Two participants don facemasks before entering the Manhattan High Prom Saturday night at the Town Center. Facemasks were required upon entry, and many participants chose to match them to their outfits. The event made its return on April 17 after being cancelled in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Some class of 2020 students were in attendance, seizing the chance to make up for lost time.

Pandemic Prom 

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Twelve months and an ongoing pandemic later, Jalen Bowles finally got the chance to dance at his senior prom.

“It’s cool to have the opportunity to come this year just because everything that happened the past year,” Bowles said.

Manhattan High School senior Brianna Carmack asked the Kansas State University freshman to prom. The two work at Hy-Vee together.

“Going into it, I just asked him,” she said. “I was like, ‘Look, I know you didn’t have one last year, and I think it’d be nice.’ Because I also didn’t have anyone else to ask. And I wasn’t aware of anyone was going to ask me. So, (Jalen and I) are comfortable with each other and, like, have hung out before, and then he said yes.”

Under a blue sky with on a mild spring day last Saturday, April 17, they gathered with their group a few hours before prom at the gardens at the Jardine Apartments on campus. Surrounded by blooming flowers and trees, couples stood on rocks around the pond for photos as parents, other family members and friends reveled in the sequin dresses and crisp tuxes.

“I was excited for him,” said Melissa Bowles, Jalen’s mother. “He just didn’t tell us till this last Tuesday. It was kind of a scramble to make sure he got everything he needed.”

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Text by Hailey Phillips for The Manhattan Mercury. 

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