Students in Astoria High School's Class of 2008 spared no glitz or glamour on the 2007 senior Prom.

On Saturday, juniors even unfurled the red carpet for upcoming graduates. Each year's junior class plans the big year-end event.

"It's the last dance of the year, and for seniors, it's the last big school function they get to go to," explained Class of 2008 student Hilary O'Bryan.

Saturday's dance was also a big deal for O'Bryan and her peers. It was the first time they could technically attend, although a few edged in last year as dates for older classmates.

The Daily Astorian started tracking the Class of 2008 in 1999, when the students were third-graders at John Jacob Astor Elementary School.

Now nearing the end of their high school experience, the teens face some tough choices looking ahead to the future. But they're making sure to save time for fun. These teenagers are over the bumpy slow dances they endured in eighth-grade, and they've moved on from lunchtime hand-holding in the cafeteria to dining with dates at some of Astoria's most posh restaurants.

And how do the high-schoolers feel now they've experienced one of the hottest events on the teenage social calendar?

"I think before, I thought it was a lot bigger than it actually is, especially at a small school like Astoria," said Ryan Fritsch, 17, part of the original Class of 2008 group. "You see 'Laguna Beach' kids (on MTV) go to Prom, and it really seems a lot bigger. But next year it really will be a much bigger deal. It will be our last dance together."

But Prom isn't just about pleasure. It's hard work. And it's expensive.

As a public relations officer for Astoria High's junior class, Fritsch was in charge of hiring a DJ. He began planning his own big night two months ago. That meant finding the right tux and matching his vest to his date's coral dress, getting shoes, ordering flowers and a corsage, buying tickets, making dinner reservations and deciding which group of couples to go with.

"We looked into limos, but that didn't work out, even two months ahead of time," Fritsch said.

Girls' getting-ready rituals are also hectic.

"You wake up Saturday morning, you spend all day getting ready, then you go to a dance for a couple of hours," said O'Bryan, 17. Often, she said, teens kick off their uncomfortable shoes as soon as they step through the door.

For junior class vice president Allison Quigley, crunch time began months ago. She and other class officers ordered decorations, set the "Walking the Red Carpet" theme and held elections for Prom king and queen. After school Friday, she decorated until midnight, then finished up Saturday morning, followed by her own primping for the affair. Quigley, 17, is looking forward to kicking back next year and enjoying a dance set up by the Class of 2009.

"It was pretty stressful," she said. "But it was good. I was a little disappointed myself, because I had really high expectations, but everyone said it was a good dance."

Some couples split the costs. Some people go alone. But it's possible to do Prom on a budget, said Ricky Welty, 16. He favored an unconventional approach: no tux, no corsage, no pre-Prom dinner. Welty plays high school football and doesn't have time for a job, so he had to be frugal.

"I'm just getting her there," he said of his date, who attends school in Warrenton.

Regardless of the planning flurry, Prom is worth the effort, said Class of 2008 student Eddy Duret, 17.

"I always thought I'd be the kind of kid who doesn't think it's a big deal, and I don't really, " said Duret. "But it is actually kind of fun and exciting to have plans one night that everyone has, to have a night when everyone's doing the same thing."

"And it's kind of cool, if you go to a party afterward, to see people you don't normally hang out with there," he added, "and just to see people at the dance, where they can loosen up a little and not care so much what people think of them, where they can let loose and realize school's about more than just academics."


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