Basketball hoops and bleachers are giving way to a teenager's wonderland in the gymnasium at Moffat County High School.
With prom set for Saturday, a core group of juniors has plunged into a decorating frenzy with tissue paper and sparkly lights to create the theme "Le Jardin de L'amour" or "The Garden of Love."
Several juniors are spending about six hours a day decorating for the big event, and some students say it's well worth the effort.
"You only get one time in your life to do it," junior Carissa Taylor said. "Most girls like to dress up and be beautiful. It's kind of like going to an award show. It's fun to see what everybody is wearing and dance."
The dance starts at 9 p.m. with the Grand March a half-hour later. High school faculty chose students for royalty.
Parents are encouraged to attend but are asked to leave promptly after the coronation. Craig firefighters will be parking cars for $1.
Juniors Billy Richards and Kelsey Bauman already have picked out their attire.
"I've had my dress and been all ready for a month now," Bauman said.
The event has different meanings to students.
"To most students, it's a big deal; to others, it's overrated," Taylor said. "Some people have no desire. It just depends on who likes to dress up."
Everybody knows the real party starts after the party.
That's the message more than 30 parents of Moffat County High School students want to send to prom-goers this weekend.
Parents' only stipulation is that students party without drugs and alcohol. To make the party especially attractive for students, volunteers have been busy gathering more than $5,000 in donated prizes and gift certificates to raffle away at the after-prom party.
"The idea is to promote an evening of nonalcoholic fun," said party planner Beth Gilchrist. "Kids plan for prom for weeks, and if they go home right after prom, it's not enough. We feel this is a nice way to carry out the night."
The after-prom party starts at midnight at the Boys and Girls Club with some of the largest prizes, such as a Dell lap-top computer, to be given away at 4 a.m., when the event is scheduled to wind down. A host of other prizes include a DVD player, a digital camera, camping equipment and gift certificates for a variety of services.
Last year, about 200 of the 224 prom-goers attended the after-prom party, Gilchrist said.
That's an encouraging sign that those students aren't using drugs and alcohol after prom, she said.
The after-prom party will include a game show and gambling set up for students to interact. Volunteers plan to serve students an early morning breakfast.
Two hundred businesses have donated to the event, Gilchrist said.
The prizes have consumed Gilchrist's kitchen table. And she's measured a 4-inch thick stack of coupons.
The hard work of gathering prizes and planning the event will have paid off for parents and the after-party co-sponsor, the Boys and Girls Club, if students have a good time without using alcohol and drugs, Gilchrist said.
"We want to make the incentive that there's no choice but to come to the party," she said. "We're hoping this will be a positive promotion for kids."
A few students interviewed said they looked forward to going to the after-prom party partly because it takes the stress off the date.
"The prizes are worth it," Bauman said. "Four in the morning makes a long party."
Amy Hatten can be reached at 824-7031 or by e-mail at email@example.com.