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Cherry students browse at prom dress swap

CHERRY -- Kelsey Holtgard was expecting just to kill some time on a Wednesday afternoon. Instead, the high school senior from Cherry, southwest of Eveleth, ended up scoring a dress for her senior prom, something high school girls are planning for...

CHERRY -- Kelsey Holtgard was expecting just to kill some time on a Wednesday afternoon.

Instead, the high school senior from Cherry, southwest of Eveleth, ended up scoring a dress for her senior prom, something high school girls are planning for though the events are months away.

"Oh my gosh, I'm excited," Kelsey said as she watched the dresses come in the door. "I don't have my checkbook; hopefully, my mom can speed over here."

The Cherry Youth Development group put on a prom dress sale and swap at the Cherry Town Hall on Wednesday, with students and parents browsing among dozens of dresses ranging from the slinky to the poufy, the strappy to the sleek, some green, some yellow, some pink, white and black.

There were dresses aplenty, including the strappy, gauzy number Kelsey snapped up -- for both the Cherry and the Virginia High School proms -- but not many shoppers or swappers.

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"The buzz hasn't started yet," Kelsey said. But it soon will.

Prom, and other formal dances such as Turnabout, remain a very big deal at most schools, students said.

Nicole Smerud of Mountain Iron was browsing for dresses for her 16-year-old daughter, Paige Mortaloni. Paige was invited to the Moose Lake prom as far back as last fall.

Smerud perused the offerings, looking for a suitable white dress that Paige had requested. Chasity Platt, who once owned a bridal shop in Hibbing, brought many of the dresses.

Prom is "the world to girls," Platt said. A simple dress isn't enough these days; it's common now to spend the day of prom -- or any other formal dance -- at the beauty parlor.

"It's getting more commercialized," agreed Linda Goerdt, Youth Development Coordinator for the Cherry Schools. Goerdt helped organize the swap, and planned to perhaps have another event closer to prom time in late April.

"It's the biggest dance of our school," said Andrea Baasi, 18, of Cherry. She said that students at smaller schools such as Cherry go to prom to enjoy dressing up and dancing with friends, while students at larger schools can get embroiled in a prom competition, with girls competing to have the fanciest dress or most elaborate hairdo.

"Girls will spend $400 on a dress," plus more for makeup and hairdos, Andrea said.

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Hannah Kallio, 15, and Dylan Youngquist, 16, both of Cherry, were helping organize the sale. Dylan slouched in a corner, looking less than interested in the taffeta and sequins, and Hannah is too young to go to the prom unless an upperclassman invites her.

But that doesn't stop girls from browsing.

"We check out dresses all year long," Hannah said. And the allure of prom?

"Girls just like wearing dresses," she said. "Guys are like, whatever."

And parents are like, my little princess is going to prom -- at least that's how Smerud looks at it. She is already planning a weekend trip to Moose Lake with her own friends -- they'll be sitting in a motel hot tub while Paige is at the prom.

"This is as fun for parents as it is for them," Smerud said.

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