Morristown High School’s annual Project Graduation Fashion Show had a different look on Wednesday.
For starters, it was staged in a tent, not a ballroom.
It also was livestreamed for the first time.
The in-person audience, usually several hundred people, was limited to event volunteers, school officials, and parents of the student models. The dinner at Whippany’s Birchwood Manor was scaled down, too.
But at least there was a show. Last year’s fundraiser and the all-night graduation party it supports both were cancelled by the pandemic.
Students were excited to participate, even with masks and social distancing.
“Safety is really covered, so that’s, like, really nice,” said MHS senior Madison Silver, one of 33 students who made a pair of walks down the runway — once in formal wear, and once in casual attire.
While modeling is fun, Silver plans to study engineering at the University of Texas in Austin.
The fashion show raises money for a chaperoned, alcohol-free, all-night graduation party — scheduled this June for Cosmopolitan in Wayne, if COVID-19 guidelines permit it.
Started 33 years ago to ensure a safe celebration, Project Graduation provides live entertainment, and students pay just $10. The true cost — about $120 per senior–is covered with money raised by the fashion show and dinner.
Usually, about 600 people attend the fashion gala. Pandemic guidelines only allowed for around 150 on Wednesday.
The theme, Big Cities, Big Dreams, was a reflection on the pandemic, said Tracey Ulrich-Matalon, who has chaired the Project Graduation committee for eight years.
“We’ve seen how communities have come together across the country and really embraced that whole concept of teamwork during all these challenging times, so we wanted to celebrate that,” Ulrich-Matalon said.
Along those lines, the menu — usually a traditional salad and chicken parfait — sampled foods from across the U.S.: Memphis barbecue chicken, Baltimore crab cakes, Key Lime pie from Key West.
In another twist, the committee bought raffle baskets from local businesses, instead of accepting basket donations from them.
“There was a little more sensitivity to the businesses this year,” said committee member Melissa Spiotta, who also is president of the Morris School District board of education.
The committee wanted to show support for merchants hit hard by the health crisis, Spiotta said.
“A group of moms and I got together and we bought a luggage set” for the raffle, she said. Other prizes included a Dyson curling iron, a necklace and cuff bracelet by David Yerman, and a Gucci handbag.
Girls modeled their prom gowns. Other garments were loaned by Cozy Formalware, Paradise and Athleta. Morris County Vo-Tech students did hair and makeup for the MHS models.
Morristown High School Principal Mark Manning emceed the show. Students and staff members are “the real heroes this year,” he said.
“We have the most fantastic students I’ve ever had the privilege to work with, and I mean that from the bottom of my heart,” Manning said. “My work with them, beyond my family, is the joy of my life.”
Kevin Coughlin contributed to this report.