“Mardi Gras in May” makes magic

The crowning moment at the Senior Prom is the selection of the king and queen. This year’s couple, both from Culpeper, are Carole Cochran and Maurice Wilson. Both are super on the dance floor. Photo by Marshall Conner
The crowning moment at the Senior Prom is the selection of the king and queen. This year’s couple, both from Culpeper, are Carole Cochran and Maurice Wilson. Both are super on the dance floor.
Photo by Marshall Conner

It all starts with a couple of steps to a favorite song—then a glimmer appears in the eyes. Then like magic it erases the little pains of aging quicker than any medicine. As children we learn to dance even before we understand what we are dancing for— even before we understand music.

It just feels good. The Austrian writer Vicki Baum once wrote, “There are shortcuts to happiness and dancing is one of them.” This was certainly the case at the 8th Annual Senior Prom sponsored by Aging Together last Saturday afternoon. The theme was “Mardi Gras in May” and well over 100 senior citizens from across five counties enjoyed the rejuvenating power of music, dancing and friendship inside the gymnasium of Culpeper Christian School.

Pastor Bradley Hales, of Reformation Lutheran Church served as the prom’s master of ceremonies announcing the raffle winners and guiding participants through the event’s many activities. Senior citizens, Girl Scouts, Police Explorers, volunteers and local businesses all joined together for a festive afternoon.

“We are here to enjoy our friends and community partners who have made the senior prom possible,” said Hales. “I truly enjoy this event and all our wonderful seniors in the community—they deserve everything we can provide.”

The event offered food, a photo booth, DJ, face-painting, door prizes and it concluded with the selection of a king and queen of the prom. Maurice Wilson and Carole Cochran, both of Culpeper, were crowned king and queen of the 2016 Senior Prom. Both are also members of the Silver Citizens Club, a popular Culpeper-based senior program sponsored by Culpeper Parks and Recreation.

“This ranks up there certainly,” said Wilson. “I’m thankful for the friendships I have and the hospitality of this event. As prom king I’ll keep the flag flying in honor of this wonderful event.”

Each year the Senior Prom has grown in popularity among senior citizens in the five-county area. The dance organized by Aging Together is supported by families, individuals and businesses. The event is also a labor of love for the Culpeper Town Police and volunteers from all the area’s senior groups including those from neighboring Orange, Rappahannock, Madison and Fauquier Counties.

Most attendees carpooled to the event with friends and there were many opportunities to meet other people from senior-oriented groups and clubs. The prom’s chief organizer and driving force was Dianna Banks, a Community Resource Specialist for Aging Together.

“Well over 100 area seniors enjoyed the senior prom. It was a wonderful event that can only be done in collaboration with many area organizations, community members and lots of volunteers. It was definitely a team effort. My heart was overjoyed seeing everyone enjoying themselves,” said Banks.

The prom creates many lasting memories and it is an example of intergenerational recreation.

“One of the moments that stand out most to me was the twist contest! Wow, our seniors really have the right moves. The Girl Scouts helped judge the contest and they were very impressed. It was difficult to pick just one winner so we had to pick two,” said Banks. “I also loved how much the attendees enjoyed the face painting this year provided by Sandy’s Face Painting. She really helped us get into the Mardi Gras spirit. However, nothing topped the cheer from the crowd when this year’s prom king twirled around the queen as they took to the dance floor for their first dance. It truly was a wonderful event.”

One of the most inspiring scenes was Marie Mischal, 90, of Culpeper tearing up the dance floor with her handy walker nearby for “extra safety.” Her smile was infectious and she even led an impromptu conga line around the gym.

“It’s been a wonderful time,” said Mischal. . “I have fun… that’s what it’s all about.”

As the crowd slowly filed out the exits hugs and handshakes were shared.

“We enjoyed seeing all our friends in Culpeper again,” said John and Priscilla Staples, who were long-time Silver Club members now living in the Winchester area. “We wanted to make the trip and attend. We had a wonderful time.”

Marshall Conner is a freelance contributor with the Culpeper Times. You may reach him at kelpiescot@gmail.com.