High school dance
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Philomath High School’s decision to cancel the homecoming dance for the second straight year represented the latest COVID-related blow to students maneuvering their way through the pandemic. For this year’s seniors, it was another milestone event that had to be crossed off the list.

Not so fast, thought Ashlynn Barron, one of those seniors who’s out to enjoy her final nine months of high school.

“About three weeks ago, I asked my senior group chat if we were going to try to put something together,” Barron said, “and I just ended up doing it. And my mom helped a lot.”

The dance is scheduled to run from 8-11 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 30, a week after the high school’s homecoming week of activities.

Barron’s mom, Brandy Felina, started getting the word out and set up a GoFundMe page to try to raise money for the kids to be able to cover expenses.

“They have missed out on so much because of COVID-19 and deserve to have a night of fun,” Felina wrote on the GoFundMe page.

As of Friday night, the fundraising effort had brought in just under $1,400, including a $500 donation from Figaro’s Pizza, which will also be providing free pizza. Marys River Grange No. 685 stepped up by waiving the rental fee for the hall.

“It falls on the Saturday of Halloween (weekend) but I think people are in to do it because, I mean, it’s homecoming and it’s our last year,” Barron said, thanking Sonny Hays-Eberts for waiving the Marys River Grange Hall rental fee. “I tried to get it the day after (the homecoming football game on Oct. 22) but it was booked.”

Barron said she checked other possible sites for the dance.

“I looked at all of the other venues and they were so expensive, like thousands of dollars, or every other place is booked,” she said. “The Grange Hall — the only days they had was on one of my (volleyball) tournament days and the 30th, so we planned it for the 30th.”

With the rental fee waived and the money raised to date, Barron said plans to charge $10 to get in are now scrapped.


Philomath High isn’t alone when it comes to canceling a homecoming dance with various neighboring schools taking the same action. Principal Mike Bussard said it was necessary with the current state of the pandemic.

“There is no way we can conduct an indoor dance with the current COVID mandates in place,” Bussard said. “The potential of a COVID-spreading event that could shut down activities weighs heavily on our minds. I hope that will not be the case.”

Barron said the dance will be organized with COVID-related restrictions in place.

“COVID guidelines are going to be enforced with masks and stuff and everything,” she said. “I think it’s safer that way and people will still have a good time.”

Philomath High School’s enrollment as of Sept. 21 stood at 435 students, including 87 seniors. Barron believes attendance will be workable.

“I think it’ll be good … I know not everyone’s going to go, that’s usually how it is,” she said. “Our school is super small, so I hope it works out with the size with all of the people.”

The organizers settled on “The Roaring ’20s” as the homecoming dance’s theme.

At the school, homecoming week runs from Oct. 18-23 and except for the dance, other activities typically seen each year will be going on as planned. Those include a powder puff football game and bonfire on Oct. 20 and a homecoming parade at 9:35 a.m. on Oct. 22. That same Friday, homecoming royalty will be recognized and the king and queen winners announced during halftime of the football game.

With the homecoming dance not associated with the school district, Barron and Felina have set up volunteers to help with the day’s activities. Felina set up a web page where volunteers could sign up to help set up, chaperone and then clean up.

Bringing the homecoming dance together has been a second “senior project” for the teen organizer. Said Barron, “I’ve put a lot of hours into this one.”

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