The girls’ gowns sparkled, and the boys’ boutonnieres were pronounced against their suits. But as Washington High School seniors encircled Lions Lake to take prom photos Saturday, brighter still was the collective joy. After months of remote or hybrid learning and a ban on large student gatherings, the classmates’ smiles were visible en masse for the first time in a year.

WHS’ senior prom was May 1. The event began at 6:30 p.m. in the DoubleTree Hotel in Chesterfield, following an afternoon of photo shoots.

“As seniors, we only get to do it once,” Brigham Broadbent said.

“We all haven’t been able to be together, so it’s just a fun celebration for us,” Madyson Coomes said.

“It’s just a chance to have fun together one last time,” Dawn Pulliam said.

Due to COVID-19, Washington High School's senior class hasn't had a dance since Courtwarming their junior year. Washington High School seniors Avery Street and Abby Redd detail their preparations and experience at their senior prom.

The class of 2021’s junior prom had been canceled last spring at the start of the pandemic. Also canceled were this year’s homecoming and courtwarming dances, the powderpuff games and student sections.

“I was very excited to get to wear my dress finally and get it out of my closet and just to have something to look forward to, finally, because last year there was just nothing,” prom queen Abby Redd said.

About 220 people bought prom tickets, Principal Dr. Kelle McCallum said. Only WHS 12th grade students were allowed in unless they were a senior’s date.

Last year’s prom had about 120 guests, was postponed until June and, like this year, restricted mainly to 12th graders.

“I know that most seniors won’t get a prom at all, so I think it’s awesome that I at least got one, whether it’s in the COVID mess,” Hope Ramsey said.

A lot of deliberation went into putting on the event, McCallum said, when they saw a declining number of COVID-19 cases around the school. McCallum and junior class sponsor and prom coordinator Karen Fixsal said they also looked at the safety protocols they had put in at other events. By the end of February, they decided the dance would go on.

“We’ve had to cancel so much or redo so much or offer it in a different fashion this year,” McCallum said. “You have to make the best decision for your family, but I think the kids were excited.”

Rebekah Lewis decided to not go to the dance this year. She said she doesn’t like dances in general, and she heard that the number of students allowed on the dance floor was regulated last year, and she did not want to deal with it.

Instead, she slipped on her dress, went to Shaw Nature Reserve and took photos with Redd and Avery Street.

Street said she was lucky because her dress, which she bought for junior prom, could fit the senior year’s style as well — even if she had to ask her grandma to tailor it again. Under it, she wore silver, sparkling Birkenstocks.

“You just got to go out there and just act like nobody’s watching you because it’s just so fun,” Street said. “I literally cannot tell you how much fun I have at dances.”