagous marriages to W.H.I.T.E. boys.
Seems like these days, organizations that have these balls like to attach things like philanthropy or civic responsibility to their missions as a smokescreen to cover up what is really going on--and don't get me wrong, some of them really raise money that goes to noble causes--but I think it's still just a case of "a rose by any other name".
Here in Nebraska, it was 1895 when the Knights of Ak-sar-ben (that's Nebraska spelled backwards, if you hadn't figured it out) were formed with the goal of "building a more prosperous Heartland..." A fine cause, if I begrudgingly admit so myself. Well, the Knights also began a tradition of an annual Coronation Ball (read debutante ball) to formally introduce their daughters to society, and, if you were good at math in high school, you'll realize that they've had 107 of the darn things now.
"But what," you're asking, "has this got to do with this goofy Groundhog Prom thing? This Lepto-whatever guy sure is verbose!"
I'm getting to that. Just hold your horses. As the story goes, about 25 years or so ago, a group of social workers and other left wing types decided to hold a small dance as sort of a little satire to the Ak-sar-ben Coronation Ball, which they had bemusedly watched for years and never had the connections to get an invitation (or something like that). Rumor also has it that some of them were geeks who never got to go to their own high school proms, either, but that's probably just some right-wing propaganda. These prom pioneers held their get together in one of the nastiest months in the mid-west, which happened to also contain groundhog day. Thus were born the Knights of the Groundhog. The first few years, the prom was a simple affair with a few score people wearing tacky bridesmaid's dresses or other goofy outfit probably intended to satirize (read "poke fun at") the Coronation Ball. As simple ideas sometimes do, however, the Groundhog Prom eventually took on a life of it's own. Word of the event spread--don't ask me how--and the number of attendees continued to grow. The Prom outgrew one venue after the next. But even more amazing than the size of the event was the flavor. Yes, the Groundhog Prom somehow mutated into some wierd combination of Mardi Gras and Halloween where the wilder, more shocking, or more clever the costume, the better. In fact, the Queen is traditionally chosen from amongst those with the most bizarre (or most revealing) getup.
I began attending "The Prom" in 1996, and I just recently made an appearance at the most recent, my 8th. If you've never been, you really must put it on your list of things to do before you die. I will warn you that the crowd tends to have liberal political leanings (or at least a liberal amount of them do), but with the spirit of camaraderie present, there is a sense of everyone present being "of one people". Although fatigue prevented me from shutting the event down this year, I daresay that this prom was probably like those of the past, where "a good time was had by all". The pictures attached to this posting are actual photos taken of the event. I'm not kidding. So, next year, as Groundhog Day starts to roll around, let your mind run wild about how you'd like to dress up and go cut a rug with the Knights of the Groundhog and their freaky followers.