Twenty-five years ago, a Waupaca High School (WHS) math teacher and small group of students worked together to hold a post-prom party. Their focus was to give students an alternative to the drinking parties that many headed to after prom.
About a dozen students went to the post prom that first year.
Today, about 200 students, basically the entire junior class, go.
“Prom is one thing, but they all tell me that post prom is the most fun. A lot of kids that can’t afford prom or don’t want to go to it go to post prom,” Dale Feldt said.
In the mid-1980s, Feldt was in his first year of teaching math at the school when he started a SADD chapter there.
At that time, SADD was the acronym for Students Against Drunk Driving. Today, SADD chapters stand for Students Against Destructive Decisions.
Feldt got the idea for post prom from his wife, Mary.
She is a physical education teacher at Waupaca Learning Center, but in 1985, she was the teen program director at the Stevens Point Area YMCA. The Portage County Chemical Intervention for Youth, which she was a member of, sponsored a countywide post-prom party. They called it MORP, prom spelled backward.
That first post prom was held at the Waupaca Woods Mall.
“Johnson’s restaurant helped us with the food. We had maybe 10 kids in attendance,” Dale Feldt said. “We showed movies, played games and had a lot of good food.”
The fact that a small number of students attended that first year was tough on the students who organized it, but they persisted in their effort.
“The second year, we were up to 40 kids. After that, it really took off,” Feldt said.
One year, post prom was held at the Indian Crossing Casino and for about 10 years, it was held at the Best Western Grand Seasons Hotel.
“I was still putting it together with just the kids. For about 10 years, we did it ourselves,” he said. “Then, we got word about the Nomads. They started giving funds and started donating $1,000 to our cause. If I remember right, maybe 10 years before I got here, the Nomads had done it (a post prom).”
Each year, the Nomads give $1,000 for post prom, but they are not the only ones who donate money to make it a success.
“The town just donates, donates, donates,” Feldt said. “Every business in town takes care of their kids.”
Donations range from $20 to $200, and he appreciates every one of them. The funds cover the cost of a disc jockey, food and prizes. Prizes include small refrigerators that are perfect for dorm rooms, gift certificates and even kayaks.
Post prom is set up like a casino, and as the students arrive, they receive poker chips, which they can either cash in immediately for prizes or use to play games to try to earn more chips for prizes.
About 10 years in, Marc Simon came on board to be the post prom disc jockey. “He is willing to come in at midnight and goes to 4 a.m.,” Feldt said.
For approximately the last 12 years, post prom has been held at the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 1037 Hall on Industrial Drive.
“The biggest thing I want to stress,” he said, “is it’s not one person setting it up. It’s the community setting it up.”
As post prom grew, Feldt found he could not do it by himself.
“So, I sent a letter to all the junior class parents,” he said.
Typically, about 20 parents serve on the committee, and Feldt said that as parents joined in, the ideas grew.
Today’s volunteers also include those who once attended Post Prom, such as Joel Kempfert. The first time he worked with Feldt on post prom was when he was a sophomore at WHS and a member of SADD.
“The next year, I had the pleasure of actually participating in the activities. I can’t say as I remember a whole lot about the prom itself, but I do remember the fun we had at post prom.”
When Kempfert returned to Waupaca in 1998 as a teacher, he joined his father Richard’s team at the post prom craps table.
“This at least gives me a chance to take a small part in the festivities. The amount of work that Dale does prior to the night to make it a success is unbelievable,” Kempfert said.
Kempfert says he enjoys being near the door when the students arrive.
“By that time of the night, they are exhausted, but when they look around, they seem to gain that second wind, and Dale is right there greeting them with his usual positive spirit and high energy,” Kempfert said.
. Throughout the night, Dale makes a point of acknowledging the local sponsors for the prizes and food that all the kids get to partake in. The kids truly appreciate this. There are also many thanks to the parents who are there volunteering their time, as well as giving up their sleep, to make this program a success,” he said.
Some students wear their prom attire to the event, while others opt to wear more comfortable clothing.
Feldt said that when the students arrive, they are required to sign in. They also have to sign out when they leave.
If a student signs out shortly after signing in, he calls that student’s parents.
For those who stay until the end, the fast pace they’ve been moving at for most of the day does eventually catch up to them.
“By about 3 a.m., it’s funny to watch them start to drop off,” he said.
Kempfert describes post prom as “an unbelievable program that Dale has built up over the years for the kids with the help of the entire community. It gives our kids a safe alternative to the choices they have after prom, but it is more than that.
“Post prom has become as important as prom to many of the kids in our community. This year, I imagine that the night will end the same way for Dale as it has so often in the past years. He, Marc Simon and I will be packing up after the cleaning is done, watching the sun start to peak out and talk about having the energy one of these years to go out for breakfast. Instead, we all go home to get a bit of sleep.”