CLEVELAND — The graduating class of 2021 is trying to make up for lost time and memories.
With the Ohio slowly pulling back coronavirus restrictions, one of the biggest parties of the year for high schoolers is coming into focus.
“It’s a rite of passage, and I think we will all be happy we can check it off our list and hope we have a good time,” said Cael Saxton, Avon High School senior.
It’s a complete 180 from last year when the venues were lined-up, colorful decorations were on order and gorgeous gowns were getting stitched together.
The pieces for prom 2020 were in place—then COVID-19 hit.
“With prom, pretty much all the planning is done in January. We still have some leftover decorations that we couldn’t cancel on,” said Saxton.
For Elizabeth Aubbin Manuel, a dress maker on the east side, everything went downhill fast.
“Last year was one of my best years until COVID came,” said Aubbin Manuel.
Canceled proms created loss across Northeast Ohio.
Some of it was emotional, but for others the fallout was financial.
Aubbin Manuel was stuck with more than two-dozen gowns when the state pulled the plug on her customers' proms.
“They were so depressed, so sad. I’m like at least let’s pray to stay alive through this pandemic,” said Aubbin Manuel.
Fast forward a year and the heartache is now being replaced with hope.
Prom is back on for Saxton and his classmates at Avon High School.
“I think everyone is looking forward to it,” said Saxton.
They will gather in May for a formal event in the Flats.
For now, it won't look like your typical event.
“What are you going to do? There’s no dancing it’s just going to be people sitting around. We put our heads together and we found Windows on the River and they offered us the aquarium package,” said Saxton.
As school districts finalize their plans, there's already a flurry of requests coming in to Aubbin Manuel’s Afiba Cutz.
“Last week, I got four or five girls contacting me for prom dresses,” said Aubbin Manuel.
It's the financial boost this self-employed designer desperately needs.
For Saxton, getting the chance to close out a chapter of his life with the tradition that comes with it is priceless.
“You get to see your classmates you probably haven’t seen in over a year from the other half of the alphabet,” said Saxton.
Even if history had repeated itself in 2021, Saxton said he wouldn't change a thing.
“I would still do that if there were no prom. It’s a valuable process as far as it goes behind the scenes there’s a lot of lessons to be learned. It’s more about the experience of working together with your classmates,” said Saxton.