Free red-carpet prom

Margaret Allen
Ellis County graduating seniors can get free tickets now for their prom, sponsored by many Ellis County businesses, including David Proffitt, pictured, and his brother Jacob Proffitt. The Proffitts are co-owners of the Uptown Fox, where prom is being held.

Ellis County high school graduating seniors will get their prom after all — and it’s free for students.

Businesses in Ellis County are pulling together to bring the county’s graduating seniors a night to remember at downtown’s Uptown Fox.

That will include a classic ride, a walk on the red carpet, upscale finger food, non-alcoholic beverages, and dancing to music played by DJs.

“We’re hoping we can provide them the night that will be the coolest prom that anybody has ever had,” said David Proffitt, co-owner with his brother Jacob Proffitt of the Uptown Fox lounge at 13th and Main streets. “It’s going to be basically prom meets the Academy Awards type feel.”

Anyone graduating this year from an Ellis County high school is invited to attend the adult-chaperoned event Friday, June 26. It starts at 7 p.m. and goes till midnight.

There are 125 tickets available free from Eventbrite through the Uptown Fox’s Facebook page.

Eligible students can snag two tickets each and may bring a non-graduate date.

“We have people who are going to do makeup for free, hair for free, offering huge discounts on different services,” Proffitt said.

There will also be gift bags, and local businesses are donating items to be raffled, he said.

“So people are going to leave with some pretty cool gifts, and, more importantly, just a really cool time,” Proffitt said.

Everything is free. Tickets are available until they’re gone, or until 7 p.m. June 26, whichever comes first.

Taryn and James Leiker, owners of Fancy That Boutique, 115 E. 8th St., are organizing many of the participating businesses, including gift bag items.

Some others pitching in with organizing are Jason Kippes, Victoria, and farm equipment supplier Lang Diesel Inc. Proffitt said many local businesses downtown and across the county are involved.

Any business that wants to participate as a sponsor, with either items or services, is welcome, he said.

“We figured with everything going on, a lot of households have been affected,” said Proffitt, a Russell native who recalled on Monday morning how special his own prom was. “I remember when I was a kid, you’d mow yards for the whole summer so you’d have enough money to take your date out for dinner and the prom. A lot of the high schoolers didn’t have that opportunity this time.”

Members of Hays’ classic car club, Thunder on the Plains, are providing rides in their vintage restored cars to bring kids to the prom. Students will walk a red carpet to enter the 1950s-era Fox, a movie theater that the Proffitts restored and opened in 2019 as an upscale dining experience.

“Let’s face it, people with classic cars are very nostalgic and high school is a big part of that,” Proffitt said.

Three local DJs will provide music, and local professional photographers will shoot prom portraits against a special 2020 Prom backdrop. Pepsi Beverages Co. in Hays is providing soft drinks. Uptown Fox will close its restaurant to the public for the evening to serve the students finger foods like sushi, its specialty pizzas and heavy hors d’oeuvres.

Dress code is whatever a student would normally wear to prom.

“Whether it’s a tux or a suit, or if they’re not that fancy and they just want to wear whatever, that’s fine,” Proffitt said.

Jacob Proffitt got the ball rolling on the special night for seniors, his brother said.

“We were sitting around with a group of us at the very beginning of the corona thing, and I said, ’Man, imagine if this had happened a couple months earlier and the Chiefs wouldn’t have gotten their Super Bowl?’ ” David Proffitt recalled. “So we started talking about that and Jacob said, ’But can you imagine being a senior and not getting your prom?’ … You only have one chance for a senior prom.”

The conversation started in March, when pandemic shutdowns began in Kansas and school buildings closed, without any idea of how long it might that might continue.

“A lot of it was just waiting until we knew we could do it, and knowing we’d have to put it together pretty fast,” David Proffitt said. “A lot of businesses just started talking about the idea and started talking to the schools.

“At the very beginning, nobody really knew what to do and when it was going to happen, because we didn’t know when things were going to open up.”

The idea was to hold the prom before kids leave for college.

Fox will bring down its big movie screen for the night and play images of high school memories supplied by the students and teachers.

“So the person who sends the most photos in will probably be on the screen the most,” he said, laughing.

After students enjoy heavy hors d'oeuvres at prom, volunteers will clear away the dining tables on the main floor of the Uptown Fox, pictured, to make room for dancing.