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August 18, 2019

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In Las Vegas, this is how we do proms

High school students take to the Strip for nice dinners and shows, turning their prom nights into an extravagant affair

Prom Night in Vegas

Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun

From left, Paola Rivera, Mary Knight, Dominique Kopecky, Kalinda Fooks, Julia Ross and Kylie Hammer give their parents an over-the-shoulder look while taking photos in front of the Wynn waterfall on Green Valley High School’s prom night Saturday, April 27, 2013.

Prom Night in Vegas

Austin Higgins and Julia Ross steal a kiss in their limo on the way to the Penn and Teller show on Green Valley High School's prom night Saturday, April 27, 2013. Launch slideshow »

It’s 6 p.m. Saturday at one of the busiest restaurants on the Strip.

On most weekends, the tables at Maggiano’s Little Italy in the Fashion Show mall would be packed with tourists kicking off an evening in Las Vegas.

But on this night, more than 80 prom-goers are packed at Maggiano’s. Nicely groomed young men in suits and tuxedos and lovely young ladies with styled hair and perfect nails are poring over menus and abuzz about the evening ahead — a limo ride, some dancing, the requisite photos and seeing one of Vegas’ famous shows.

Welcome to prom season, when Las Vegas teenagers claim the Strip as theirs.

The young diners catch the eye of out-of-towners who nudge each other, point discreetly at the handsome crew and maybe — oh, make that probably — are prompted to think of their own prom nights.

But it’s a pretty sure thing their special evenings didn’t play out like they do in Vegas, baby.

And how could it? This is a town with unlimited dining and entertainment options and prom is the time when these kids, after years of anticipation, can tap the Strip’s entertainment wonderland for themselves.

“We have grown up with all of this around us all our lives,” said Green Valley High senior Julia Ross. “But for someone who hasn’t seen this before, they would be amazed.”

Click to enlarge photo

Gamblers watch as a group of Green Valley High School students walk through the Rio on their way to the Penn and Teller show on their prom night Saturday, April 27, 2013.

Indeed, across America, prom nights play out inside school gymnasiums, veterans’ halls, small-town town convention centers and, at the upscale schools, maybe a ballroom at the local Hilton or Sheraton. Dinner would be enjoyed at the restaurant in town that offered prime rib on Sunday nights and surf & turf on Saturdays.

In Las Vegas, the dance is the least important part of the evening, the place where you’ll check in, submit to a photographer, dance to a song or two. Venues range from casino ballrooms to the World Market Center downtown.

Then the evening really starts.

“It’s unreal. It really is,” says Christian Hall, a Green Valley High senior. “This is Vegas. Go big.”

Here’s how Hall’s group of six couples would spend this night: They start with a photo shoot at the Wynn with parents snapping away like paparazzi, dine at Maggiano’s, pile into a stretch limo to the dance at World Market Center, hang around for a couple of songs and take some pictures before leaving for the Penn & Teller show at the Rio.

And just because the night isn’t cool enough already, they meet and take pictures with Penn and Teller backstage. Later, the teens cruised the Strip in the outrageously long Hummer.

“We (Las Vegas kids) just don’t go sit at the prom. We get to go to shows such as Penn and Teller and we eat dinner next to the Wynn,” said Quintin Kohorst, a Green Valley senior who did part of the legwork in coordinating this group’s plans. “Most people (in other towns) think going to the dance is the big thing. But we have the Strip and that is more fun.”

It’s also more costly.

Prom tickets were $40 in advance or $50 at the door, family-style dinner at Maggiano’s came to about $65 a couple with tip, and the dates split the cost of the limo at about $50 per couple for four hours. Penn and Teller tickets are $85 per person, but the group received a discount because one prom-goer's father is the doctor for the performers. In total, each date was about $400.

Dresses or tuxedos, hair and nails, and other items such as new shoes cost anywhere from $100 to $500 — one girl had a $450 dress, but she wore it for multiple dances. Nails run about $35; hair about $25.

Nobody was heard complaining.

“I wish I could have done something like this when I was a kid,” said Richard Rogers, whose son, Brandon, was part of the group of Green Valley students.

Click to enlarge photo

Kylie Hammer and Christian Hall pose for photos in the Wynn atrium Green Valley High School's prom night Saturday, April 27, 2013.

According to an Associated Press report, prom spending is expected to rise this spring to an average of $1,139, according to a survey of 1,025 parents conducted by Visa Inc. David’s Bridal has 300 stores nationwide and reports an average of $170 is spent on dresses, the AP reports. Men’s Wearhouse Inc. says boys are spending anywhere from $60 to $200 on tuxedo rentals, the report continued.

While splurging on the outfit and accessories is commonplace for some nationwide, other communities can’t match the extravagance of the prom night.

Kylie Hammer can attest to that.

Hammer came from Parkersburg, W.Va., to attend the Green Valley prom with Hall, and she found the Vegas trappings almost overwhelming.

“This is quite an experience. Much different than what I’m used to,” she said.

Ray Brewer can be reached at 990-2662 or [email protected]. Follow Ray on Twitter at

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