“Not on my watch.”
Those were the words Denise MacIsaac used in describing what motivated her to organize a dance, for high schoolers (grades 10 to 12), Feb. 4, at St. Ninian Place.
The semi-formal dance was set-up with ‘work-to-rule’ still in place across the province as the government and teachers union were in negotiations for a new deal. On Jan. 23, with a tentative agreement in place, work-to-rule was ended.
“We’re still going to put it on, on the 4th, and we have people from Pictou buying tickets, from Guysborough, from Port Hawkesbury and Antigonish … I think we’re looking at it now as a celebration of the class of 2017,” MacIsaac said of the dance, going on from 9 to 11:30 p.m.
“Celebrating the end of the semester; let’s clean the plate, we had a rough first semester, let’s let that go and go into the next semester positively … this is your senior year. This is about you now so let’s have a celebration for these kids who have, really, lost a lot.”
MacIsaac said it’s not about supporting one side or the other in their negotiations but rather seeing that senior classes in the area didn’t end up with the work-to-rule situation becoming a lasting memory of their graduating year.
“It came down to; this wasn’t going to be the year remembered as work-to-rule … my daughter was going to have a semi [formal], my daughter’s friends were going to have prom,” she said, noting plans were being put in place, tentatively, to hold that end of the year activity as well.
She talked about watching as activities around schools started to get postponed or even cancelled.
“So, as parents, and community members, we sat back and watched and waited to see how this thing was going to go before being resolved,” she said.
“Semester-end was supposed to be the [Jan.] 27th, a Friday, and I thought, if they don’t get this resolved by that time, I don’t think it’s fair they don’t have a dance.
“I have put on many dances with my son when he was a senior at the Regional because music was his thing. We had the equipment, the ability to put one on, it was just a matter of getting a venue and putting one on for them.
“That was the idea behind it … putting on something to show we were still going to have this for them.”
MacIsaac said it’s amazing how parents will step up when it comes to helping their children have a fulfilling experience.
“There are leaders in every graduating class, there are parents in every group who are natural born leaders when it comes to organizing and it’s not that hard … people want to volunteer, want to help,” she said.
“So I watched this on the news with kids putting up poster boards saying ‘we have no prom,’ ‘we have no scholarships,’ ‘lost our semi-formal,’ and I thought, not on my watch.”
MacIsaac said when she decided to put on a dance, she posted it on Facebook and immediately starting getting a lot of responses … overwhelming response.
She noted Lynn Vasil-Delorey, from Special Occasions Tents and Event Décor, as stepping up to the plate by offering items to help decorate.
“Off the chart,” she said of Vasil-Delorey’s generous gesture.
“And parents have offered to volunteer, to help set-up, work the door, coat-check, those kinds of things”
“The DJs are two very in-tune young men from St. F.X. They are DJs at the Golden X Inn and are very much in the know of what the music is right now. That should be great for the kids … they’ll be happy with that.
“The community is there; we were going to make sure this was going to happen for them, no matter what.”
The dance is being sponsored by MacIsaac’s downtown Antigonish business, Beautiful, which is well-known for its assortment of dresses.
MacIsaac noted her business wasn’t a motivator for putting on the dance, as her dresses don’t really fit with what students will, generally, wear to a semi-formal, which she described as more “street-ready,” and while her business does cater to a prom event, so do a lot of other businesses.
“Yes [proms] affect my business and they also affect every nail tech, hair dressers, limo businesses, venue bookers, DJs, lighting people, restaurants and hotels … there are so many independent businesses that go off this once a year function.
“It [a possible prom cancellation] was a concern for everybody in this industry.”
She noted, too, opening up the dance for high schoolers across the region.
“It developed from not just Antigonish as we invited all of the Strait Regional School Board (SRSB), so Guysborough County, Canso, SAREC, even Pictou County … northeastern Nova Scotia, basically, to this dance,” she said.
“It has kind of taking on a life of its own so we’re selling the tickets because we have a bigger venue, because of availability we ended up in a larger spot. I thought, all these kids don’t have anything, so, we’ll just keep going until we fill the place and it will be a heck of a good dance.”
Tickets are available at Beautiful on Main Street. They can be reached at 902-863-5562 and additional information about the dance is available on their Facebook page.