Vernon's version of the Oscars' red carpet has to be pulled out from under the Rockville High School junior prom this year.
Chalk it up to Mother's Day.
The Garden Barn, the unofficial official gathering place for prom-day photos for the past decade, is asking RHS students and their dates not to visit its gazebo area on Saturday because of concerns the area will be overrun with Mother's Day shoppers. To many in town, taking prom photos at the Garden Barn is like playing the Masters at Augusta National or running the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs. The Garden Barn has become hallowed ground for prom-goers over the past 10 years.
But prom-goers could be on a collision course this Saturday with customers shoppers, and that's a game of chicken the business doesn't want to see play out, said longtime Garden Barn staff member Scott Doughty. It is arguably the West Street landscaping center's busiest day of the year.
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"I had my prom pictures taken there. The area was built for the prom. We have prom pictures all over the office here," Doughty said.
He hung his head, paused and tried to mount an adequate explanation.
"It's a Saturday thing. It's a Saturday before Mother's Day thing," he said.
Rockville High School officials on Thursday were stepping up efforts to discourage students from using the Garden Barn as a photo stop, also citing safety concerns.
The gazebo area was developed in 2001 and, a year later, prom-goers discovered that its pond, streams, gazebo, archways and bridges make a good photo backdrop.
Before that, prom photos were traditionally taken at select homes. But by 2003, the Garden Barn was already considered the spot.
"And we love that," Doughty said. "We love having the kids out there. It's just not good timing this year."
Doughty said the staff expects 80 cars in the parking lot - constantly - during business hours. A prom could draw another 1,000 to the grounds between those going to the prom and those wanting to take their pictures.
He said that is a combination that presents a traffic nightmare. Vehicles easily travel at better than 40 mph on that stretch of West Street, it is a passing zone and there are some blind spots in the road.
Last year was a perfect example of how crowded prom night can get there. Within 10 minutes of the first prom car showing up, the grounds were packed. Cars spilled out onto West Street and then prom-goes began parking at Vernon Center Middle School and were crossing the street - many in heels - on one of the most-traveled roads in town.
Doughty said there has been an accident in the parking lot or on the street each year on the Saturday before Mothers Day for the past dozen years with regular customer traffic.
"The prom is usually on a Friday and that is a lot different that the Saturday before Mothers Day," Doughty said.
School officials met on Thursday to decide on a suggested alternative and decided on the courtyard at Rockville High School, said Rita Courtois, co-adviser to the Class of 2013.
She said an organized effort led by Chaperone Kim Marinan is scheduled for 4:30 to 5:30 p.m. on Saturday before prom-goers head to the Sheraton Bradley Hotel.
"It won't be as pretty as the Garden Barn, but at least the kids will be able to be together, see their friends, etc., before coming to the Sheraton," she said.
Kathy Gliha, one of the Garden Barn owners, said those attending the RHS senior prom next Friday - May 18 - are welcome. She was visibly upset on Thursday after discussing Saturday's junior prom situation.
She said she wants to sit down with school and public safety officials to draw up a set of rules that would encourage pro-goers to show up but also keep the crowded grounds safe.
"We want the kids to come here," she said.
But she and Doughty then turned serious.
"But Saturday is just the worst day to combine that many people for the prom with the regular customers," Doughty said. "We feel bad about this, but we also have to think of safety."