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Snowy Ulen prom will be one to remember

Cynthia Briard looked like a princess ready to go hunting.

Dressed in snow boots, a camouflage hooded sweatshirt and a gold gown, the high school sophomore was ready for one of the year's biggest events.

But first she had to struggle through the snow in her prom dress and winter gear to climb into her date's pickup truck.

If going to prom is supposed to be like Cinderella going to the ball, the fairy godmother pulled a few tricks a week ago.

About 15 inches of snow fell in Ulen-Hitterdal between last Friday and Saturday, creating a prom no one here will soon forget.

The Forum's Web site listed 81 cancellations Saturday due to weather conditions.

But prom went on in Ulen-Hitterdal.

In the midst of prom season, The Forum decided to focus on what prom means to a small town.

Thirty-two seniors graduate this spring in Ulen-Hitterdal. Fifteen juniors take their place this fall. The towns' combined population is about 700.

In a school where everyone knows each other, few skip prom.

So in early April, we found two seniors to follow. We spent nine hours with them and one of their sisters on prom day - a day made more interesting by the weather.

We first met with seniors Hannah Briard and Kelsey Struble 11 days before prom. Both girls helped organize last year's event, one they enthusiastically reminisce about.

This year's prom doesn't have the giddiness that goes with a first-time appearance. But there's no question about whether they will go.

"It's something to do," Briard, 18, said with a laugh on April 15. "Everybody just does go to prom. If you don't, it's kind of odd, I guess."

Struble, 17, added that it's one of the biggest events of the year and a chance to get dressed up.

Prom is different at a small school, Briard said. Unlike a large school where "grand march is three hours long," grand march takes 20 minutes at her school - and couples go through twice.

Thirty-two couples signed up for this year's prom.

Briard's date, her friend Aaron Peterson, said small-town proms are better. Peterson, 19, graduated from Ulen-Hitterdal last year and has attended prom there and in Fargo.

"A large prom gets to be really spread out," he said. "There are so many people doing so many different things."

In Ulen-Hitterdal, most of the girls shop for dresses together, Struble said. Everyone eats supper together prom night and goes to post-prom.

Paying for the prom is also a class effort. Students sell concessions from seventh grade through senior year to pay for the event, said Rhonda Sweeney, co-adviser for the junior class.

The cost of putting on the prom is about $3,000 per year, which includes a DJ, decorations and the banquet, she said.

Juniors decorate for the event each year, leaving this year's class of 15 with the duty of preparing for the big night.

Students spent the Friday afternoon before prom finishing up the "May Time Stand Still" theme with navy, black, gold and clock decorations.

The diamond-shaped walkway was vigorously taped down, balloons were blown (and frequently popped) and the clock arch on the stage was completed.

Students chatted about the good old days of junior high; some bickered about the right way to decorate.

Outside, the snow began to fall. It would come down in buckets throughout the night, leaving prom-goers to wake up to a winter wonderland last Saturday morning.

Ulen-Hitterdal, this was your prom.

Readers can reach Forum reporterTeri Finneman at (701) 241-5560