Under shimmering Northern Lights, students dance the night away at Winter Formal


Joelle Huysmans

Led by the DJ’s compelling music, students showed their best moves on the dance floor.

Joelle Huysmans, Diversity Coordinator

Loud music, colorful disco lights, mini dresses and sharp-looking suits — a winter formal is the ultimate high school dance experience. Every year, the event marks a time when students can forget their math homework and science projects for a few hours and just have fun with friends on the dance floor. 

Fun — that’s what this year’s Winter Formal was all about. 

“It’s a great way to have fun and meet new people,” said junior class coordinator Alex Hollrah, who helped organize the dance. “I know for me, I’ve had so much fun at these dances and just got to reconnect with so many people.”

Held Saturday, Feb. 4, the dance took place in the Bayview Room at the College of San Mateo from 8:00 p.m. to 11:00 pm. All grades were invited to party through the night and students could bring a guest from another school as their “plus one.” 

The dance featured a photo booth, a DJ blasting popular party songs to dance along to and a food stand with an assortment of snacks and drinks to refresh students throughout the night. If people were hoping for a moment of peace and quiet, away from the crowd, they could also wander outside on the terrace for a breath of fresh air. 

Green, red, and blue lights represented the dance’s “Northern Lights” theme and brought life to the dark ballroom. 

But, unfortunately, not everyone from school had the opportunity to enjoy the fun event. Many students made the decision not to attend because of the high cost of entry tickets. The junior class cabinet, in charge of organizing the dance, priced the tickets at $55 per person — a fee that threatened to exceed many students’ budgets.

“For most kids my age, $55 is a lot of money,” junior Gioacchino Nottoli said. Nottoli decided not to go to the event because of the high ticket price and a lot of schoolwork to complete. 

Many students voiced similar opinions, arguing that the ticket price was too expensive. Even members of the junior class cabinet, being students themselves, were able to sympathize with concerns over the cost of attendance. 

“At first, even I was a little taken aback,” Hollrah said. “Like, ‘We’re really going to sell these tickets for $55? So I can understand why people are so unhappy with it.”

While the junior class cabinet acknowledged the high cost of tickets, they worked hard to make sure that students purchasing tickets would get their money’s worth by providing countless activities to enjoy at the dance. 

“[Winter Formal] is that ideal high school experience that everybody wants to have, just like football games, rallies and parties,” Hollrah said. “So we really want to make sure that it meets people’s expectations.”

And thankfully, the money raised selling tickets will be put to good use. Some money pays for dance decorations, food, and part of the cost of renting the room. The majority of the money, however, is retained by the junior class to fund school events during senior year. A memorable year takes time and money to organize, and the senior class hosts many events ranging from senior sunrise, senior celebrations and, of course, senior prom. 

“[The senior class’] budget can decide a lot about prom: how nice the dance is going to be, how much the tickets cost…” Hollrah said. “That’s why we really wanted to get a lot of profit from this dance.”

But it wasn’t only the significant cost of the entry ticket that caused many students not to attend. Due to COVID-19, the College of San Mateo had a room capacity restriction that limited the number of students who could attend the dance to 550 students. This limitation discouraged some students from even purchasing tickets based on the assumption that tickets would quickly sell out. 

“If there’s 550 tickets and they’re $55 each, I’m afraid kids are going to say: well, there’s a limited amount [of tickets] and [they’re] really expensive so why should I go to the dance?” Nottoli said before the dance. 

Some students were disappointed that so many missed out on such an important aspect of high school because of the ticket price and limited capacity. 

“Going to these dances is part of the high school experience,” sophomore Colette Trautwein said. “Everyone should be a part of that.”

Despite concerns about attendance, the dance still proved to be a great success with every ticket sold in the end. And students attending the dance were not disappointed: taking pictures at the photobooth, savoring snacks at the food stand and most of all, dancing the night away. 

“I never miss these kinds of events because they’re fun, and you get to be out of the house and spend time with your friends,” freshman Sydney Brillon-Dyas said.