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Gay prom a big
hit in rural California

Gay prom a big
hit in rural California

Gay high school students and their allies packed the dance floor in Tracy on Thursday night.

What organizers claimed was the California Central Valley's first gay-friendly prom was a smash hit on Thursday evening, as gay students and their allies from Tracy and West high schools packed the dance floor at Klugow Hall in Tracy. Because the event wasn't school-sponsored, it had to be held at the outside venue, reports The Standard newspaper.

According to the paper, the prom was organized by students from West High School's gay-straight alliance. "This was the idea, to have an all-inclusive event," Justin Daley, the club's president, told The Standard, standing outside a crowded banquet room at Klugow. "This is what we planned, and this is what we got."

In the run-up to the prom, Daley said he had expected religious groups to picket outside the venue. But no protesters showed up. The event brought together students from the local high schools as well as others who came from Manteca, Stockton, and as far away as Long Beach. "I'd never felt like I was welcome at the prom," said David Stengel, 19, a senior at Lindbergh High School in Manteca.

Ashley McEnerney, a senior at Lincoln High School, said she doesn't feel ostracized by her peers, but she liked the environment Thursday night. "As a lesbian, you don't...get to go places where there's other gay people," McEnerney, 18, told the paper.

Daley said he sold 200 tickets to the event to both gay and straight students. The event had many of the trappings of a traditional prom. A professional DJ played modern hits, classic dance songs, and enough slow numbers for students to snuggle up to their dates. Couples could have their pictures taken by a professional photographer as they walked in the door.

And like any other prom, there were adult chaperones. Unitarian Universalist churches and the Gay-Straight Alliance at California State University, Chico, provided the chaperones for Thursday's dance.

Though Daley is graduating this year, he said he expects students at West to continue the tradition next year. "This is something that students can look forward to," he said. (The Advocate)

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