By Starrla Cray
LESTER PRAIRIE, MN About this time 25 years ago, Jenny Bayerl of Winsted was busy decorating the Lester Prairie High School gym for prom night, which her oldest daughter, Lisa (Feltmann), would be attending.
Now, Lisa and her mother are back at it, along with family members and friends.
“The reason we do this is for our kids,” Lisa said. (And grandkids, in Jenny’s case.)
Lisa and Troy Feltmann’s son, Adam, is now in college; and their daughter, Hope, is a high school freshman.
Lisa’s sister, Micki Newstrom, has two sons at LP Nate, a sophomore; and Zeke, an eighth-grader.
Paradise and Vegas
The group started in 2011, adorning the gym with lighted palm trees, colorful coral reefs, fish dangling from the ceiling, and other Tropical Paradise décor.
Lisa describes her mom and sister as “very creative,” and anyone who has seen the decorations on prom night would likely agree.
In 2012, the theme was Las Vegas. It included huge dice made out of cardboard boxes, a four-foot roll of quarters, a cutout of Elvis, archways of each of the four suits of cards, and much more.
“None of us have ever been to Vegas,” Lisa said, explaining that Jenny did a great deal of online research for inspiration.
Most of the decoration materials are supplied by area businesses. RAM Buildings lends poles every year, Bergmann Interiors donates empty carpet roll cylinders, and Winsted Farmers Co-op Creamery gives thin cardboard sheets.
“Poly Foam provides all of our Styrofoam,” Lisa said. “We use Styrofoam for everything.”
The Old West
Last year, for the theme, A Night in the Old West, Styrofoam was used to make lanterns, buildings, and more.
“We made a little town,” Jenny said, explaining that it included things like a blacksmith shop, jail, saloon, bank, and mercantile.
Real hay bales were brought in, and a chuck wagon that had belonged to Jenny’s grandfather was used for the food area. The wagon was a tight fit, and the wheels had to be removed in order to get it through the doors.
As an added detail, decorators had Herald Journal print “Wanted” posters with pictures of the staff at Lester Prairie High School.
“Most of the teachers still have them hanging on their doors,” Lisa said.
The theme was very well received last year, and Jenny said people have asked how they’re going to top it. Jenny doesn’t make promises that they’ll be able to, but said, “We do the best we can every year.”
The 2014 prom is set for Saturday, April 26, with the theme Game Land.
Originally, Lisa had suggested a Candy Land theme, but Jenny and Micki decided to expand on it.
Christine Mattson and Amy Bettcher are also involved in this year’s decorating process. (Amy’s son, Nick, who is now in college, has helped in the past).
Details about the decorations are kept as secretive as possible until the night of the prom, although students are invited to help with set-up in the gym.
“It used to be that students didn’t see them until they walked in the door for the grand march,” Jenny said, adding that it changed over the years in order to get more help setting up.
Behind the scenes
Setup is going on all this week, and teardown will take place at 5 a.m. Sunday, April 27, right when the after-prom party has ended.
“We have a lot of help, thank goodness,” Jenny said, explaining that students and parents provide much-needed assistance.
Lisa and Troy’s son, Adam, helped dismantle and haul decorations after his proms, and he plans to come home from college to help again this year.
“He strategically packs everything,” Lisa said. “We couldn’t do it without him.”
Adam, along with Jenny’s husband, Mel, both help construct items, as well.
Mel recently put a small addition on his shop, and Lisa jokingly calls it her “prom shed.”
Other helpers in the family include Lisa’s nieces, Paige Bayerl (fifth grade) and Grace Bayerl (first grade).
“Grace is very meticulous about the way things are done,” Lisa said.
The next four years
After prom is over, the group usually takes a break before starting in the next year’s decorations.
“The goal is to work on it throughout the year, but once it’s over, we can’t even look at prom for awhile,” Lisa said. “It’s hard to get right back into it again.”
Lisa and her family plan to help with prom decorating until Micki’s son, Zeke, graduates in 2018.
“The themes are already picked out for the next four years,” Jenny said.
Here are the people who have been building, painting, and hauling decorations for Lester Prairie’s prom this year and/or the past few years:
• Troy and Lisa Feltmann, and their son, Adam;
• Lisa’s parents, Melvin and Jenny Bayerl;
• Lisa’s sister, Micki Newstrom;
• Micki’s sons, Nate and Zeke;
• Lisa’s nieces, Paige and Grace Bayerl
• Amy Bettcher and her son, Nick; and
• Christine Mattson.
(Several others also contribute by setting up and taking down the decorations.)
Check it out . . .
To see this year’s decorations, stop by the Lester Prairie School gym at 5:30 p.m. Saturday, April 26 to watch the grand march.