Teen Librarian Toolbox
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TPiB: Zombie Prom (by Stephanie W)

 In 2010, I decided that I wanted to start having a program that was 1) after-hours, 2) for teens ONLY, and 3) in the Fall.  And so…Zombie Prom was born.

Zombie Prom is our annual (we’re heading into year #4) Teen Read Week celebration and our annual Teens ONLY party event of the year.

So, you wanna have your own Zombie Prom?

I’ll tell you a bit about ours.  Our Zombie Prom is a completely free event for teens ages 12-18.  The teens can pick up permission slips from any of our ten branches and then return them, signed, in exchange for a ticket.  No permission slip…no ticket.  (Click HERE for a sample of our permission slip)  This helps us keep up with how many tickets we are giving out as we limit this event to the first 100 to register.

Each Friday in the month of October, my YA staff has to call in their number of tickets given out and we keep a running total in my office.  When we reach 80 tickets given out, staff has to call in each time they give away tickets until we hit the happy number of 100.

Now, for the prom itself.  Our prom consists of three different areas: the dance (in our large meeting room), the food area (in our courtyard), and our photo and makeup area (in another, quieter, part of the building.

The dance floor is just our meeting room.  We have done different things in regards to how we get our music.  For two of the three years, we rented a system called a Quebbie (or a DJ in a Box), and then relied on my awesome hubby (ex-radio DJ) to be our MC.  The Quebbie comes uploaded with the lastest tracks and you can set up playlists and everything on one piece of equipment, hooked into our speaker system.  One year, we booked an actual DJ.  The Quebbie was cheaper but some of the music was a little old…the DJ was more expensive, but had everything. Then, we open up the floor, line the walls with chairs, and let them dance the night away.  (I’ll get to security/chaperones a little later.)

Our second area is our food area.  This year, Zombie Prom was held at a branch that had an open air courtyard, so we grilled hot dogs on a grill.  We also served nachos, chips, and we made over 100 red velvet cupcakes with gross green frosting.  We serve Hawaiian Punch poured in giant dispensers.  WORD OF CAUTION: We go through at least 15-25 gallons of punch at each one of these events.  TEENS GET THIRSTY.  So plan to have wayyyy too many drinks or your will have unhappy teens.  For our nachos, hot dogs, and chili, we line up several dozen crock-pots and we have a serving station set up, manned by our staff.

Our third area is our photo and makeup area.  We offer each teen ‘one free wound’ at Zombie Prom.  Our first two years, we had a volunteer who is a Zombie fanatic come to do makeup for us, assisted by some local college students from our community theatre and a few staffers.  This past year, one of our staff members who is a director at a local community theatre for children and teens had someone come in a teach a makeup workshop for her teens.  Some of these teens actually wanted to do makeup, rather than dance the night away, and they volunteered to help with that.  It takes quite some time to ‘wound’ 100 teens.  We usually have at least 6 volunteers and it takes them about 2 hours to ‘wound’ everyone.  The makeup is purchased from our local Halloween store or made with some of the DIY info on wound found all over the interwebs.

We also offer one free 5×7 Zombie Prom photo to all attendees.  A husband of one of our staff member’s is a photographer and graciously sets up and takes the pictures for free.  We then take the CD of images and bring them to Wal-Mart and voila…pictures.  These are mailed to the teens up to 15 days after the event.  Our backdrop is nothing more than a cream colored king sized flat sheet that is spray painted with ‘Zombie Prom’ and then doused with fake blood.  Below is a picture of our staff after Zombie Prom in 2011.  The awesome ‘zombie’ staffer on the bottom with her thumbs up is our zombie fanatic volunteer who takes her zombiefication so seriously it would blow your mind.  I’m next to her as Zombie Michael Jackson…I made my nose rot off.  I had a glove. It was fun.  

Security and stuffs

So, how is this all done?  Well, I have ten branches and each one of the branches YA staff members work the event.  Then, we always have a few pages or additional staff who BEG to work this event.  THEN, there are several of us who force our husbands to come along.  All in all, we usually have about 20 staff members, our library security guard, and 100 teens in the building.

We always invite our local law enforcement to come and do a walk-through and just to let them know what is going on at our buildings after hours (after all…some local citizens may get concerned seeing a bunch of bloody teens entering a building) and this past year, I was so pleased and flattered to hear the cop tell me that we had better security than any event he had attended off duty.

Here are a few of the things we do:

  • All 20 staff members have assigned posts.  There are a few ‘roving’ staff and then myself, who doesn’t have an assigned post at all but just wanders around making sure the place isn’t exploding, but for the most part, the staff members are positioned around all entrances, exits, nooks, crannies, bathroom doors, and then two staff members roam the perimeter of the building at all times.  
  • Once you are in for the night, you don’t leave.  You cannot walk.  You cannot ride your bike home.  You must be picked up by the person stated on your permission form.  If you drive, you cannot just find some friends and bring them home. Our outside staff members who are roaming the perimeter stop at 9:30, when most of the parents start showing up, and go car to car to ask what teen is being picked up.  They then use walkie-talkies and radio inside to our staff and we locate the teen, walk them outside, and the parent has to sign off that they have picked them up.  Sounds harder than it is but it’s a huge relief to the parents because they know we mean business and a huge relief to me…since my job kinda depends on the success or failure of said programs…
  • If you are not picked up by 10:30, 30 minutes after the end of Prom, the cops pick you up.  And it isn’t an empty threat.  And after the first year, they now believe us.

A few fun extras….

Each year, we have a Zombie Prom King and a Zombie Prom Queen.  These are usually voted on discreetly by working staff members and go out to the teens who really dressed the best.  We have had the same queen for three years in a row…and we never know it is her until she wins b/c she looks sooooo different each time.  I don’t have a pic of her from this year, where she covered her body and dress in bloody maggots (really rice but still…) but I do have her past two pictures and got permissions to share…

We also try to do door prizes each year.  The first year, I gave away $25 gift cards to the local Halloween store and some random decorations for Halloween.  The second year, I contacted a few YA authors who had penned zombie books and they sent autographed copies of their books.  Last year, a publisher sent me enough Zombie themed books that everyone went home with something and some of the teens even used them as Zombie Prom Yearbooks and were having other teens sign the endpapers!  No clue what we will do this year but I hope to top off last year!
And last but not least, we usually have a little break in our 7-8:30 time frame for entertainment.  Year one, we had a group of theatre students flash mob the dance floor and dance to Thriller.  Year two, we had a group of local junior high kids perform their interpretation of Maureen Johnson’s short story in Zombies vs. Unicorns.  And this past year, we had a group of teens learn fight choreography and they staged a ‘fake’ zombie attack.
Here are some other resources: